A Tribute to the Foot Soldier – a video about Jimmy Gentry’s life
By Carole Robinson, Staff Writer
The taping of “A Tribute to a Foot Soldier;” Jimmy Gentry’s story, will be held on Sept. 27 in Liberty Hall at the Factory in Franklin at 6:30 p.m. and the public is invited to be a part of the historic event.
For years Franklin native and local hero, Jimmy Gentry has been telling his stories to anyone who would listen, and he has plenty to tell. One of nine children, Jimmy Gentry, also known as Coach Gentry, grew up in a working class family. His father died when Jimmy was 12 years old and young boy had to join his older brothers in helping provide for the family.
Coach, a former teacher and noted football coach, still enjoys telling school children about growing up during the Depression. He shares memories of feeding the hobos who rode the train through Franklin, playing with the family’s livestock, fishing, trapping and hunting in the woods around Franklin to help provide food for the seven children still at home.
He travels all over Tennessee and other states talking about his time in the Army during World War II. At the age of 18 and just out of high school, Gentry found himself marching through Europe. He was awarded two bronze stars for his actions during the invasion of Germany and on April 29, 1945, as a member of the U.S. Army’s 42nd Infantry Battalion; he was one of the first Allied soldiers to discover Dachau Concentration Camp.
Among the hundreds of prisoners liberated was 20-year-old Ukraine born Olek Rudenko, a slave laborer at the camp since he was 17. In 2010, almost 65 years later, in Gentry’s ice house /art studio Rudenko was able to personally thank Gentry for his freedom. Rudenko will also participate in the taping of the DVD.
As he makes his daily rounds around Franklin, one of his stops is a comfortable old chair in Stonebridge Gallery in the Factory where he sketches and tells his stories entertaining anyone who drops by and still impacting young lives.
“Everybody loves to hear him talk,” said Diane Jackson, owner of Stonebridge Gallery. “We have been privileged to hear stories about “camp” [at the Gentry farm] and we’ve framed more of his sketches and paintings. He’s always drawing.”
Often he is seen entertaining customer’s children while parents discuss business with Jackson.
“He’s the best babysitter – the kids don’t want to leave,” Jackson said. “He’s one of a kind.”
Now almost 86, it has become evident Gentry’s legacy is a story that should not be lost. Area fans have arranged to capture Jimmy Gentry’s life – in his own words – on a professionally made DVD to be distributed to area schools, churches and other civic groups.
About 200 soldiers from Ft. Campbell will attend the event. Logan’s Roadhouse will provide dinner for the soldiers prior to the event.
To be a part of the audience during the creation of A Tribute to a Foot Soldier, $10 tickets may be purchased at Stonebridge Gallery, Moody’s Tire, Dotson’s Restaurant, Lulu’s Boutique on Main Street, Shirley Zeitlin Realtors in Cool Springs, Bob Parks Realty – see Danny Anderson, or call 615-790-9020.
Corporate sponsorships are still available for the project. Call 615-790-9020 for information.
Money raised from the evening’s ticket sales will benefit Wounded Warrior programs.
Posted on: 9/20/2012