Longtime Waxahachie teacher and coach Gene Head celebrated his 90th birthday party luncheon Wednesday at Cancun’s Ameri-Mex restaurant Wednesday, surrounded by 60 of his friends, family and former students.
Head, who taught and coached for 40 years, 34 of those years at Waxahachie, talked of his memories of the many students who had come to honor him.
“I was talking to someone the other day, and I kept referring to you as ‘my kids.’ They looked at me sort of funny, and I told them ‘I spent 40 years with them. If they’re not my kids, then who’s are they?’” Head said.
As Head recalled his journey into teaching, he spoke about the life-changing events of D-Day, and the impact it had on the rest of his life.
“You deserve to hear some of my secrets. You deserve to hear of the six principles I’ve tried to live by since June 6, 1944, because it will do each one of you good,” said Head. “Those six principles are friendship, love, truth, faith, hope and charity. That entered in my picture years ago. I was a young kid, just 18, and just got my wings. I was sent to England to transport troops that bailed out of aircraft across to France. On our first trip, we got 167 hits on my aircraft. That was 6 o’clock in the morning, from ground fire. Not a one on the aircraft was hit. The boys jumped out, and I went back at sea level to keep the German fighters off my tail. I was so scared. I’ve never been that scared since,” said Head.
In a moment of reflection, he talked about a promise made.
“I got to talking to the man upstairs that day, and promised him that if he would let me out of that situation in one piece, I would do something for somebody every day, and the only way I could do that was to teach,” he said.
While a teacher, Head secretly sent 10 needy students to college.
“It took many years, and a lot of part-time jobs for me to send those 10 kids through college without them knowing about it,” he said. “I did it with scholarships and a lot of work, and to this day, only one of those 10 ever found out.”
George Solis, who played on Waxahachie’s 1958 state champion basketball team, recalled wanting to play football for Waxahachie. He was a junior at the time, but told Head, who was a WHS football coach, “I talked to my dad, and he said I couldn’t play because if I got hurt, we had no way to pay for the bills.”
Head talked to Solis’ dad and told him he would personally pay the medical bills if he got hurt.
“The second day of football, we were scrimmaging Italy, and somehow I took a cleat to my face,” said Solis. “After the game, he took me to Tenery (Tenery Hospital) and they sewed me up. Head asked Mayo Tenery, ‘How much do I owe you?’ Tenery told him it would be $16.50. Mr. Head will tell you he had $16.65 in his pocket that night. When we left the hospital, he had 15 cents left in his pocket, but true to his word, he paid for it,” said Solis.
In closing, Head thanked those in attendance, and said, “I never intended to be 90 years old, so I tried to make the best of the years that I had, and you’re the best. You are the reason I’m here today.”