Louisville, KY VA hospital renamed for Robley Rex

This article was provided by the VA Public Affairs Office and was written by Chris Otts, on April 10, 2010

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Robley Rex logged more than 14,000 hours as a volunteer carrying patient charts and greeting fellow veterans at the Veterans Administration Medical Center on Zorn Avenue. Now, despite his death last year at age 107, Rex’s presence will continue to be felt at the hospital. It was formally renamed the Robley Rex V.A. Medical Center on Saturday.

“As a result of this effort … he will be remembered forever,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said at the ceremony.  McConnell teamed with U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District, to pass legislation last December renaming the hospital in Rex’s honor.

The VA plans to build a new veterans’ hospital at its property on Zorn or at a location within 15 miles of University Hospital. But regardless of where it will be, the facility will carry Rex’s name.

About 100 people attended Saturday’s ceremony, where the World War I-era veteran was remembered for his energy, optimism, patriotism and kindness.

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Rex was born in Hopkinsville and enlisted in the Army at 18 just a few weeks before the Treaty of Versailles formally ended World War I. He was assigned to an intelligence unit in Germany but never saw combat.

Upon returning home he married and farmed in Daviess County before eventually settling in the Okolona area, where VFW Post 8639 is named Robley Rex Hall.

He began working at the hospital in 1986.

Mary Jane Crowder, the hospital’s chief of volunteers, said Rex worked six to eight hours a day, initially for five days a week, until he was 105.

“Even at the end he was still coming in three days a week,” she said.

Rex mostly carried charts around the hospital and was an expert at getting patients to the right staff member for their needs, she said. Sometimes he volunteered to help the elderly with their tax returns, she said, even though “he was older than most of the elderly.”

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Rex was named the National Volunteer of Year in 2005 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Rex’s wife of 69 years, Gracie Bivins, died in 1992. He had no children. Members of his extended family, including great-nieces from St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio, attended Saturday’s event.

Marvin Meyerhoffer, 74, a veteran of the Korean War, met Rex in 1981 and considers him “one of the best men I ever knew.”

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“He loved veterans and they were indeed brothers to him,” said Meyerhoffer, who lives in Plantation and attended Saturday’s ceremony. “He was a fine man.”

May 2, 1901 – April 28, 2009

Robley Henry Rex, was born in Hopkinsville, KY. In 1919, right after his 18th birthday, he proudly enlisted in the 5th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He later served in the 28th Infantry Division and was deployed to Europe, where he worked in the Intelligence Unit. After being discharged from the Army in May 1922, he returned to Kentucky. After farming for many years in Davies County and working for the U.S. Postal Department, Mr. Rex made his home in Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1986, Mr. Rex turned to volunteerism and dedicated his life to helping his fellow veterans, both through his work with Veteran’s Service Organizations and through his activities as a VA Medical Center (VAMC) volunteer. Prior to his death in 2009, Mr. Rex accumulated over 14,600 hours in his 23 years of service as a VA volunteer. He was a popular and vital member of the VAMC Voluntary Service team. In addition to his daily activities, Mr. Rex served as a VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) Representative for the Veterans of WWI of the USA, attending and actively participating in quarterly planning meetings held by the VAVS Committee.

For more than 80 years, Mr. Rex was a member of and an active spokesperson for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Veterans of WWI of the USA. He served extensively in many elected and appointed offices, within these organizations. He also served as a Veteran’s Service Officer for the DAV and VFW. Mr. Rex was honored in 2005 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, as “National Volunteer of the Year”. On his 107th birthday, Mr. Rex was presented the Kentucky Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service.

Mr. Rex was truly an example of what it means to have a sense of duty in serving others. His kindness, generosity and selflessness acts of service will undoubtedly be remembered by Veterans, VA employees, Veteran Service Organizations, and this community for many years to come.

Mr. Rex is buried at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, along with his beloved wife of 69 years, Gracie.

Source: http://www.louisville.va.gov/news/robleyrexbio.asp, 7/21/11

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