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Eddie Price, known here for his patriotism and devotion to veteran causes, died Sunday at age 94.
For many, Price will be remembered as the face of local patriotic events, including courthouse ceremonies at Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Many veterans knew him as the man who drove them to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Durham.
His wife, Evelyn, knew him as a man who helped everybody. She said Sunday that she will remember him “for the love he showed me and his fellow man.”
A Lucama native, Price was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II. He completed basic training in 1943 and was sent to England in April 1944 as a rifleman with the 29th Infantry Division. He was part of Operation Overlord at Normandy.
Price told The Wilson Times in 2000 that he spent that first night in France in a foxhole and watched German and American planes overhead and listened to the sound of artillery fire.
He returned to France in 2000 and retraced many of his steps with his daughter, Debbie Gouldin, and granddaughter, Meredith, who was 9 at the time.
After serving in combat, Price spent a year as a military police officer in England, France and Belgium. He never advanced beyond private first class — “that’s as high a rank as I got because I was drafted for that one job,” Price said in a 2013 interview with the Times. His fluency in French made him an integral part of his company.
“I had some pretty good jobs because I had taken French in high school,” Price said. “I was able to speak to them when I got there. I was the only one in the company who could. Before I left, I was an interpreter for the whole battalion.”
Price said he was the only military police officer who had his own jeep and was put in charge of local civilian contractors.
BACK IN WILSON
In December 1945, Price was honorably discharged from the Army and returned to Wilson County and began work as a typewriter apprentice in January 1946. It was the beginning of his nearly 50-year career selling and repairing office machines including calculators and cash registers.
“I was pretty well-known in the community as the typewriter man,” he previously told the Times. “There wasn’t a school here I didn’t go to and work on their typewriters.”
Price worked for Eastern Typewriter Co. and Hudson Typewriter Co. before ending his career with Office Machines Service and Sales and his own venture, Price Business Supplies.
For 18 years, Price drove local veterans to Durham’s VA hospital, logging more than 20,000 hours; he received the James E. Parke Achievement Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for those efforts.
In 1999, after four years of driving his own car, Price started Wilson’s Disabled American Veterans transportation program. He drove the van to Durham until 2013, when he was 88 years old. He was sidelined for health reasons.
“I believe everyone in Wilson has gotten a ride from Eddie Price at one time,” Dave Grupy, volunteer network transportation coordinator for the VA Medical Center in Durham, said in a 2013 interview.
“He has taken people to the grocery store, to the doctor, to the hospital and many, many, many other people up here to Durham. I have never seen a more dedicated volunteer.”
Over the years, Price served as chairman of the Wilson Committee on Patriotism and was an active member of the DAV as well as American Legion Post 13 and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
WILL BE MISSED
Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose said Price will surely be missed.
“He was the absolutely most patriotic person I’ve ever seen in my life,” Rose said, added he respected the U.S. flag. “Eddie loved this great country with all his heart.”
Price’s wife said Eddie always put other people ahead of himself even for simple things. She recalled a particular incident after Price’s last stroke. She decided to take Eddie for a drive and asked him where he wanted to go. He suggested Bojangles’. But it wasn’t because he wanted a biscuit. Before his illness, the couple would always make a stop at Bojangles’ to get Evelyn a cup of iced tea. He wanted to get that tea for his wife on that trip as well.
“We will remember Daddy as a gentle man with a tenacious spirit and a heart as big as the world,” his daughter said. “He was the only man who not only pulled for the underdog but took concrete steps to help the underdog achieve.
“He took on difficult and complex tasks and carried them out when others shied away,” Gouldin continued. “He saw injustices and worked to correct them. He would challenge each of us to step up and do the same.”
Funeral arrangements for Eddie Price are by Joyner’s Funeral Home and are incomplete.