Henry Slocumb of Forsyth died on July 17, just a week after his 89th birthday, and his war stories died with him.
Slocumb spent nearly three years with the Marines on the front lines in the Korean War. I often begged him, “Mr. Henry, will you tell me about your service?” I would ask.
“I didn’t do that much,” he would say. He didn’t want to talk about it. But Mr. Henry was no stranger to hardship.
His widow Annette told me Henry suffered physical and emotional pain all his life. When he was just 8 he severely injured his back. It would cause him pain the next 81 years. That same year, his father died suddenly, leaving his mother to raise three boys. He went to work sweeping parking lots in his hometown, and had been working ever since.
He joined the Marines and took a tour in the Korean War. When his time was up, he re-enlisted. Henry didn’t yet have a family like so many others. He figured he might as well stay and fight. The Marines were ready to make a Secret Service officer of him. But Henry had seen enough, and went back to attend Georgia State. He married Annette and they had five children. He served as assistant and later interim Director of Inspections and Fees for the City of Macon until retiring in 1996.
Like so many of his generation, though, Henry didn’t sit still in retirement. He loved to work with his hands and collected sea shells to make hand-made shadow boxes, mostly of scenes from the Bible.
When I would see his white hair barely sticking above the counter of the Reporter office, I knew he was coming to show me a shadow box.
“Mr. Henry these are great. You have a real talent. Can I do a story about your hobby?” I would ask hopefully.
“No,” he’d respond.
“Mr. Henry can I buy one of these?” I would ask.
“No, I just like to show them to people,” he’d smile.
“He was a stubborn thing,” laughs Annette.
They weren’t able to laugh much this year. His life-long pain was getting worse, and then he caught pneumonia and was hospitalized.
“He begged the Lord to take him home,” said his wife. “He just felt like he was being betrayed because God wouldn’t answer his prayer.”
Due to COVID, they only let him see Annette twice.
“He didn’t like to be away from me period, and he couldn’t do anything for himself,” said Annette. “He was independent and in charge and he couldn’t stand it. He said ‘I am miserable’.”
Finally in July they said he could go home. Annette couldn’t decide whether to put him in hospice or home healthcare. The morning of July 17, when Henry was supposed to return home, she was still fretting.
“I said ‘Lord it’s down to the wire I don’t know what to do. I’m not gonna put him in a nursing home. What can I do to get him home?’”
Thirty minutes after that prayer, Dr. Craig Caldwell called and said “I’m sorry. Henry has died.”
“I said oh no I am so thankful. This is what Henry wanted. Praise the Lord.”
Annette said for years she had asked God not to let her husband be bed-ridden. And on July 17, just in the nick of time, He answered.
She said for the first time since he was 8, Henry is without pain. And for the first time, I can finally write about him.