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World War II Memorial moved veteran to tears

October 10, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Curtis Edgar Mullenix Sr., who died Sept. 30 at the age of 81. His obituary appeared in the Oct. 2 editions of The Herald-Mail.




marlob@herald-mail.com

In June, Curtis Edgar Mullenix Sr. made a pilgrimage to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., with 17 members of his family, despite ill health that had confined him to a wheelchair.

"Curtis cried when he saw it," said his widow, Ellen, as she recalled the moment for her husband of 63 years. "He said he thought the country had forgotten him and the others who served in that war."

Curtis died on Sept. 30 at the age of 81.

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His war experiences included a stint as a staff sergeant with the 97th Infantry and tours of duty in Germany, Czechoslovakia and as one of the first U.S. troops to occupy postwar Japan. Discharged in 1946, he received the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star.

"While he was in Czechoslovakia, Curtis helped liberate a concentration camp. He said it was an experience he would never forget," Ellen said. "Curtis often told people what he saw there with his own eyes whenever they would say they didn't believe in the Holocaust."

Ellen said Curtis worked in the shop at the Western Maryland Railway before he went first to Europe, then to Japan during World War II.

"I stayed at home in Hagers-town with our two sons until he came home after the war," Ellen said.

Surviving on the money he sent home from the service and support from relatives, Ellen said she worried every day because she often didn't even know where he was.

When Curtis returned home to Hagerstown, he went to work for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring in 1980 after 37 years.

"Curtis was on foot delivery for most of his years," Ellen said.

In his last years with the Postal Service, Curtis took care of maintaining the fleet of smaller delivery vehicles out of the Franklin Street office.

Over the years, Curtis and Ellen added three daughters to their family, adopted another daughter and took several foster children into their home. When he died, he had 18 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

"When we first started going out, Curtis and I would talk about having a lot of kids and we did," Ellen said. She was a stay-at-home mother throughout their marriage.

The Mullenixes lived in their current home on the outskirts of Hagerstown for the past 26 years. Before that, they lived on a farm in St. James for about eight years, then on Coffman Avenue.

Ellen said she remembers that the family played a lot of games together over the years. Many times, there would be jigsaw puzzles spread over a dining room table for days while family members would sit down and put in a few pieces while keeping up with each other in the meantime.

"When Curtis still could, he loved to take our dog, Blaze, for walks," Ellen said.

As she sorted through pictures and memories recently at the home she shared with Curtis, Ellen described her husband as a loving man who cared deeply about people - even after his death.

"Many years ago, Curtis decided to become an organ donor, starting with his eyes," Ellen said. She also signed up to do the same.

But once a person reaches the age of 60, organ donations become impractical in many instances because those organs also have reached advanced age. So Curtis and Ellen both decided to donate their entire bodies for research when they died.

In a desire to aid the advancement of medical science, Curtis donated his body to the Maryland Anatomy Board as his final gift to his fellow man, Ellen said.

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