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Charlie Hendricks is 86 and in recent months has retired to his granddaughter's place outside of Trenton.
Born in Indiana, he, like many other folks, came to Florida seeking his fortune after marrying a woman whose parents lived outside Sebring.
They came in the late 1960s and settled around Anna Maria Island where he and his wife sold real estate. Later on, they opened an office in Dixie County.
“I came because the Suwannee River was next up from Crystal River,” he said. They had not built Interstate 75 and Dixie was, in his words, different from what it is today. “They had snake pits and alligators and all that stuff,” he said. “Up here, land was $100 down, and I'll carry your paper.”
Hendricks, whose office was in the Carriage Inn, started out selling lots with mobile homes as Hendricks & Homes. His wife kept the office in Anna Maria.
Several months ago, he was redoing a home in Sun City Center when his wife died. He decided against the move into Sun City and came back to a place he knew well — the Tri-County Area.
Right now, he is living in a double wide on land that is familiar. “I sold lots out of here for $1,295.”
Nowadays, it's at least $30,000 for five acres.
But the move has left him with some challenges. First, there is his age.
And he cannot drive himself. For someone in a rural area, that is a challenge.
In addition, he must deal with the effects of wounds from World War II.
As a private first class with the 76th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized), first Team, 1st Platoon, he was first wounded in shelling by the Germans. Two of his buddies died.
When Hendricks went to surrender, he raised his arms and the flesh fell from his left arm. It was muscle that went from his wrist to his armpit. He also had a knee injury that would require a replacement,
The Germans took him to a nearby home where the occupants tried patching him up. By the time the American forces arrived, his arm had turned black, Hendricks said.
An American medic soon arrived with a new ambulance and Hendricks was headed home — in a body cast and after an operation to save his arm.
He spent more than three years in hospitals and had 13 operations to repair what the war inflicted. Muscle and skin from his stomach was “grown” to replace what was lost on his arm. But it could not be made whole again.
Hendricks received a Bronze Star for his bravery in that fight. And a Purple Heart with an oak leaf cluster. There's also the assortment of campaign and other medals.
“My father was proud of me,” Hendricks said. He was an artillery man in the first war and proud his son joined the American Legion.
So, now he sits in Trenton, this war hero. No driving. But he does get around OK. However, there's this little physical problem that sends him rushing to a bathroom on short notice.
He has lifetime home health care for the short time he was a POW and for his personal physical sacrifice. But he does have appointments to make at the VA in Gainesville.
And so we are here. Hendricks would like to let acquaintances in the area know that he has returned and would love to have company or card partners.
And he needs a driver. He has the car and will pay for the gas and a person's time. They just have to understand the need for sudden pit stops. Those pit stops are the reason he cannot use conventional medical van transportation provided by the counties or veterans groups. And private transport would be $200 per trip.
If someone wants to renew a friendship or take on transporting him, they can call 463-8565.
I can vouch that he's pleasant company and has some interesting, poignant and even humorous war stories to tell over cards, coffee or a trip to Gainesville.