- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

CLINTON, Ind. (AP) - Just two weeks ago, Clinton resident Charles Tyler was driving himself to church. Not bad for a 96-year-old man who lives by himself and still enjoys woodworking.

And on Monday, Tyler shared some of his stories from his military service during World War II. He was being honored by Clinton officials, community members and veterans organizations in recognition of a Purple Heart that he never received after being injured during the epic Battle of the Bulge.

“I was a sergeant before Patton was a lieutenant colonel,” Tyler told the Tribune-Star (https://bit.ly/1MtQzDJ ) during the festivities outside his South Main Street home.

Firefighters, police officers, Mayor Jack Gilfoy and members of both the American Legion and VFW posts attended the ceremony, along with community members and others wanting to honor the spirited veteran, who said he ordered beer for the occasion but was disappointed to get a delivery of root beer instead.

Tyler was with General Patton’s Army troops in Europe. He worked as a plumber for the military from 1939 to 1945. When he was first stationed at Camp Forrest in Tennessee, he found the place flooded and helped to repair the camp’s plumbing situation. He was then assigned to engineering units and was sent to Europe to fit pipes for hospitals and command facilities. When not assigned to plumbing duties, he was sent on combat missions, including stints in North Africa, Italy and France.

After being injured and returning stateside, he settled down with his wife, Hannah, in Chicago and logged 50 years as a member of Plumbers Local 130, from which he retired. Tyler and his wife raised four children. Their daughter, Carol Tyler, created a graphic novel about her father’s life. She is a professor at the University of Cincinnati DAAP College of Art in Ohio and created the “You’ll Never Know” series as three novels, which have now been combined into one volume about her father’s life.

Tyler told the Tribune-Star that he is excited that the new book will be presented to President Obama.

When asked what he remembers most about his military service, the sharp-witted Tyler responded, “Chasing girls” to the laughter of his friends and family. “I was always in trouble,” he said, smiling slyly.

His handiwork was evident throughout his home, which featured a mantelpiece he had made, along with a large gilt-framed mirror that he acquired from a Tennessee hotel and then fitted with legs from a piano. He also passed around “quarter-pounders” that he made - tiny wooden hammers that pounded on a silver quarter fixed to a piece of wood. He created those just last year.

Annette Cottrell, a home care nurse who has taken care of Tyler for the past eight years, said the spunky veteran has seen a lot and influenced a lot of people in his long life. After retirement, he and his wife moved to Tennessee in 2000 to be closer to her family roots. Then they moved to the Wabash Valley to be nearer to their daughters. Both of their sons, Joe and Jim, were selected for the U.S. Olympic bobsledding teams in the 1980s.

Son Joe was at Monday’s recognition ceremony, and he said was pleased that his father was the center of attention.

“I’m glad that people are honoring him while he’s still alive,” Joe Tyler said, “and I think the people here are getting a lot out of honoring him.”

Judy Brown organized Monday’s celebration as part of her effort to recognize veterans. She found out that Tyler had never received a Purple Heart for the injuries he sustained, so she has been trying to get the paperwork together to make sure he is recognized as a wounded veteran.

She said she first met Tyler a few years ago when she saw him holding a flag at a local welcome home parade for a returning veteran. She made and presented Tyler with a veteran’s quilt in 2011, and she has had him talk about his military experience for a recorded visual communications project at Ivy Tech Community College.

Gilfoy presented Tyler with a certificate of honor for being Vermillion County’s oldest surviving World War II veteran and thanked Tyler for his years of service. Tyler immediately gave Brown the task of rearranging the pictures on the wall in his house to make room for the framed certificate.

Brown said the effort to recognize Tyler publicly kicked into high gear when he was recently diagnosed with cancer.

When asked about his health, Tyler seemed to brush aside his diagnosis.

“I ain’t got time for that,” he said. “I say baloney. I’m gonna sit and drink some Jack Daniels or something and I’m gonna burn that cancer out!”

Randy Helms, honor guard commander for VFW Post 6653, said that Tyler is one of about 20 World War II veterans remaining in Clinton.


Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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