Forrest General's LiveWell Center hosts 100th birthday party
Staff and guests gathered this morning at Forrest General’s LiveWell Center to celebrate the 100th birthday of Lieutenant Colonel H. Pope Huff. Among the guests were family and friends of Lt. Col. Huff; physicians and staff from the LiveWell Center; Win Ellington, field representative for Senator Thad Cochran; Andrew Hinkebein, southern district field representative for Senator Roger Wicker; C. Maurine Bruner-Philpot, constituent liaison for Congressman Steven Palazzo; and Congressman Steven Palazzo. Last week, Palazzo presented a Congressional Record before the United States House of Representatives wishing Lt. Col. Huff a happy birthday and commending his for his exemplary service to the United States of America.
“Lieutenant Colonel Huff’s life shows us what true commitment and leadership for our country and our state should be. The impact of Huff’s diligent work for the state of Mississippi and the United States is incomparable. His actions should inspire the rest of us to follow his model for exemplary service,” Palazzo read from the Congressional Record.
As a child, Pope Huff dreamed of becoming an aviator. Lt. Col. Huff recalls staring up at the sky watching the planes while working on his family’s farm picking up scrap cotton in the 1920s.
“Dad’s a child of the depression. He was 8 and 10 years old picking cotton and plowing with a mule. At 14, he watched the bank take the family farm out in Sunrise. So that really formed his worldview. Those are the kinds of things he always impressed on me. Don’t buy things you can’t pay for. If you buy something on credit, pay it immediately. Never be in debt, and always, always be able to manage your own business because nobody else is going to do it for you. That combined with his military life, he always had a sense of loyalty and duty, and I think he imparted those things on to me,” said Pope Huff, Jr., Lt. Col. Huff’s son.
Lt. Col. Huff while serving as a pilot in the Marines.
Lt. Col. Huff graduated from Forrest County Agricultural High School in 1937 and joined the Marines in 1941.
Huff recalls, “I was in route to Corpus Christi for flight training. We were about half way to Corpus, and all the noise was going on outside. The Japanese had struck our country. It was really an upsetting day.”
Huff was trained to fly amphibious aircraft, which can take off and land on both land and water. During his early career, he served in the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command (SCAT). SCAT was formed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to provide rapid transport of personnel and cargo, including munitions, food, replacement parts, and medical supplies. SCAT also evacuated wounded or sick personnel. Aircraft typically included a flight nurse, corpsman, or flight surgeon as part of the crew.
Lt. Col. Huff served as a pilot in World War II, the Korean War, and the early stage of the Vietnam War. He also worked as the personal pilot for two Commandants of the United States Marine Corps; the commandant is the highest ranking officer of the Marine Corps and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One of his final duties before retiring in 1964 was to serve as military liaison for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C.
Amid all of his travels and illustrious military career, Huff still found time to raise a family and pass on many values and traditions to his son, Pope Huff, Jr, who says he admires his father’s sense of duty to his family above all else.
He said, “I watched my dad take care of my grandmother, in her later life. I watched him take care of my mom, when she was sick. I remember things about family and those traditions–little traditions–like cooking. Cooking was big, and he was a great cook, too.” Huff went on to say, “I still cook in all the same cast iron skillets, pots and pans. When you see me cooking at my house, it looks like the 1950s because of all the old utensils that I’m using. When I do that, it makes me think about those people: about my dad, about my mom, my grandparents.”
His career is evidence that Lt. Col. Huff’s sense of duty and loyal extended past his family to his community. After retiring from the Marine Corps in 1964, he went on to develop Strategic Training and Relocation (STAR) for the United States Department of Labor. The program matched unemployed workers in Mississippi with employers in different parts of the state helping to greatly reduce the unemployment rate at that time.
Today, Lt. Col. Huff still enjoys spending time with his family and friends, attending University of Southern Mississippi sporting events, and exercising several times a week at the LiveWell Center. It was there that he met his friend, John Ladner, who helped to organize his 100th birthday party.
“I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Huff. He’s a hero. A hero is a person who is admired and emulated by others for the good deeds they do and brave acts they commit, and he would certainly fit in both categories,” Ladner said of Lt. Col. Huff.
Huff’s son says the LiveWell Center is an important part of his father’s routine where he is able to get the exercise his body needs to stay healthy. He said, “It’s really been a blessing. Not only does it keep him occupied and keep his strength up to help him stay as independent as he can for as long as he can, the people here are wonderful. They’ve kept him mentally engaged, and he really looks forward to coming.”
For more information about Forrest General’s LiveWell Center, visit forrestgeneral.com. or call Forrest General’s Engagement Center at 601-288-4445.