After graduating from high school in Port Arthur, Gene went off to Lafayette to study math and engineering at Southwestern Louisana Institute. Just two years in, though, the Korean War broke out and he decided to drop out and enlist.
Gene would spend the next 20 years in the Air Force, the first two as a navigator and radar observer in the back seat of F-94s and F-89s, before getting his wings as an F-100 pilot.
In 1961, shortly after he joined the 48th Tactical Squadron in England, his career as a pilot almost came to an abrupt end. While out driving the winding country roads of Sussex, his spiffy new Austin Healy roadster was t-boned and totaled. Thus began Gene’s long friendship with medical science.
Medivaced back stateside, he spent the next 15 months in a USAF hospital in Biloxi, MS, where he had metal rods installed in his ankle and forearm, several vertebrae fused together, and a kneecap removed. For a while, it wasn’t clear if he would ever walk again, let alone fly an airplane.
When Gene was finally cleared to fly again, the Air Force decided he needed to make up for all the flying hours he had missed, and sent him to a C-130 unit at Dyess AFB in Abilene. From there, he shipped out to Vietnam, where he clocked in 178 combat missions and was awarded the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars, the Air Force Combat Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, and assorted other commendations.
Gene capped off his Air Force career with two tours of duty as the Assistant Air Attache to Thailand. He spent a year in Washington, where he became fluent in both common and royal Thai and learned to read and write the complex language. While in Washington, he also studied in the Foreign Service School and learned a smattering of spycraft.
His official duties included meetings with Vice President Spiro Agnew, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and a near-miss with President Nixon. Gene liked to say that, on his secret trip to China, Nixon dined on a t-bone from the Hollier freezer.
Gene’s tour as an attache culminated with the King of Thailand awarding him the Order of the White Elephant, a form of knighthood.
After his 20 years of service in the Air Force, Gene spent the next eight years operating a residential security company.
Always a bit of a ham, Gene also did a little acting on the side, appearing in 17 episodes of the TV series Magnum PI. Some people claimed the producer cast him because he looked a little like Tom Selleck. He certainly had the mustache.
Gene found that he liked hanging out with celebrities, parlaying his Magnum experience into a variety of minor roles in movies, stage shows, and commercials. Sometimes he also crewed on a racing yacht out of Kaneohe Bay.
Gene finally retired from business in 1996 – though you’d hardly know it looking at him. In part, that’s because his life took a new and vibrant turn when he and Emmeline fell in love and formed the dynamic duo that has been making Clear Lake a better place ever since. Since then, neither of them has ever really stood still.