He was born on February 25, 1921 in the farmhouse of his parents, Azie Collins Dyer (1895-1945) and Jewel Marion Dyer (1890-1974). In his ancestry on both sides of the family he descended from pioneer settlers who were in Union County in the early 1830s when the county was formed. Azie’s parents were Francis Jasper Collins (1855-1941) and Georgianne Hunter Collins (1855-1924). Azie’s grandparents on her father’s side were Frank Collins (1816-1864) and Rutha Nix Collins (1822-1893) and on her mother’s side were William Jonathan Hunter (1813-1893) and Margaret Elizabeth “Peggy” England Hunter (1819-1894). And Azie’s great grandparents were Thompson Collins (abt. 1785-abt. 1858) and Celia Self Collins (abt. 1787-1880) and John Hunter (1775-1848) and Elizabeth (last name unknown).
On his father’s side, Eugene’s ancestors were grandparents, Bluford Elisha (“Bud”) Dyer (1855-1926) and Sarah Eveline Souther Dyer (1857-1959). His great grandparents were James Marion Dyer (1823-1904) and Louisa Ingram Dyer (1827-1907); Little Ingram (1788-1866) and Mary “Polly” Cagle Ingram (abt. 1793-abt. 1830); John Combs Hayes Souther (1827-1891) and Nancy Collins Souther (1829-1888). His great, great grandparents were Bluford Elisha Dyer, Jr. (abt. 1785–1847) and Elizabeth Clark Dyer (abt. 1788-1861); John Souther (1803-1889) and Mary “Polly” Combs Souther (1807-1894); John Little Ingram (abt 1755-1828) and Ruth White Ingram (abt 1758-abt 1849). John Ingram was a Revolutionary War Soldier.
With this list of ancestors, all of whom pioneered and settled land and became landowners, solid citizens, farmers, and some businessmen and teachers, we should not wonder that Eugene himself became a World War II soldier with a heroic and distinguished career, a businessman, a farmer and for 36 years a member of the Union County Board of Education. Family matters. Family helps to make us who and what we are. And he was, indeed, from “solid” stock.
Eugene Dyer served in the Army Air Force during World War II from September, 1942 through the end of the war. He was a bombardier in the famed Flying Fortress, B-24, serving in the Liberation Group of the 15th Army Air Force. He saw action in the European, African and Italian Theaters of War, participating in more than 400 combat missions. He was awarded the Soldier’s Medal of Heroism when he saved the life of a fellow flyer. He and the one he saved were the only survivors of the plane’s crew when its oxygen system was bombed out. Other decorations included the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with oak leaf clusters, the Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater War Ribbon with five campaign stars, and the Distinguished Unit Badge with two oak leaf clusters. He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. He spent fifteen months in Italy, much of which was in an army hospital recovering from severe injuries, the results of which were present with him the remainder of his life in the form of shrapnel in his legs. He can truly be termed a “hero,” a member of “The Greatest Generation.”
As a merchant, he operated a grocery, gasoline, feed, seed and fertilizer store from 1947 through 1989. He was known for his credit to farmers that badly needed his help to get their crops planted. In this respect, he followed the practice he had observed from his grandfather, Francis Jasper “Bud” Collins, who also had extended credit to hurting families during the Great Depression, and before and after.
As a school board member in Union County for 36 years, an elected office, he helped to make decisions that brought the school system from scattered country schools to strong consolidated schools, adequate and state-of-the-art buildings and equipment, and well-qualified teachers and administrators. Education was high on his list of priorities.
He was a family man. His wife Dorothy, his children Connie, Ivan and Tim, his grandchildren Jason, Alexandra and Emily, and his brothers and sisters and a host of cousins can all attest to his love, respect and reverence for family ideals and priorities.
And as a church man, he was quiet and often did not say much, but when he spoke on matters of building decisions, church finances, and expansion, he was heard and heeded. His devotion to Choestoe Baptist Church where he was a faithful member extended from boyhood through all of his adult life.
I wrote the following poem for my hero, my brother, in December, 2008, for Christmas. I am glad he was able to read it and know how I felt about him. I read it as a tribute to him at his funeral on December 23, 2009.
Going Out a Boy, Returning a Manc 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 7, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
(For my hero, my brother, Eugene)
The call to arms came when he was but a lad,
A farm boy following the plow.
Defending one’s country couldn’t be bad;
That duty in patriotism called him now.
Hardly had he been beyond the hills
That tied him closely to his home;
Dearly he loved the farm, its rocks and rills,
And the seeds planted in the fertile loam.
Out beyond the mountains duty lay,
To boot camp, training, assignments read;
A gunner in a B-24 was to be his way,
And into European combat his path led.
Soon he learned what courage meant
Through sleepless nights and anxious days;
The enemy like a blast of locusts sent
Volleys into the blue untrammeled ways.
Came then the day when the plane crashed
And many were the casualties of war;
A boy no longer, a brave man lashed
Onto life and fought another kind of war—
A war to readjust when peace was signed,
Seeking to reestablish a solid way of life,
A way to make a difference, be refined
Amidst whatever came of peace or strife.
-Ethelene Dyer Jones