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Ellijay, GA
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U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Are (ret.), left, recently presented what he called the “immaculate” dress uniform of late Ellijay resident Cantey Gordon to Dwight Walsh, curator of The Citadel Archives and Museum on the school’s campus in Charleston, S.C. Contributed photo

by Mark Millican

When Cantey Gordon was serving in a medical logistics unit in World War II under the command of legendary General George S. Patton, he made a request of the general’s chief of staff for some trucks to move equipment.

“He was trying to negotiate something, (saying) ‘Hey, I need more trucks’ or food or something like that — and Gen. Patton came out and asked him how we could move this unit,” said family friend and retired Army Lt. Colonel David Are. “Mr. Gordon — who was Lt. Gordon then — offered a solution to Gen. Patton and Gen. Patton said, ‘I think that’s what we’ll do. We’ll implement that.’ (Gordon) was rather proud of that story when he told it.”

Gordon passed away last year, and recently his wife, Helen, contacted the Are family and asked for help in donating her late husband’s uniform from The Citadel — one of the South’s premiere military colleges — back to the school.

“Mr. Gordon, my Dad (Bill Are) and myself are all Citadel graduates,” explained David Are. “Mrs. Gordon contacted Dad and said she wanted to donate her husband’s ring back to The Citadel. In The Citadel (Archives and) Museum there’s a big display of donated rings, but it’s just one per class. So she ended up not wanting to do that unless she knew it was going to be on display.”

Are said he did some research and found The Citadel was looking for graduates to donate their rings that weren’t going to be displayed in order to melt them down and make a giant memorial ring on campus.

“I went back and had to tell her, ‘There’s nothing to say they’re not going to melt this down,’” he said, adding that another tradition is that the graduation ring never changes style, except for the class year number.

“She told me she had some uniforms and other stuff she could donate, so I picked up the uniform,” Are continued. “The Citadel wears a gray, duck-tailed kind of uniform just like West Point (Army academy) has. It has South Carolina (embossed) buttons and a South Carolina hat, brass and that kind of thing. But Mr. Gordon’s is in unbelievable condition. It’s a solid wool uniform and it was just immaculate. I graduated 40 years after he did and mine’s not in this good of a condition.”

Helen Gordon said her late husband’s uniform was “just hanging in the closet in beautiful condition” when she decided to do something with it.

“I thought (The Citadel) would like to have it,” she said the week before Veterans Day is observed in Ellijay. “It meant a whole lot to him. He loved The Citadel.”

Are said another “interesting thing” about Gordon’s Class of 1942 — which also included former U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) and Major General James Grimsley Jr., who later became The Citadel’s commanding officer when David Are was in school there — is that it was the only class in Citadel history that was not ceremonially recognized for graduating.

“That’s because after they completed their courses in the spring they sent them directly to the training camps for World War II — the entire class,” he revealed. “They never had a graduation ceremony. That’s very famous in Citadel lore. Every candidate knows about the Class of ’42.”

David Are said the museum’s curator was “excited” to see the condition of the uniform, and to receive a digital interview with Gordon produced by ETC3-TV in the “Those Who Served” series.

“It had a special thing on it, a star at the bottom that was (on the uniforms) only a few years that recognized an ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) cadet,” he pointed out.

David Are’s father, Bill, said he and his wife, Kat, became friends with Cantey and Helen Gordon around 20 years ago when the Ares moved to Ellijay.

“We went to church together and would go places, out to eat and that kind of thing,” he said. “He was a fine Christian man who would do things for other people who couldn’t do for themselves.”

Bill Are said Gordon spent a career in hospital administration, at one time serving as administrator of North Georgia Medical Center, and was also instrumental in founding Hope Lutheran Church. Even after Gordon lost a leg due to complications from diabetes, Are shared that he refused to become wheelchair bound and continued to work for the local Lions Club and other causes.

“Cantey was proud of getting the church started,” Bill Are noted.

Helen Gordon said she and Cantey came here in 1980 and “loved Ellijay” immediately.

“It’s a beautiful place and so we decided to reside here,” she said. “I’m almost 90, and am glad I can still be here.” 

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