By Hayley M. Cook
WILLIAMSON – A Williamson area resident recently celebrated turning 92 years old with his family, friends and wife of 70 years.
John Jude has experienced a life of war, travel and love, and says he has many fond memories to hold dear as he celebrates another year of growing older and wiser.
Jude, who was born Aug. 15, 1922, to parents Matterson and Effie (Brown) Jude, is a World War II veteran and traveled extensively during his tour in the military, spending time in Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California; as well as England, France and Belgium. He was also at the Battle of the Bulge.
On March 14, 1944, while home on furlough from the Army in World War II, Jude married Mary V. Harris, of Thacker. The couple have been married for 70 years, and celebrated earlier this year with a vow-renewal ceremony that brought in family from across the country.
When Jude returned home from the war and began the search for a job to help support his family, he found himself going through a trial-and-error process to find something he enjoyed.
“I tried loading coal by shovel, but I didn’t care much for that,” Jude recalled of his first job back home. “Then I went to Detroit for six months to work for Hudson Motor Company, but got laid off and came back home.”
It took some searching, but eventually Jude learned there was an opening at the Thacker Post Office and he applied. He was fortunate enough to get the job and he stayed there 32 years until he retired in 1984.
The couple raised four children - Rodney Jude, Danny Jude, John Dean Jude and Bonnie Lou (Jude) Dotson - all Matewan High School graduates.
After John’s retirement, he and his wife decided to travel the country. Starting out with just a pup tent and a few camping supplies, the Judes headed west. The next year they moved up to a pop-up camper (which they still own) and continued traveling across the continental United States.
From 1984 to 1986, the couple camped in all 48 states on the mainland. They also visited Mexico and Canada.
John reminisced about eating his first “buffalo burger” near Yellowstone Park, and the time they were “rear ended” after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The couple made two separate trips out west, one covering the southern section, and the second taking a northerly route.
The two grew up during the Great Depression in the Tug Valley area, and then saw the prosperity of the FDR era. Jude was a member of the now famous 3-C’s (Civilian Conservation Corps) that helped many young people across America find work after the Depression.
Like many local residents, the Judes were flooded by the devastating waters of the Tug Fork in 1977. As part of the flood relocation program, they moved in 1990 to the Valley View subdivision just outside Williamson, where they now live.