Chester Elkin, a Berea native and decorated World War II veteran, was presented with a Congressional record at his home signed by U.S. State Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.). He is also a nominee for the 2019 Kentucky Veteran Hall of Fame, representing the city of Berea.
At the gathering Thursday morning, Emerson McAfee, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) central Kentucky chapter read the record aloud to Elkin, alongside his wife of 76 years, Mary Ellen. McAfee also was the person who nominated Elkin for the hall of fame.
On March 25, Barr also read the record aloud before the House of Representatives, which gives an overview of not only Elkin’s extensive and award winning service, but his many contributions to Berea and Madison County.
The record recalled Barr standing and stating, “Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the life of a special man, Mr. Chester Elkin, of Madison County, Kentucky. Mr. Elkin is part of a special group of heroes that served our nation during World War II … I am humbled to honor the service of Mr. Chester Elkin before the United States Congress.”
“I just asked for a letter,” McAfee said. “I never would’ve thought he would recognize him before Congress.”
Elkin was born in Wallaceton in 1919. While in high school he became the driver of the first school bus in his community, and at the age of 17, he opened a general store so the community wouldn’t have to travel as far for necessities. He also owned properties in the city, which he used to provide businesses and jobs.
He was involved with several Berea committees and organizations such as Renfro Valley Entertainment, the American Legion Post 50 and was county game warden for 30 years.
He served in the Army Air Corps from 1941 to 1946. He was stationed at an airbase in Ie Jima Island, Okinawa, leading the development of a runway for landing the aircraft. Toward the end of the war, he was in charge of receiving Japanese aircrafts and their pilots during their surrender, earning him the American Theater Medal, American Defense Medal, Asiatic Pacific Theater Medal with two bronze stars, the Good Conduct Ribbon and the Victory Medal.
“I never realized that people would ever care about what I was doing,” Elkin said. “I just did what I was told.”
Besides McAfee and Elkin’s wife, their daughter, Alvanell, Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley and Elkin’s hospice caretakers were in attendance.
Fraley, who is long standing family friends with the Elkin family, reminisced with him.
“You remember that Red’s game at Riverfront that we went to with Daddy,” he asked. “It was 1974, and I was just a boy, and I never forgot about that. Those were some of the best memories of my life.”
Elkin is looking forward to another large milestone by celebrating his 100th birthday in August, something he says that nothing will hinder him from reaching.
“With everything that I did throughout my life, I didn’t do anything that will keep me from getting to 100,” he said.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.