When Clear Creek veterans and their families gathered to celebrate Veterans Day at the Idaho Springs Elks Lodge on Nov. 12, there was someone noticeably missing from the festivities.
Gene Eddy, a lifelong Idaho Springs resident and Vietnam War veteran, died on Nov. 7 from COVID-19. His wife, Ann, was also hospitalized for nine days but is now home recovering.
The Eddy family recently scheduled the memorial services for 2 p.m. Dec. 18 at the First Baptist Church of Idaho Springs. All attendees will be required to wear masks. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that people donate to military or veterans-focused organizations.
“He loved his country, his family and his military service,” friend Rick Scott said. “ … We’ll miss him.”
‘A veteran all the way’
Gene was very active in Clear Creek County’s veteran community. He served as the local Veterans of Foreign Wars commander for 10 years and as the county’s veteran services officer.
He helped organize many military and veteran-focused events, including the annual Veterans Day dinner. He also participated in this year’s 9/11 memorial service, wearing his trademark Vietnam Veteran hat.
“He was a veteran all the way,” said Rick Winfrey, Gene’s friend and successor as veterans service officer. “He was patriotic to the end.”
Gene was also opinionated and onery, his friends John and Karen Hager said. If he had an opinion, he let everyone know.
Moreover, he was goodhearted and good-natured. He was a jokester, and especially liked dishing out wet-willies. Longtime friend Biff Eckles recalled how his dad and Gene used to pick on each other, saying, “(Gene) was an all-around good guy.”
Gene grew up in Idaho Springs with his siblings. His dad was an electrician, and Gene studied under him to get his journeyman electrician’s license.
He joined the Colorado Air Guard and was stationed in Phan Range Air Base in Vietnam from 1967-68. He was a crew chief on an F-100, with Ann saying, “He could have his pilot and that plane up in the air in four minutes.”
When he returned, he got to meet his 5-month-old son for the first time, Ann said. He later went on to have two more children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A family man
After serving in the military, Gene worked at the Henderson Mine for a few decades. He was a mechanic most of that time, Ann said, adding that he became an electrician the last few years he worked there.
The Eddy family loved spending time in the outdoors on their vacations. Gene particularly enjoyed water-skiing, boating and camping, Ann recalled.
Among his other hobbies, Gene also built a car. The body was a Ford Falcon, but the motor was a Chevy. He also tricked it out with four-wheel drive, and he was very proud of it, Eckels and Ann said.
Even after he’d given up his roles as VFW commander and veterans service officer, he was still very active in the community. Current officer Troy Erickson described how Gene helped him connect with local veterans.
“He kind of never gave up that role,” Erickson said. “He still wanted to make sure veterans got taken care of.”
In his later years, Gene had to slow down significantly, though, as he struggled with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“When he had to slow down, it bothered him that he couldn’t do as much in the community,” Eckels said.
Both Erickson and Ann noted how Gene’s memorial service will be on Dec. 18 — the same day as Wreaths Across America, which decorates veterans’ graves for the holidays.
Ann and her daughter plan to present the U.S. Air Force wreath at the 9 a.m. ceremony at the Elks Lodge in his honor. Gene used to help with the annual event, and he always enjoyed it and put a lot of work into it, Erickson and Ann said.
“He’s a big presence that will be missed in our community for a long time,” Erickson said.
“We loved him, and we’re going to miss him, each in our own ways,” Ann added.
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