A Hero’s Journey To Chapel Hill
George Fagert is a true American hero who survived life in the infantry in World War II to have a long, successful career with the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.
But when the 88-year-old resident of Chapel Hill Retirement Community, a United Church Homes community in Canal Fulton, Ohio, talks about his World War II experiences, there isn’t a hint of bravado. Fagert readily admits there were times when he was scared.
“I was a replace men soldier and was sent to join the Third Army’s 90th Division in Luxembourg,”he says. “That very first night I heard explosions. I found out the next morning that we were being shelled. That was a real wake-up call.”
Fagert, who was raised on a farm in Marietta,Ohio, joined the U.S. Army at age 18 and served in combat for three months. He was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry in action, as well as a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. The Silver Star is the third-highest honor troops can receive.
“We were running down a hill, and [the Germans] started shooting at us,” Fagert recalls.“I reached a building, and when I turned the handle on the door it was locked, so I shot the lock. What I didn’t know was that there was a German soldier on the other side of the door. The shot hit him in the groin, and he started screaming in pain.
We were trained to tell the enemy to put their hands up and come out. Well, there were 10 other Germans in the house,and they started streaming out of there. They were unnerved by the fellow screaming out in pain.”
Fagert, a trained sniper, had several other close calls. He was wounded by shrapnel in one of his hands and suffered stab wounds during hand to- hand combat. When the war ended, he was assigned to serve as a guard during the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals, a duty he describes as “boring.”
Fagert finally returned to the U.S., enrolled in college on the GI Bill and eventually met his future wife, Lois Jean.
“We met on a blind date, and we just clicked right off the bat,” he says.
“She was studying to be a nurse, and back then they didn’t want nursing students to be married, so we were secretly married for two years.”
Fagert earned a degree in chemistry and took a job at Firestone, which placed him in its management training program. He worked as a chemical engineer for 10 years, followed by positions as a mechanical engineer, project engineer and corporate troubleshooter.
The couple had three daughters and seven grandchildren. Fagert’s wife, who recently passed away, lived at Chapel Hill for three years.
“People here are so good,” he says. “My wife was in two other places before coming here, and they were terrible.”
After seeing the care his wife received and the environment at Chapel Hill, Fagert says he knew it would be the right place when the time came for him to choose a retirement community.
“I’ve been here a month, and I’ve gained 10 pounds,” he laughs. “I need to start working out.”