The man with the memory

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Electronic Communications Manager

Tom Hudson, Air Force Staff Sargeant

Tom Hudson, Air Force. He became a Staff Sargeant.

Now that I’m in my 4th decade of life, I find that I have a much harder time remembering things.  (I completely blame my kids — I think they’re killing off my brain cells on purpose.  But I digress.)  Case in point: I recently reunited with a childhood friend and during our conversation, we were lamenting about how much time had passed since we’d seen each other last.  She mentioned that it was during the 4th of July weekend in Austin, TX in the late 1990s.  I corrected her.  Of course she didn’t see me there — I’ve never been to Austin.  But then she described (in detail, mind you) the guy I was dating at the time (who just happens to hail from Texas), and I realized she wasn’t crazy.  My brain had failed me — I have absolutely no recollection of that weekend.  All my memories of those days spent in Austin are gone, pushed out by other, more pressing memories from recent years. 

I often find myself wishing I could manage the memory in my brain like the memory on my iPhone — for just an extra $9.99 a year, I could have three times the storage.  (I see endless possibilities with this.  Maybe I should contact Verizon.  Again, I digress.)

Anyway, a few months ago, I sat down with a delightful man who apparently (lucky devil!) was born with the unlimited memory package for his brain.  Tom Hudson is a 91-year old resident who lives at Abingdon Place in Gastonia and he is a true marvel.  Drafted into the Air Force in January 1943 and active in the military until May 1946, Mr. Hudson remembers every (and I mean every) detail about his time serving his country during and after WWII. 

Mr. Hudson was a medical / surgical technician on huge planes.  He would fly to various locations throughout the United States and overseas to pick up wounded soldiers and deliver them to hospitals near their homes, capable of handling their injuries.  In the hour or so that I talked to him, Mr. Hudson mentioned being in Wilmington (Delaware), Miami, Charleston (SC), Louisville (KY), Cairo, Casablanca, Paris, Newfoundland, and Gibraltar.  And he also mentioned that he made it to every single state in the US except for Vermont.  It sounded like a rather busy three years.

Mr. Hudson basically helped get the injured patients onto the plane (which, back then, held about 24 patients) and assisted them, keeping them comfortable during the flight.  Then he helped get the patients to the hospitals once they touched down.  He did this over and over again during the war, traveling here and there, hardly knowing which city he was waking up in on any given day.  After the war ended, he was stationed in Egypt where he helped empty a hospital of its patients, transferring them to other hospitals near their homes.  It took them four weeks to finish the job.

Mr. Hudson’s memories are amazing.  He remembers the men and women he worked with on those flights.  He remembers the people he met during his travels — folks from all over the world.  He remembers EXACT dates.  (You name it — the day he was drafted, when he took his first flight, the day he was discharged. . .)  I apparently can’t remember being in the state of Texas, and that was not even 20 years ago.  Mr. Hudson can remember where he was, who he flew with, the dinner they ate, and the shirt he was wearing.  (Ok, I’m exaggerating slightly, but you get my point.)

Tom Hudson’s 91st birthday happened just a few weeks ago which, of course, called for a celebration.  This year, his daughter, along with the members of his HPCCR hospice care team, decided to pull off a surprise party.  Mr. Hudson’s daughter took him out for the afternoon and when they returned, the common room at Abingdon Place was decorated and filled with friends, and a customized cake was ready to be cut.  Mr. Hudson was totally shocked.  He told them that he’d never really had a birthday party before, much less a surprise one.  And you know he’d remember if he had. . .

Mr. Hudson has been richly blessed.  Blessed with a love for his country, a willing personality, a wonderful sense of adventure, and an amazing memory.  I can only hope to have the same spirit when I’m 91 years old.  And the same ability to remember the significant events that shaped my life.

But we’ve already established that I will most likely fail on the whole memory thing.  Rest assured, if I ever go back to Texas, the iPhone is coming with me.  And it will have plenty of additional storage (thank you, Verizon!) for the pictures I will apparently have to take to remember that I, indeed, was there. 

In the meantime, I’m plotting revenge on my kids for the missing brain cells. 

Tom Hudson (holding stretcher from above) assists a wounded soldier onto the plane.

Tom Hudson (holding stretcher from above) assists a wounded soldier onto the plane.

Tom Hudson with his HPCCR volunteer, Barbara Helms

Tom Hudson with his HPCCR volunteer, Barbara Helms

Blowing out the candles on his beautiful cake (courtesy of Splat! Cakes n’ Such)

Explore posts in the same categories: advocacy, awareness, hospice, long-term care, special events

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8 Comments on “The man with the memory”

  1. Jane Graham Says:

    What a wonderful article about such a great man and the good he did for so many. I am so glad his daughter forwarded the website to me. To reach such an age and still be in control of his mental faculties is a blessing right from God.

  2. Lisa Milligan Says:

    WOW!!! My Granddaddy never ceases to amaze me! None of these memories surprise me. He has always taken his careers and life very seriously, yet balanced a generous heart for his faith, family, and friends in a miraculous way. I am so proud to be a part of his family tree.. and doggone, that daughter (and son) of his are some pretty special people, too!!
    Celebrating life and family,
    Lisa Milligan

  3. Neil Devaney Says:

    I received this article from a very proud granddaughter.

    Men from this generation were cut from a different cloth. Thank you Mr. Hudson for your service and thank you for your memories.

    God bless

  4. gpcox Says:

    None of us can trust our memories. Record what you can of his stories while you can.

  5. I am so glad I took the time to read this article about Mr. Hudson. I know his daughter and her family and they are true American heroes. Yes, it does make a difference who your parents are and the role models we see and we with such parents are truly blessed.

  6. ABP1 Says:

    Another wonderfully engaging blog and gift to an awesome man (Mr. Hudson), his family, and his loved ones.

  7. Barrylide Says:

    Wonderful article! Amazing life. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Kelly Stilwell Says:

    Mr Hudson will be greatly missed by everyone at Abingdon Place!
    He was a very a very special person and greatly loved.

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