N.C. Man Who Was Nation's Oldest Veteran Dies

2:39 AM, Nov 12, 2003   |    comments
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As it had for so many years, the American Flag flew in front of Robert Hodges' home on Veterans Day Tuesday.

But this year was different.

The nation's oldest war veteran died Monday at age 115 at Craven Regional Medical Center in New Bern after a brief hospital stay.

"It was a tremendous loss," said veteran and local military historian Furman Gibbs.

"We have lost a legend."

Hodges, who joined the Army as a teenager, served in France during World War I.

The grandson of slaves, he was born near Bath in a three-room house.

One of 10 children, he worked in the farm fields until he enlisted in August 1918.

He returned from duty in 1919 and married Malinda, his wife of 70 years, who died at age 92. They had eight children.

"If you ever wanted to be like somebody, he was that somebody," said William Gurley, senior vice commander of Disabled American Veterans Post 93 in Alliance.

"To live as long as he did, his mind was pretty good. He knew things and would tell you things," Gurley said.

"He was a military man, because whenever we had different events, he would like to sing the military songs."

Sen. Scott Thomas, D-Craven, who was in Bayboro to participate in the Pamlico County Veterans Parade, said Hodges was an exemplary eastern North Carolinian.

"Mr. Hodges was an outstanding man who served his country well for many years," Thomas said.

"As the oldest living veteran, I think he is someone that a lot of other veterans looked to with a lot of respect."

Asked about his longevity during a tribune day by the Department of Veterans Affairs last year, Hodges said simply, "What I figure on is anything you can do for the Lord is all right. I have done the best I can from when I was a child."

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