---- — Loren Eugene “Gene” Orr, who grew up and graduated from Rushville High School, passed away on Nov. 12, 2013 at the age of 87. Gene rejoins his wife of 57 years Martha Jane Orr, and leaves a proud legacy with four sons and 11 grandchildren.
He was a great friend, husband, father, and our American hero.
Gene Orr was born in Monrovia in 1926 to Orris and Edith Orr. His family relocated to Rushville at an early age for his Dad’s work opportunities at the International Furniture Company. He was the oldest of four boys and started working at age 12 (placing pins at the Rushville Bowling Center) to help the family. He played football, basketball, and ran track throughout grade school, initially to be able to take a shower indoors with his home having no internal plumbing. After leading Rushville High School to the area football championship as their quarterback, Gene graduated and was drafted at age 18. Gene completed basic training and then Advanced Airborne training in the spring of 1945, ready for the war in the Pacific as a paratrooper jumping with the 155 Howitzer artillery. Following the war, Gene returned to Ft. Benning as an Airborne instructor and then took advantage of the GI Bill and joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps, graduating from Miami of Ohio University in 1951. He met his life partner ‘Janey’ at Miami University and they would be married in April 1953.
Gene was commissioned as an Air Force 2nd Lieutenant in 1951 and began training as a Bombardier-Navigator, quickly qualifying in the B-25 and B-26. Gene was deployed to site ‘K-14’ in Korea and flew combat missions off the coast of China for the 11th Tactical Recon Wing. As the Korean War raged, Gene’s unit relocated to the Philippines and he rapidly qualified on the B-29 and C-119 for combat missions until war’s end. Gene returned to the U.S. in early 1953 to marry Janey and they began a 3-year whirlwind of assignments in South Carolina, Washington, Texas, California and Kansas. Gene’s diverse flying experience earned his selection for the B-47 and they were assigned to the 379 Bomb Wing at Homestead AFB Florida in early 1956. It was clearly a happy time for Gene and Jane, with Tom, Andy, and Jeff all born during their time at Homestead.
Gene earned a spot promotion to the rank of Major and was selected for the initial instructor cadre for the B-52 bomber in early 1961. The family moved to Minot North Dakota and added another son David to make the final tally of ‘the four Orr boys’. Gene and the family had follow-on assignments in California, Alabama, Texas (Abilene), Nebraska, Texas (Ft. Worth), and North Dakota with Gene promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel. Gene was deployed to Utapao, Thailand in 1970-71 as the Chief of Plans for bombing missions in Southeast Asia. Gene positioned the family back in Homestead in 1973 and retired from the Air Force in 1975, with 26 years of Army and Air Force military service in three wars. His sons would add another 80+ years of military/Federal government service based on Gene’s example. All combined, Gene and his sons accumulated over 9,000 flying hours in bomber, fighter, airlift, and trainer platforms.
In retirement, Gene enjoyed playing handball and racquetball each day, fishing, rebuilding airplanes, and joining friends at the Homestead ARB club, and the Homestead Elk’s, VFW, and American Legion. Gene proudly supported Janey build the United Methodist Day School into a model educational foundation for Homestead youth. Gene and Janey withstood Hurricane Andrew, rebuilding their home and offering shelter for many who experienced more damage. Gene’s most compassionate and loving example came as we all observed the devastating impacts of Alzheimer’s on Mom for over a decade. Gene cared for his true love Janey for several years at the house and when we had to place Mom in a nursing facility, Dad visited every afternoon for lunch over a 3-year period until Mom moved up to heaven in 2010.
As many in the ‘Greatest Generation’, our dad never highlighted himself or his military exploits, and focused his energies on providing the best life possible for his wife and children. Gene was extremely loyal to his large cadre of friends and he proudly talked about his son’s successes and grandchildren achievements at every turn. Our dad was also our greatest ally, never judging our failures harshly and always visibly elated in our successes.
We know that Gene has rejoined Janey and is playing racquetball and talking politics with other angels. No doubt that he continues to watch over his boys and grandchildren with great satisfaction. We trust that Dad knows how proud we are to be Orr’s, how grateful we are for his example, and that Gene Orr was not only our Dad, but also our best friend.