Henry Edward Erwin, Jr.
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Henry Edward Erwin, Jr., formerly of Rochester, Texas, passed away quietly of old age on Saturday, October 12, 2013 in Abilene, Texas at the age of 88. Graveside services will be held at 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at Rochester Cemetery in Rochester under the direction of Smith Family Funeral Homes. Visitation is planned for Tuesday evening from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the funeral home in Haskell located at 304 N. 2nd Street.
Henry was born in Beaumont, Texas on June 4, 1925 to Lula (Caraway) and Henry E. Erwin, Sr. He graduated in 1943 from Jasper Independent High School and earned the status of Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1944 and achieved Honorable Aviation Cadet and soon 2nd Lt serving in the Caribbean and Maxwell Field, Alabama. The war ended and in 1946, Henry came home and purchased a country store and gas station with his father. He labored as the auto mechanic for one year prior to re-enlisting, again with the Army Air Corps. He entered as tech Sgt. in 1947, but within 6 months, was granted his previous attainment of 2nd Lt.
He met Minnie Odessa Jenkins Whitworth in Houston, Texas and the two married January 15, 1952. Soon after, they were transferred to Clark AFB on the Philippine Islands where they remained for 3 years. There, Henry and Odessa's daughter, Nancy, was born. During their stay, Henry piloted the HU-16 Albatross sea plane as air search and rescue was being developed in the USAF. In addition, he participated in hydrogen bomb tests in the south Pacific.
In 1955, the family was transferred to March AFB in California and his twin sons, Mark and Clark were born. Shortly, the family of 5 relocated to Wheelus AFB, Tripoli, Libya where Henry was now a Captain in the Air Force and working on Project Mercury orbital shot. Once his responsibility was meant in Libya, the family moved on to Hamilton AFB in California. It was here that Henry broke the Soviet record in sea plane and with honor, on March 20, 1963; Henry received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
His duties were not complete and the family once again moved on during the Cuban Missile Crisis and stationed at Eglin AFB in Florida. During the Vietnam War, the family resided in Abilene for one year and Henry was promoted to Lt. Col.
Again, his flying proficiency and expertise was needed, so the family transferred to Travis AFB where Henry flew the C-133 transport from Vietnam to Delaware. His final destination with the USAF was the Strategic Air Command at Scott AFB where Henry retired July 31, 1970 before promotion to full Colonel.
During his 27 year career, Henry received 14 honors; top 3 being the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and Air Force Presidential Unit Citation.
Henry and his family moved home to Texas and made Houston permanent for many years. Henry and his brother, Archie, became owners and operators of Dictograph Alarm Company.
In 1982, at the age of 57, Henry retired for the 2nd time. He and Odessa moved to Rochester where Henry built their home. The two enjoyed RVing to Alaska and Mexico and also made many small trips. They were fond of dominos and playing bridge, of which, many hours spent doing both. "Hank" and Odessa loved their pecan orchard, garden, an occasional chicken here and there, and all their dogs. They spent many retirement days enjoying each other and their time spent together. Odessa sadly passed away in November of 2010 after 52 years of marriage.
In addition to Odessa, Henry is preceded in death by his parents; Lula and Henry Erwin; and his twin sons, Mark and Clark who passed in 1989.
Those left behind and who fondly remembers Henry's charming personality, delightful smile, and good-natured sense of humor is his daughter, Nancy K. Erwin-Derby and husband Rod of Colorado Springs, Colorado; sister-in-law, Maxine Erwin; and 2 nieces, Sandra Erwin Laney and Teresa Erwin Williams.
Online condolences and memories can be shared at www.smithfamilyfh.com.
Published in Abilene Reporter-News on Oct. 15, 2013