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Polk County Enterprise - Local News

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Former USAF turrent gunner stays busy with VFW, Escapees projects



Russell "Bud" Upton, the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce's final 2012 Community Service Award winner — still puts the skills he learned as a top turrent gunner in a B-17 in the European Theater of World War II every day. This week he's had to recall some cold weather survival skills turrent gunners mastered, because inevitably there was a cold blast of air coming in from somewhere when you were in that turrent. That frosty blast of wind quickly froze any small areas of skin left exposed between your mask, goggles and flight suit. Bud continues to serve his fellow veterans today as a member of the Honor Guard for VFW Post 8568, rendering military honors for deceased veterans and decorating veterans graves with American flags, lest they not be forgotten, says fellow VFW member Richard Amos. "I have known Bud for many years now and I have met none finer," Amos said. "I feel that this man has been a great asset to our county and should be recognized for his patriotism and many good deeds he has unselfishly accomplished over the years." Upton serves as the auctioner for the Escapees annual auction of baked goods that benefits the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department each year. In nominating Upton, friends said the event typically raises $10-15,000 a year. He organizes and puts on dinners and raffles for other charitable organizations. "I've always been able to count on Bud to go the extra mile," Amos said. He and his wife Bobbie Jean have been married for 50 years (possibly due to his ability to follow orders?) Bud graduated from Marquette High School in Tulsa, Okla. and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1943. After the service, he worked for American Airlines as a mechanic and got the bug to be a pilot and got his license. He built his first bi-plane, a Sky Bolt and joined the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wis. Flying was a hobby as well as a business for Bud. He bought an old anti-submarine patrol aircraft which did surveying for the government out of Salt Lake City, a job he held for five years. Earlier he had his own business, Airborne Graphics in Tulsa, Okla. After retirement he wanted to see the United States, so he began RV'ing. For about 15 years he would spent several months at the EAA Fly-in at the Pioneer Airport in Oshkosh. Some years he was responsible for the fleet of 30-40 automobiles that Ford Motor Company made available for the event. Once the EAA Fly-In was over, Bud and Bobbie Jean would hit the road again. The Uptons came to Livingston to visit the Escapees RV Club in 1994 and built a home where they have lived for 17 years. Bud and Bobbie Jean have two children, one grandchild and two great-grandchildren. The Chamber Awards Banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31 at Livingston Junior High. Reserve your table now by calling the chamber office at 936-327-4929. Tickets are also available from chamber directors or ambassadors. No tickets will be sold at the door.


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