Friday, March 02, 2007

Worthington Hurst Jr., Fallen Soldier

by David Parmer

Worthington Hurst Sr. was the foreman of a section gang for the B & O Railroad. He was married to Jeanette (Skinner) Hurst. Worthington and Jeanette had three children, Pauline, Muriel, and the youngest and only son, Worthington Jr. Worthington and Jeanette lived in the Rusmissel/ Fury Addition above Orlando, near the Orlando School. Close neighbors were Claud Mick and Mike Moran.

Worthington Jr. was known as “Junior” Hurst throughout his short life. Junior attended Orlando Elementary School and after finishing the 8th grade in 1941, he commenced his high school education at Burnsville High School . There were several other Orlando area students who rode the bus to Burnsville with Junior. Jack Riffle, Kathleen Sharp, Bud Mick, Evelyn Smearman, and Justine Mick were Junior’s classmates.

To the left is Worthington Hurt Jr.'s yearbook picture.
To the right, below, Junior with his 8th grade class. For more about the class, see the Feb '07 entry
Orlando Elementary School's 8th Grade Class, 1940/41

Junior was popular with his fellow students at Burnsville High School and was known as a courteous and polite student by the faculty. His brother in law, Leland McCauley, who married Junior’s sister, Muriel, described Junior “as always a hard worker and a hard fun player in athletics, and I am so proud to be his brother-in-law”.

While in high school Junior briefly played football for Burnsville but had to retire from the sport when he suffered a serious facial laceration. Junior played coronet in the high school band. Also while he was in high school, Junior, as did most of the boys from Orlando, worked for Mike Moran in his undertaking establishment. Junior was tall and handsome and his courtesy and politeness was just what Mike Moran needed as an “assistant” during funerals. Being an “assistant” was mostly driving the hearse because Mike did not care much to drive, and Junior had a driving license. Like most boys he loved to drive. In fact a number of Orlando boys, according to Bud and Chick Mick, eagerly sought to be the driver for Mike Moran, even “for free” because they got to drive the hearse to pick up corpses and to take them to the cemetery. Bud and Chick Mick also took their turns as Mike Moran’s “assistant.”
below: Junior Hurst on his dad's lap, his mom Genevieve "Tom" (Skinner) and sisters Muriel and Pauline Hurst.

Junior was also called upon at times to drive for Preacher Smearman of the E.U.B. Church who preferred someone to drive for him. Junior’s driving days for Preacher Smearman however came to an abrupt end when Junior forgot to set the handbrake on the Preacher’s car one day when he parked in front of Mike Moran’s garage on a rain slickened driveway. Despite being in gear, the 1931 Chevy coupe rolled down the driveway and over the hill onto the railroad tracks by the Catholic Church. Preacher Smearman did not think too harshly of Junior despite the mishap, particularly when his congregation bought him a 1939 Chevrolet to replace the 1931 Chevy coupe which went over the hill.

Junior was a freshman in high school as World War II began. The war not only clouded the entire country but also clouded the future plans of every boy of draft age in America. As the war dragged on, and Junior became older, the military draft was becoming inevitable even though Junior still had his senior year to complete. Junior and two of his classmates, Bill Stockert, and his first cousin Bud Mick, discussed leaving school and joining the military service. The three boys agreed among themselves to join the United States Navy. However, the three boys could not join the Navy until Bud, the youngest of the three boys, turned seventeen, which would have been on October 17, 1944. Junior, who was about a year older than his two friends, was however unlucky in the draft lottery, and was drafted into the United States Army on September 4th, 1944 during his senior year in high school.

Above left, an example of a 1931 Chevy Coupe, the kind of car Junior drove for Preacher Smearman
Below right, Grafton National Cemetery.

For his military training, Junior was first sent to Camp Atterbury , Indiana. Junior received some additional training at Camp Walters, Texas and Camp Mead, Maryland. After completion of his basic training and awaiting embarkation on January 24, 1945 to the European Theater, Junior returned to his high school at Burnsville in his army uniform for a visit with his classmates and teachers. Bill Wiant, Junior’s classmate, recalls Junior’s return visit to Burnsville High School. Bill, along with his classmates, were shocked when they were advised, within about thirty days of his visit, that Junior had been killed in his first day of action in the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg on February 7th, 1945. Junior was less than two months past his nineteenth birthday.

Junior Hurst graduated posthumously with the class of 1945 of Burnsville High School . In the presence of his grieving family, Junior was buried in the United States Military Cemetery in Grafton.

Junior's sisters, Muriel and Pauline are to the right. Pictures of his parents will be coming soon.

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