Hi Jim, Thanks for posting about Gene Paul. 'Known him since I started jumping. Fly on Gene Paul, fly on. That "Star" up there just grew one bigger. 'Not much else for me to say right now, just fly on Gene Paul, Fly on.
Blue Skies Gene Paul you will be missed by anyone who ever had the honer of meeting you.
Gene Paul was for me like many many people in the sport someone you looked up to and admired. I remember the day back in the mid 90's when Gene Paul called me down to the end of the bar were he always sipped on his red wine and poured me a glass. I knew from that point on Raeford would always be my home DZ and I had earned the old mans approval. I am just sorry I didnt have a chance to see him one more time before God took him from this world. To everyone that knew and loved Gene Paul my deepest condolences to you.
My prayers and condolences go out to the Thacker family.
I met Gene Paul at Raeford in 1997 at the POP's Nationals. With his guidance the meet went smoothly. There was only one hitch. The restaurant that was to cater the closing dinner suddenly went out of business. Not to worry though, Gene Paul took the bull by the horns and with his guidance and his wonderful staff pulled it off at the DZ.
Blue Skies Gene Paul thanks for enriching my life experience in this sport and also those of others.
Some of the best times of my life happened at Raeford, 1984-1987. Gene Paul was like a second father to alot of us young know-it-all jumpers. Strict when we screwed up and a hand out when we needed it. I personally learned alot from Gene Paul. I wouldn't be the person I am today with out his influence. I am just one person, he touched countless lives through the years and the world is a better place because of him. My prayers are with the family in their time of grief. Hope there is a Twin Bo in heaven for you and Paul Keith to buzz around in.
Sorry to hear this - hope he eased out of this world peacefully.
Met him when I made my first sport jumps out at Raeford when I was stationed at Ft. Bragg. Missed the turkey farm but made it into the trees on a very long spot. He ran a good operation there. He will be missed by many.
Gene Paul Thacker was born in Pike County, Kentucky on June 21, 1931 to the late Appy Thacker and Octavia Smith Thacker. He was preceded in death by his son; Paul Keith Thacker; his brother, Chester Thacker; two sisters Clara Thacker and Opal Thacker Bishop.
After marrying his high school sweet heart, Billie Jean Chapman, in 1953, Mr. Thacker joined the U.S. Army and earned his jump wings with the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles. In 1963 Mr. Thacker joined the U.S. Army’s elite parachute team, the Golden Knights. In 1967, Mr. Thacker received the Golden Knight of the Year award, the first time the award was ever given. In 1968 he left the team to serve a tour in Vietnam. While in Vietnam serving as an advisor he was engaged in a firefight and wounded. He returned to the United States and became the full-time manager of the Green Beret Sport Parachute Club. With his deep passion for the sport of skydiving, in 1970 Mr. Thacker began building what is today P.K. Airpark. Among his great accomplishments, Mr. Thacker is probably most noted for coaching and training more world champion skydivers than any other professional in the sport. Mr. Thacker was a veteran in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was awarded many commendations over his 22 year career in the U.S. Army. Some of these include the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Master Parachute Badge and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Gene Paul Thacker retired from the U.S. Army as a Master Sergeant in 1971.
Survivors include his wife, Billie Jean Thacker of Raeford; daughter, Kimberly Sue Moore and her husband Mike of Pinebluff; two sons, Tony Thacker and his wife Kate of Raeford, Tim Thacker of Raeford; brother, Greg Thacker and his wife Brenda of Muscleshoals, Alabama; three half-brothers, Mike Thacker, Ronnie Thacker, and Gary Thacker all of Canada, KY; three sisters, Mary Jane Deiranieh and her husband Akram of San Jose, CA, Lois Reed of Belfry, KY, Gail Thacker of Belfry, KY; six grandchildren, Deny Jo Nagule, Lindsay Rae Moore, Lauren Ansley Thacker, Taylor Nicole Moore, Morgan Leigh Thacker, Allie Victoria Thacker; three great grandchildren, Darren Nagule, Charlie McClendon, Madison McClendon; one great great grandchild, Royce Michael Nagule; a special nephew, Steve Bishop of South Carolina; his companion of 13 years his Jack Russell, Otis.
Gene Paul Thacker was laid to rest this afternoon with a large group of family and friends there to see him off and pay their respects. Gene Paul was buried with full military honors by a detail from Ft. Bragg. The Golden Knights Commander, Sergeant Major and accompanying current team mates - along with a long list of former team members - were in attendance as well.
The group relocated to PK Airpark (home of Raeford Parachute Center) for catching up with old friends and making some new ones. Raeford Aviation's aircraft paid a well executed tribute to D-167 just before the feast prepared by our very own "Executive Chef."
The heavens smiled upon us today, bringing us unseasonably cool temperatures and the first blue sky Saturday without a threat of rain since June. Apparently we were not alone in thinking that Gene Paul earned a special send-off.
A Celebration of Life has been scheduled for 20 October at PK Airpark for the greater skydiving community, extended family, and friends. More to follow as details become available.