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December 3, 2002

At different times in years gone by, Gene Wood has been Perry's police chief and a deputy in the Noble county sheriff's department. He is an archetypal lawman. Those are just two of the jobs this large man has filled, but most of us who have known him for any length of time still call him "Chief," because he is the very embodiment of a police officer. His physical appearance and his demeanor alone command respect but he also has an authoritative aura that tells you to pay attention. He has been known to rustle up a work party for just about any job at hand, and he sometimes does it by calling in the chits (sic) owed to him because of past favors rendered.

Gene and I are almost exactly the same age (he's older) and he is a devout member of the Lions club while I have been a Rotarian more than sixty years, but we get along very well because we're both Presbyterians. I always enjoy visiting with him. He has an endless store of yarns to tell about this city and Noble county and he has known just about every individual who has ever lived in this community. He is a walking encyclopedia. Recent periods of ill health have reduced the contacts Gene has made for years, but you can still find him around the square every weekday, taking care of office business at Wayne Casteel's establishment on the north side of the square, or helping out at the Brown-Dugger Funeral Home when needed. He is one of the dwindling number of surviving World War II veterans still with us, so I have asked him to tell about his recollection of December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted this country into World War II. Here's Gene's account:

"Dateline Perry, Oklahoma, December 7th, 1941. I was a junior at Perry High School at this time, living on a farm southeast of Perry. I rode a school bus daily. There was no television and our family had no telephone, only a radio, probably operated by a battery. I didn't really hear much about the attack until the next day. I couldn't really realize what or why it happened.

"I knew it was awful and all of us young men were ready to do what we could. I was too young for the military on December 7, 1941, but two days after graduating I was in the U.S. Army Air Force serving my time. I was honorably discharged and returned home to Perry. I've been here ever since. I'm proud to have been able to serve my country as a corporal in the U.S. Air Force."

Gene and I both well remember that we and our friends thought it was going to be a short war and that we would quickly defeat the Japanese, despite the losses they dealt us in that surprise attack. Instead, the war went on until the Axis powers were defeated in Europe and the Japanese surrendered in August of 1945. More recollections of that period will follow in just a few days.