Age: 84

Unit: U.S. Navy

War fronts: Served two years in Noumea, New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, as a yeoman to top Navy brass. Later, he traveled up and down New Zealand making arrangements for Navy officers as they were closing bases after the war.

His words: "I'd like this younger group to go into the service. They'd get training. They'd get fed and they'd get clothed."

On the Web: Watch more of Humes' story and see profiles of other veterans at www.trib.com/honor

The uniform still fits, and he wears it more and more.

It was issued to Frank Humes in 1954, when he was a first lieutenant in the Wyoming Army National Guard's 115th Cavalry. He wears it to the funerals of military veterans, most of them from the war in which he served.

"See, here, now," he says, picking up a copy of the Rapid City Journal lying on the table next to his favorite chair. It's already folded open to the obituary page. He counts five black-and-white flags designating military service.

"He's 83. He'd be World War II," he says. "82, from Upton. He's World War II."

Four of the five military obituaries, in fact, are for World War II veterans.

If any of them are from the area, and if he gets the phone call, Humes will put on his uniform. He is the chaplain for many military funerals in Newcastle.

"They put in their time. We think it's just necessary that we lay them down with honors," Humes says.

Humes was born here, but his mother left when he was 3 years old. She'd had five kids and didn't want a sixth. His grandfather took Humes and his sister, 10 years older, to Montana.

When he was 6, Humes' grandmother died. His grandfather moved him to four different farms over the next three years. When he was 10 or 11, his grandfather left him with a family to work for the summer. His grandfather never came back.

By the time he was a senior in high school, in the spring of 1944, Humes had found himself a one-bedroom apartment and janitorial work at a hotel. He made about $50 a month, the same amount a soldier could make. Some of his classmates quit school and joined.

But Humes wanted his diploma.

"At that time, if you were to try to get a job, you had to work for someone. I just made up my mind to stay in school."

The local draft board met in the hotel Humes looked after. Each month his number came up, the board called his school. Was he staying out of trouble? Keeping up his grades? And they pushed Humes' draft back one month.

He graduated on May 18, 1944. He had just a few days to report to Omaha, Neb., and the Navy took him to replace sailors lost on sunken ships.

Because Humes could type, the Navy made him a yeoman. He spent two years in Noumea, New Caledonia, often staying in the office late to make sure every memo sent to Washington was "letter perfect." There was no corrective tape then.

Toward the end of the war, he traveled up and down New Zealand, organizing officer trips to bases scheduled to close.

"It was really something to travel and travel with the big boys," he says. "It was just a lifestyle so different than working on a farm."

Returning to America, he had enough points to get out of the Navy, but it needed him to type out all the coming discharges. He typed his own discharge in May 1946 and went home.

He returned to Newcastle on July 4, 1946, for a family reunion -- even though he didn't know many of them. He started out in an old Model A. The car broke down so often he was too late for the reunion, but he decided to stay anyway.

"I was born in Newcastle. I came back here, and I'm going to die here."

He took a job at a service station, pumping gas and training himself to fix cars. He met his wife while she was sitting in the back seat of her parents' car. They were some of his best customers.

In 1949, the old Elkhorn Service station came up for sale.

He had no money. He had no family to help him out.

But it was the beginning of the second oil boom, and he took his plan to the president of the bank. He bought the station and owned it for just over 50 years.

"I don't have any complaints in my life. I always had food on my table," he says.

Today, his two children are grown. His wife died in 1992. It's just him in the house he built on the hill, overlooking the town and highway below.

He puts on his uniform if you ask, for pictures, or to talk to a class of school children.

And for funerals.

He likes to have seven veterans for the honor guard, but the regular guys are getting older or dying. It's hard to find younger ones to take their places. They can get by with four.

When the call comes, he'll answer. Yes, of course. When?

As chaplain, he'll read scriptures from the Bible and signal the honor guard for the three-volley salute, the firing of blank cartridges into the air. A bugler will play Taps. The flag will be presented to the family.

He'll think of how many World War II veterans he has buried, how many are getting older each time he lays one of them away.

"It touches me to where I almost can't finish up," he says.

"I pause a minute and get a hold of myself."

They Served With Honor

Some have said that 1,000 World War II veterans die each day in United States. History dies with each one.

"They Served with Honor" is a special project by the Star-Tribune to collect stories from Wyoming World War II veterans. We will feature one story each week, from Veterans Day to Veterans Day.

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