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February 10, 2014

Active in age: 102-year-old Jeffersonville resident ‘enjoys every day’

World War II veteran Tom Horn has seen changes on local, global scale

JEFFERSONVILLE — Tom Horn leads a busy life.

On a typical day, the born-and-raised Jeffersonville resident attends mass at St. Augustine Catholic Church, enjoys breakfast at a local diner with friends and then runs some errands or goes for a 30-minute ride on the exercise bike. He caps the day off with an hour of reading before bed at midnight.

“I like to do things,” he said. “I stay active.”

But what separates Horn from most other local folks is his age: in January, he celebrated his 102nd birthday.

“I’ve had good health, good friends, and I’ve always been a good church member,” Horn said. “And it seems like those three things keep you going.”

Born in 1912, Horn has seen the world and Jeffersonville change around him, witnessing both global and political changes and developments happening in his backyard.

GROWING UP IN JEFF

Horn grew up on Clark Street in a family of nine, born right in the middle of five boys. He said most days were spent at the play square, which is now Colston Park, or playing down in the Ohio River — which looked nothing like it does today.

“You could go out to about the middle of the river, and it wouldn’t be over your head,” he said. “It was all sandy.”

Horn, who said he learned to swim in the Ohio, said he remembers floating on logs behind barges in the river, riding on the waves.

“All us kids, we were in the river all the time,” he said.

In 1931, Horn was a forward for the Jeffersonville High School basketball team at a time when the rules were different and games were low-scoring — the Red Devils beat New Albany High School 17-5.

“Every time you made a basket, you had to go back to the center and toss the ball up,” he said. Horn has held season tickets to Jeffersonville High basketball games for 50 years now and almost never misses a game.

Horn married his wife, Florence Jolly, in 1941.

“But nobody knew her name as Florence,” he said. “She was Jolly. All the time.”

However, his time with Jolly was cut short when he enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served as a field depot in World War II, supporting troops at the line with back-up supplies in England and Normandy.

Four of the five brothers were in World War II at the same time, one in the Pacific and three in Normandy, though none knew where the others were.

“I seen a soldier walking down the road and he looked familiar, and I said, ‘Hey, soldier, where are you going?’” he said. “And he said, ‘How’s it to you?’ and I said, ‘You happen to be my brother.’”

Horn finally returned home four years later — a period of time he never once saw his wife, though they wrote letters back and forth.

He returned to work at City Hall and soon was offered a position through Fort Knox for the Army Maintenance Board, a position that allowed him to travel all over the world to places including Hong Kong, Vietnam, Tokyo and Germany. Horn served that role for 12 years until he retired in 1970.

“When I traveled overseas, I always called my wife on Wednesday evenings to find out where I was going or where I was,” he said. “It was a real interesting job.”

Retiring didn’t halt Horn’s involvement in the community. Through the years, he was president of the board of directors at the Council of the Aging, was on the Jeffersonville Housing and Redevelopment and was Indiana president of the National Association for Retired Federal Employees.

“I’ve always been active in everything I’ve ever done,” he said.

Although Horn and his wife only had one child who died at birth, the couple still had the opportunity for parenthood.

“To show you how things work, the same time my niece, we were real close to, she was 4 years old, she lost her father,” he said. “So we took her over. And she is now what we consider our daughter.”

Horn said he visits his daughter, Jerri, who lives in Dallas, frequently. He continues to do so even after his wife died from Alzheimer’s disease in 2002.

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The Rev. Eric Johnson, New Albany, is accompanied by Shea, right, and Sammy Taylor, both of Memphis, during the cross procession at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church's Good Friday service in New Albany on Friday afternoon.

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