100-year-old veteran tells of war experiences and his love of baseball

Published 8:10 pm Monday, October 29, 2018

He survived World War II. He survived cancer. He celebrated — and survived —his 100th birthday Saturday.

Hubert Garland Edwards was feted by family and friends at a combination family reunion and birthday party at the home of Chris Hill and his family off Possum Track Road in southern Beaufort County. Edwards said of the gathering: “Ain’t it great to be important.”

The centenarian is an uncle of Washington resident Stan Edwards and brother of Edward Ray Edwards, who owned insurance agency in Washington. Roy Edwards is Hubert Edwards’ oldest living brother. Hubert Edwards, who has 10 siblings, was born on a 300-acre tobacco farm, on land now occupied by Southside High School. The elder Edwards lives with his second wife, Lynda, at Carolina Lakes in Sanford.

“All the glory in the world,” Edwards said about what celebrating his birthday with family and friends meant to him. “I have tried to prepare myself for it. It’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened in my lifetime. It makes me feel real proud.”

Stan Edwards said family members consider the 100-year-old veteran “a true American hero.”

“He’s just a phenomenal man. He’s lived to be a hundred years old, which I count as a real blessing, with all his history in World War II … and his life after that. To me, it’s been his ability to inspire people. He loves people. People love him,” Edwards said of his uncle’s influence on his family and others.

As for the most significant event in his life, Edwards did not hesitate when he said, “I will never forget World War II. What an experience and one I will always remember.”

The many displays about and memorabilia from his life at Saturday’s gathering were related to his service in the Army’s 17th Field Artillery Battalion. Edwards served from Sept. 28, 1939, to July 20, 1945, reaching the rank of sergeant. Edwards participated in four invasions: North Africa, Sicily, Italy and southern France.

While at Fort Bragg, Edwards married his first wife on Nov. 19, 1941, just days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She died in 2002.

Edwards recalled an incident with German aircraft in North Africa.

“The planes were strafing our gun positions with a Messerschmitt (fighter plane),” Edwards noted. “I had a jeep assigned to me. It had double 50-caliber machine guns mounted in the back. “During the Messerschmitt pilot’s second time around, I got in the back of them jeep. I fired nine armor-piercing rounds and one tracer for a sight. I saw every one of them go into the cockpit. I shot him down.”

While in France, Edwards had an encounter with two American generals. “We were making some coffee and I heard some leaves rattling. I looked up and there was Eisenhower and Patton,” Edwards said. “He (Eisenhower) said, ‘I think we’re going to win this war,’ and asked ‘What do you think.’ I said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to win it, I know we’re going to win it.’”

Edwards recalled Eisenhower replying: “Good attitude, boy.”

After being discharged from the Army, Edwards worked several jobs, his last one as a supervisor at the former Hamilton Beach plant in Washington. He retired from that job 37 years ago.

After retirement, he had more time to devote his passion for baseball, particularly the Atlanta Braves. That passion for baseball has its roots in his high school days when he played third base for the former Chocowinity High School. During World War II, Edwards’ unit got permission to listen to a radio broadcast of the World Series at night.

“We had to be careful because a radio gave off a glare in the dark, and that could give away our position,” Edwards said.

Move forward to July 3, 2016, when the Atlanta Braves played the Florida Marlins at Fort Bragg on a special field set up for that game. Edwards had never seen a Major League Baseball game in person. The ballpark could only accommodate 12,500 active-duty military personnel. Fort Bragg officials arranged for Edwards to meet the players before the game. That was good enough for Edwards, who wanted to meet Freddie Freeman, the Braves’ all-star first baseman.

The next thing Edwards knew, the base’s commanding general sent an aide to Edwards’ home to present the veteran with tickets to the game, where he was the guest of honor.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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