Seven campaigns, three medals
Reaching the century mark in age is no big deal to Hubert Edwards.
When you ask him what it’s like to be 100 years old, the Beaufort County native replies with a humorous, simple answer.
“You have to ask someone older than me, I don’t know,” he said.
One of the first questions commonly asked to centenarians is about the secret to longevity. Mr. Edwards, who admits he’s been asked the same question time and again, says the answer is fairly simple, at least in his case.
“I don’t smoke, I don’t do hard alcohol, I don’t do drugs, I’ve got a young wife,” he quipped. “It’s a cooperation between the two of us.”
He and his wife, Lynda, have only been married for 11 years, but she’s one of the reasons he’s remained in Harnett County in the twilight of his life — Mrs. Edwards and his daughter, Gail Surles. Mrs. Surles kept insisting he come live with her and her husband, Jim, in Carolina Lakes while traveling back and forth from Fayetteville to Washington, N.C., when Mr. Edwards was battling colon cancer. It wasn’t until later he finally decided it was time to accept their offer.
“I thought about it awhile and called her one night and said, ‘Your daddy’s made a decision,’” he said. “Then she said, ‘Great, when are you coming?’ I said in a couple or three days. I said I’ll go and come stay a couple days.”
Those couple of days turned into the rest of his days.
“The longer I stayed, the more I liked it and decided what have I got to lose,” he said. “She’s an only child and I’ve got all rights and benefits to the VA hospital, so it won’t be that much of a problem. We got everything I needed and probably some things I didn’t need and came up here and I stayed.”
Little did he know he would meet his second wife, Lynda, in a relatively short amount of time. After volunteering at area nursing homes to help pass the time, he heard about dancing at an area senior center.
It was just a matter of time before he met Lynda.
“I was talking to the former mayor of Broadway, Hal Harrington, and this lady came in and she was by herself and she knew Hal, so she sat down with us,” Mr. Edwards said. “Some lady asked Hal to dance so he did and I thought I better get back to my table. So I went back to my table and heard somebody dragging a chair to my table and it was her. She came with her chair.”
After a few dances and a few more meetings, the couple decided it was time to marry.
“We made a go of it and we were engaged in April and married in June,” he said. “We’ve been married 11 years.”
After joining the Army in 1941, he married his first wife before going to England to train for the invasion of North Africa, one of seven operations he took part in as a member of the 17th Field Artillery Battalion.
“When I turned 20 I decided farming wasn’t the thing for me, so I joined the Army,” he said. “I was in the Army for six years.”
He spent 37 months overseas on the front lines of the European Theater. He participated in campaigns which took him to Tunisia, North Africa, Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, Southern France, the Rhineland and Central Europe.
“I made the invasion of North Africa, I made the invasion of Sicily, made the invasion of Italy, made the invasion of southern France,” he said. “I had four invasions, I served 37 months, 660 front-line fighting days.”
He described his job as something very common to the American solider then and now.
“I did whatever they told me, that’s what it amounted to,” he said. “And you got a lot of that.”
When his time was over, he had earned a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars for his service. He was also qualified as a marksman for both pistol and rifle.
“Let me say this about my service during World War II,” he said. “When you go home tonight thank the Lord that you have a home, you have a comfortable bed to lay down in and go to sleep and a pretty comforter to keep you warm instead of having to lay down and go to bed in a foxhole. That’s miserable, but we put up with it for 37 months.”
Those accomplishments are just one small part of the life of a man who left the military to work for International Harvester and General Motors in the parts and service department, before working a as production manager for Hamilton Beach in Washington.
He also forayed into the political arena when, in 1968, he was selected as Beaufort County campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Robert Morgan of Lillington during his campaign for North Carolina Attorney General.
He spoke of the first meeting with Sen. Morgan after being presented with a proclamation in honor from the Harnett County Board of Commissioners.
“He was going to have a coming-out party in one of the hotels in Raleigh on a certain date,” Mr. Edwards said. “His friend told me he wanted me to meet him. I asked him how am I going to know who I’m looking at when I go up there, I’ve never met the man and I’ve never seen him. He said you go to the meeting and the shortest man there, you go up, shake his hand and say, ‘Robert, I’m Edward and I’m going to be your campaign manager in Beaufort County.’ I did and I enjoyed working for him.”
“Let me say this about my service during World War II. When you go home tonight thank the Lord that you have a home, you have a comfortable bed to lay down in and go to sleep and a pretty comforter to keep you warm instead of having to lay down and go to bed in a foxhole. That’s miserable, but we put up with it for 37 months.”
-The Daily Record