Jan. 24, 2013
By Jack Bogaczyk
HUNTINGTON - It would figure that a man who spent years working for the U.S. Postal Service could make a timely delivery.
It would also figure that a guy nicknamed for baseball's single-season RBI record-holder could deliver big.
Meet Glen "Hack" Wilson.
He is one of the significant contributors to the Vision Campaign to enhance athletic facilities at Marshall University. A Huntington resident since he came out of the Navy following World War II in 1945, Wilson spent 35 years casing and sorting mail for carriers in the post office.
He also was the CEO of the local post office's credit union until he retired in September 1989. He's a widower of more than a decade after his wife of 62 years, Betty, died in 2002. He's lived in the same Westmoreland section home he and his wife built in 1952.
He's been a season ticket-holder for Marshall Football since Fairfield Stadium days, probably since the `70s, he estimated. He has two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He's a St. Louis Cardinals' baseball fan.
He is 92.
Wilson said he learned about the campaign to raise $20 million in private funding to build an indoor athletic facility and more in one of the three newspapers he reads daily. Intrigued by the practice facility plan and how many sports it could help, he called MU Athletic Director Mike Hamrick and asked the AD to take him to lunch, because he was going to make a donation.
Hamrick took Wilson to Red Lobster. Wilson reiterated his intentions to make a contribution. Hamrick had no idea the amount, but he had a good lunch with the then-91-year-old fan.
"Hack called the next day and said he had a check for me," Hamrick said. "He asked if he could come by my office. He told me he only wanted two things. He wanted to sit in the AD's box for a football game. And he said he wanted his own parking spot in the West Lot (next to Edwards Stadium). He wanted to tell his buddies he had a private spot for Marshall football games.
"I told him we might be able to take care of both of those things."
But Hamrick had no idea what Wilson's donation would be. Not long after, Wilson and his daughter, Bonnie Adams, came to Hamrick's Shewey Building office.
"He told me he was going to give us $50,000," Hamrick said. "I said, `Hack, that's great. That's wonderful.' I started to ask him how he wanted to do the payments, and he reached into his pocket and pulled out a check for $50,000. I couldn't believe it.
"I wondered if he really wanted to do this. His daughter was with him. He said, `It's my money, and I can do with it what I want. It's money I could do a lot of stuff with, but this is what I want to do. I want to help.'
"Needless to say, it was a really unique contribution."
Wilson then told Hamrick he would like the same Marshall hat the coaches wore on the sidelines. The AD called the equipment room and had one sent up.
"I said, `Hack, that's the most expensive hat you've ever bought,'" Hamrick said.
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Wilson, born in St. Louis, grew up in Weston. He moved there with his polio-stricken father and his brother - they lived with Wilson's grandfather -- after his mother died when Hack was 10. His nickname came from playing high school baseball.
He said he attended Marshall for "about 30 hours" while he was working in the post office, his career after manning an 8-inch gun mount on the starboard side of the light cruiser USS Duluth in the Pacific in WWII.
"I never had to fire it," Wilson said, smiling, during a recent lunch, "because somebody always got the guy before I did."
He married before the war - he had met his future wife while he was managing a shoe store in New Martinsville -- and joined the Navy, out of personal necessity, he said.
"I knew I was going to be drafted," Wilson said, "so I signed up for the Navy, but I had bad eyesight. A guy where I signed up told me if I ate carrots for a week, I'd have 20-20 vision. So, I drank carrot juice for breakfast, ate raw carrots for lunch and ate cooked carrots for supper.
"I went back to Charleston (to the Navy recruiting center) and had 20-20 vision. They sent me to the base in New Orleans, and I'm being tested. A guy checking me out checked my eyes and all of a sudden yells, `Who in the hell passed him?'
"I told him, `Sir, I'm trying to beat the draft. My number's already come up, and if you don't take me, I'm AWOL from the Army. He said OK, and said, `Just put those glasses away and don't wear them while you're on duty.'"
His wife lived with her parents while he was at war. Wilson went to gunner school in New Orleans and eventually became an instructor and even taught Russians at the base. Told he didn't want to go on an aircraft carrier, he ended up in the Pacific on the Duluth because there were too many first-class gunners at the base.
Wilson started with the post office in December 1945, as a Christmas crunch holiday hire. He walked a route with a carrier to learn the ropes, then did it himself for 3-4 months. He told his bosses he'd rather work inside the post office.
These days, he watches all of his beloved St. Louis Cardinals' games. "That's why I got DirecTV," he said. He eats lunch with some of his senior friends in the neighborhood most days. He likes ice cream "a lot" and recommends the Kroger's banana split flavor.
"My son-in-law (Bill Adams), he does my taxes. I'd like to get him up in that skybox next time, if I can."
His daughter, Bonnie "takes care of me, does everything for me," Wilson said. "She calls every day, comes over. I can't say enough good things about her. She's a great person. I don't know what else to say. She's just great."
At Marshall these days, they say the same thing about Hack.
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"I could have put the money (for Marshall) in my will, but when I saw what they were doing, I thought they needed it at this time to build the indoor practice facility," Wilson said. "That's what I asked them to do with it.
"They said when we get it done, they'll put my name on a plaque up there to show that I helped build it. I'm 92 years old, and I'd like to see thing built before I die. I told Mike Hamrick that.
"I had the money. I made some good investments. My broker did a good job. I had some good years. I'll have money to give to my grandchildren when I die, but I wanted to be a part of what Marshall was doing because this is a good cause. It's really going to help them."
Hamrick said "it's remarkable, really. Here's a 92-year-old man who comes in, and he loves Marshall Athletics so much he takes some of his savings, and not a small amount, and gives it to us.
"I've been at this a long time in a lot of places, raising money, been part of a lot of donations and causes, and I don't think any touched my heart more than this one, that and meeting in my office with Hack Wilson."
He has two football season tickets and one basketball season ticket. He got the West Lot parking spot he wanted. He is the same Herd fan, albeit one who has a much larger stake in the program than he did for years.
"There's not a better place to go, in my opinion, for an education and sports," Wilson said. "Marshall means a lot to this area where I've lived for a long time. I've followed them most of my life, and I've had a good life. I support them. I figured I've got this $50,000, give it to a good place."