On December 29, 2017 Earl F. Hale, the ‘old Medicare recipient from De Kalb out on FM 1840,’ rode West with God in an M2/M3 Half-Track telling Him to ‘double clutch it’ as they left this world and headed toward the Pearly Gates.
Born December 18, 1922, Earl was raised near Fort Smith.
The youngest of seven children of Charles and Tennessee Smith Hale [Jim; Ruth (McGehee); Bill; Harold; Elsie (Ross); and Inez (Wiley)], Earl lived a long, often difficult, yet full and ‘prosperous’ life.
Following the loss of his mother, Earl struggled to finish the eighth grade (although, he often claimed he had to quit school in the third grade ‘cause he couldn’t get up in time to shave and catch the bus). With the U.S. in the midst of the Great Depression, Earl joined the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) at age 17 and served at the Shady Lake CCC Camp near Mena. On a random, weekend liberty in town, he met the love of his life Betty Jo Titsworth, daughter of Jud and Elsie Titwsorth. Their love affair was put on hold in early 1943 when, like most young men of his generation, Earl joined the Army and fought with the XX Corps in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, and Austria as part of Patton’s Third Army.
After ‘the Big War’ ended in 1945, Earl returned home to Arkansas a decorated veteran and married Betty Jo (a.k.a. ‘Bo’). Unable to find work in Arkansas, he and Betty moved to the Riverside area of California and started their life together. Tough, strong, honest, and hard working, Earl quickly found a job at the Mira Loma Quartermaster Depot where he eventually worked his way up to Chief of Security. It was during this time that their children Linda Eilers (husband Walt) of Fayetteville, AR, and G. Allen Hale (wife Jensey) of Arlington, TX, were born.
When Betty’s father’s health declined, Earl and his family eagerly returned to Arkansas in 1955 where he purchased the Nunley Grocery and Service Station from his father-in-law, Jud. Earl and Betty successfully ran the store at Nunley for the next twelve years. He kept a dollar bill framed above the cash register. When asked if that was the first dollar he had made, he’d reply, “No, it’s the first dollar that I took in. I still haven’t made a dollar.” To make ends meet, Earl hauled hay in the summer (said you needed two things to haul hay – a strong back and a weak mind); cut firewood in the winter; and worked part time as a substitute mail carrier on Rural Route # 1. He borrowed $3000 from Union Bank and purchased 160 acres near Nunley, where he and his best friend Lee Sikes built a small, 3-bedroom frame house (replete with indoor plumbing). It was there that Earl raised his family, a couple of horses, and a few head of cattle. A God-fearing man, Earl and his family regularly attended and worshiped at the Salem Baptist Church. Earl joined the Dallas Masonic Lodge 128 in Mena in the early-60’s and served multiple terms as Master of the Lodge.
When he wasn’t appointed to a permanent position with the Mena Post Office in the late 60’s, Earl saw the window closing on his opportunity to reinstate his career in civil service. Determined to make a better life for himself and his family, he took a blue-collar job at Red River Army Arsenal near Texarkana. Tired and weary after a year of driving 100 miles each way from Mena to Red River, the family once again uprooted and moved to the Arkansas side of Texarkana. Earl used to say that if you want to find Texas, go West ’till you smell it; then South ’till you step in it. He stepped in it; out of it; and finally back in it. They moved to the Texas side of Texarkana in 1971; then back to Mena for a couple of years; then to New Boston; and finally to Malta (couldn’t stand big cities) where he lived until his retirement from Red River in 1987 with 40+ years of civil service.
After Betty’s untimely death in 1989 and alone for the first time in nearly 45 years, he moved one final time to his ‘mansion on a hill’ outside of De Kalb on FM 1840. Earl embraced retirement and the Texas persona. He loved wide open spaces, hard work, getting up early, tractors, zero turn mowers, dogs, cowboy hats, full-quill ostrich boots, real country music (both listening and playing), running, crossword puzzles, riddles, gardening, garage sales, guns, pocket knives, and women with big hair (not necessarily in that order)! Happily retired for 30+ years, when asked how he was, Earl always said, “Doing great!” Usually followed by, “The Lord sure has been good to me!” Although his mantra in life was ‘Early to bed and early to rise….,’ when asked recently what he was doing the following day, Earl replied, “Nothing! And I may not start that ‘til noon!”
Earl was a larger than life hero to many, but especially to his two grandchildren Judd Hale of Dallas and Bekah Hale Pollock (husband Tyler and great-grandson Bo Michael) of Ft Worth. Growing up, Judd and Bekah spent their summers with ‘Bo’ and ‘PawPaw’ riding ATV’s and checkin’ the cows. Judd and Bekah were never more proud of their grandfather than when they (along with Earl’s entire surviving family) accompanied him to Normandy on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day where he and other WWII veterans were honored at a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Earl was thrilled and blessed a few months ago when he was able to hold his newborn, great-grandson Bo.
With the love and assistance of his caregiver Juanita Moore, Earl was able to maintain his dignity and remained at his home until he entered the CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital on December 11. Just days after his 95th birthday, Earl died peacefully with his children at his side at Hospice of Texarkana.
The family will receive guests on Thursday, January 4, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. at Queen Wilhelmina State Park/Lodge, 3877 AR-88, Mena, AR (located 13 miles west of Mena on Talimena National Scenic Byway). A Celebration of Earl’s Life will follow at 10:00 a.m. at the Lodge with Brother John Watts officiating. Interment with full military honors will be at 2:00 p.m. in the Fort Smith National Cemetery, 522 S 6th St, Fort Smith, AR 72901.
Memorial Donations in memory of Earl can be made to Hospice of Texarkana on line at hospiceoftexarkana.org or to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute on line at cancer.uams.edu.
As we start 2018, Earl would have told us to, “Have a ‘Prosperous New Year’ and admonished us to “Be careful, WHATEVER you do.”