By MATT CRANE
For his family and the countless residents of Oktibbeha County he served, the legacy of Will Allen Jr.’s life continues to thrive.
Allen not only served his country overseas during World War II, but he also helped establish what would become the East Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Department.
Surviving Allen are Carolyn and David Allen, siblings who proudly pass on stories of their beloved, hard-working father.
“We were always proud of him,” David Allen said. “He always threw himself fully into everything he ever did.”
Training at Camp Hale in Denver, Colo. as a part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division 616 Field Artillery during World War II, Carolyn Allen said her father’s service loomed on the horizon in his early days in Lee County.
Deploying to Italy in January 1945, Carolyn Allen said her father’s division saw over 900 killed in action, but recounts of those trying times came few and far between when he arrived him in August of that year.
“Daddy was never one to tell the stories about men dying,” she said. “His stories were always different.”
While his service to the country was invaluable and highly decorated, David Allen said his father’s greatest work came when he began developing the idea for a volunteer fire department in eastern Oktibbeha County.
“I think he focused on that fire department more than anything else, because it took years to get it started,” he said. “It really blossomed because it went from just one station to three.”
Before founding the East Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Department in 1989, Carolyn Allen said her father and other saw a need for the community and worked to make something happen.
“They got together for the good of the community because something needed to be done,” she said. “Whatever daddy did that he was interested in, he went in with zeal and enthusiasm.”
Will Allen Jr. served as the first president of the board and helped build the department into the thriving service it is today, Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said.
“It’s the largest and most active department in the county,” Rosenhan said. “It had a tremendous impact on the community because it was about members and neighbors getting together to make for a better neighborhood.”
Carolyn Allen said her father stressed on every community member’s ability to do good for those in need.
“Daddy was the kind of person than felt like there was something everyone could do for their community,” she said. “Maybe your skills or approach were different, but there’s something out there than can be done for others.”
Calling attention to Will Allen Jr.’s service with both the American Legion Post No. 13 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Rosenhan said Will Allen Jr. leaves behind a legacy of service.
“We won’t replace him,” he said. “We may succeed him, but we won’t replace him.”
David Allen said he appreciated the support given to the family by volunteer firefighters during their time of grief.
“It was comforting having them there at the funeral,” he said. “They did the same thing for mother when she passed.”
Echoing her brother’s sentiments, Carolyn Allen said there was an undeniable connection between her family and those now serving Oktibbeha County.
“I didn’t know the younger guys, but I felt this kinship because this was a part of us,” she said. “Daddy believed in that fire department. He knew it would work, and it has work so well.”
Carolyn Allen said her father’s dedication is inspiration for younger generations today, and she is hopeful for the future of what her father helped build.
“Daddy believed in giving of yourself, and sometimes that’s a lost art to so many people today,” she said. “He longed for that fire department to continue to be a service and it will. We have good, dependable people in charge who are willing to give of themselves.”