Palos Hills vets and students write 1,500 letters showing an appreciation for Lutz
Nearly a decade has passed since George Lutz retired as PalosHills’ public works commissioner, putting an end to a 25-year career with the city.
But the man Mayor Gerald Bennett described as a “true professional” is anything but forgotten, even if Lutz now calls Burr Ridge home and health problems have limited his trips back to Palos Hills.
But Palos Hills residents have done him a good turn in recent weeks.
Lutz, 94, was a major topic of conversation during the city council’s committee meeting last Thursday.
The World War II veteran was scheduled to take part in Honor Flight Chicago’s trip to Washington D.C. on Wednesday to view the monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital.
The free, all-day trip was scheduled to conclude at Midway Airport with plenty of fanfare as veterans are traditionally welcomed home by their family, military personnel, boy scouts and members of motorcycle clubs for a special reception.
Perhaps more special than seeing the memorials and the homecoming ceremony is what occurs on the trip back to the airport. Shortly after take-off, veterans are surprised with a bag filled with letters from family, friends, fellow soldiers and students thanking them for their service.
A great majority of those letters come from Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts, and that – in Lutz’s case – poses a problem.
Lutz, who held the rank of major in the United States Army Air Corps, never joined either of those organizations, and he has outlived most of his fellow comrades. Fearing his father may have but a handful of letters to open during the mail call, Charles Lutz contacted his dad’s former employer to see if the City of Palos Hills could help.
“I heard from Honor Flight Chicago that most veterans receive between 200 to 500 letters, and our list of contacts was only about 30,” Charles Lutz said in a phone interview Friday.
“We didn’t want my father to be embarrassed so I asked the city if the people who know my dad wouldn’t mind writing a letter for him to read back on the flight back.”
Learning of this request, Bennett reached out to North Palos School District 117 to ask if its students would write letters to George Lutz. At last week’s council meeting, cards were also available for any resident in attendance to
write a brief note of thanks to Lutz.
The response to the request in Palos Hills has been overwhelming, and Lutz has likely gone from the veteran with the fewest letters to open to the one with the most.
“The letters from Palos Hills along with the letters my daughter collected from the school district she works at total about 1,500,” Charles Lutz said. “I never imagined this type of response. I’m ecstatic and I know it will mean so much to my dad when he reads all these letters.”
Bennett said he was “honored” to come to the assistance of his longtime friend.
“George is a great, great person,” Bennett said. “I feel so great for him that he is going on the Honor Flight.”
While in the Army Air Corps, which was the forerunner to today’s United States Air Force,
George Lutz was a pilot and was stationed in India for most of his service flying over the Himalaya Mountains into China to supply troops, fuel and other supplies to the Chinese and American troops fighting the Japanese.
Charles Lutz said it took some “prodding” to get his father to agree to go on the Honor Flight but now that the day is fast approaching his father is very excited to go on the trip.
“My dad always felt that he was just doing his job and never felt that he should be honored,” Charles Lutz said. “But after about five years of asking him and telling him that he should be honored for his service he finally agreed to it.
“I know he’s looking forward to the seeing the World War II and Vietnam memorials. It should definitely be a day to remember.”
It also figures to long one. The veterans have to arrive at the airport at 4:30 a.m. and don’t return until 8:45 p.m. Charles Lutz has volunteered to make the flight with the group and the 61-year-old isn’t as much concerned about his father as he is himself.
“I know my dad will be so excited that he’ll do fine,” Charles Lutz said days before the flight. “I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to hold up.”