For many Middlesboro residents, no place they ever go can quite compare to their hometown. No matter how far afield life may take them, eventually they are drawn back home. That’s how it was for Larry Thacker Sr.
Born in Middlesboro, Thacker left with his family for Chicago when he was around 5 years old. He says this was during the “great migration” in the early 1950s after the mine where his father worked at had closed. He lived on the west side of Chicago until his freshman year in high school. Returning to Middlesboro in his formative years, Thacker received the remainder of his primary education at Middlesboro High School.
He graduated high school in heady times. The war in Vietnam was escalating and Thacker went to serve his country. He joined the Army and served five years of active duty from 1966-1972. After Vietnam, he served 13 months in Korea — two tours with the 2nd Armor Division at Fort Hood, Texas and a tour with Air Defense Artillery for the Chicago/Milwaukee area, as part of the defense against Russia during the Cold War.
Thacker left the military as a staff sergeant, returned to Middlesboro and a week later he started a job at JR Hoe and Son on 19th Street — where he stayed 40 years until retirement.
“Middlesboro in many ways has changed immensely, but in other ways it doesn’t change at all,” said Thacker. “I’ve been many places and I’ve just not seen any place that is better than right here. As far as the people and the atmosphere that really hasn’t changed. We came back and raised our kids here and I still have no desire to be anywhere else.”
He now serves as president of the Tri-State Vietnam Veterans. The group is very active in the Tri- State. They are currently seeking donations to erect a World War II memorial monument at the Middlesboro City Park.
“The group is really a healing process for us,” said Thacker.
He has been married to his wife Mary for 48 years this month.
“My wife and I are a real team,” said Thacker. “We have been through a lot together. She has been right by my side all these years.”
The couple has two children; author, educator Larry Thacker Jr., and Leann Thacker.
For more information on the Tri-State Vietnam Veterans World War II monument project or to make a donation to the cause, contact Thacker at (606) 499-4277.
Reach William Tribell at (606) 302-9100 or on Twitter @wtribellmdn