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Local hero, Gene Tomlin, receives Congressional Gold Medal

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Gene Tomlin holds his Congressional Gold Medal for service as a Merchant Marine in WWII Joy Kingsbury Photo

By JOY KINGSBURY/for The Herald  —  Gene Tomlin, Oakridge resident since 1947, recently received The Congressional Gold Medal. It is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress, honoring those whose dedication, heroism, and public service have created a lasting impact on American history.

On March 14, 2020, legislation was signed into law authorizing the Congressional Gold Medal for American Merchant Mariners whose honorable deeds played a critical role in WWII. It was authorized to award duplicates of the Medal to individuals. The recipients are those who, between December 7, 1941, and December 31, 1946, were members of the U.S. Merchant Marines.

Merchant Marines in WWII

Gene Tomlin was a member of the Merchant Marines in that era. The Merchant Marines sailed the seas with military goods and equipment destined for strategic military bases during that time to keep the war effort supplied. Gene sailed the Pacific during the war and made port in Manilla, Okinawa, Guam, and the Philippines. In the immediate aftermath of the war, the Merchant Marines transported discharged veterans to their ports of embarkation in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sadly, they also transported the remains of our brave American Soldiers killed in battle, to a base in Manilla on their way to Honorable Burial in the United States.

After the war, the Merchant Marines continued to transport scrap metal and war materials back to the United States. Gene served from 1945-1952.

Gene comes to Oakridge

Sam Tomlin, Gene’s Father, a Railroad Engineer, came to Oakridge in 1947. Sam was an expert in steam-driven machinery, used in the timber industry. He took a job as a Mill Wright and settled in Oakridge. Gene would visit Oakridge when he was between ships and used Oakridge as his mailing address since he had no permanent home but a sailing ship. His Mother moved to Oakridge in 1949, so his family became established here. Gene went to work in a mill in his time off while waiting for the next sailing assignment and enjoyed living and working in the area.

The family man

Gene and Audrey Kosky, married in 1952. They built a home here in Oakridge. Gene and Audrey raised a family of four; two boys and two girls. Gene took a job as a lineman for the power company. In 1978, Gene was injured on the job and forced to regroup. He took up the profession of Real Estate, and established Mountain Valley Realty in 1979.

Gene retired from his Real Estate business in 1996. He now lives contentedly the life he has chosen and appreciates the quietude of his home. He says he is where he is by choice, as the only place he would ever want to be.

Thank you for your service, Gene. Your medal is well deserved.

Joy Kingsbury is an Oakridge resident and regular contributor to The Herald. Joy Kingsbury photo


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