Hunt family protected, served
By Kelly Feser Eells
For Harry Hunt, one of the 33
veterans featured in "Ojai Valley's Veterans Stories"
- written, recorded and produced by Chuck Bennett, Dave Pressey,
and Sanford Drucker - it is, indeed, a wonderful life.
The Korean War veteran has a good word for just about everything,
from the rigors of boot camp, U.S. Marine Corps-style, to the
"unbeatable" beauty of the Ojai Valley.
But he reserves his choicest praise for the people he considers
"true heroes" - his wife, Vesta, and his father, Ojai
Constable Harry Hunt.
The elder Hunt, who was killed in the line of duty 60 years ago,
is something of a local legend. "I still hear stories about
him," Hunt smiles.
"He fought in two wars, the U.S.-Mexico Border Campaign"
- led by the United States Army cavalry - "and World War
I, earning the Bronze Star for bravery and the Purple Heart.
His war record got him the (constable) job," which he was
appointed to in 1933, nine years after losing his right arm in
an industrial accident.
Shaking his head, Hunt adds, "Tom Clark, county sheriff
at that time, appointed him. He'd served with him in World War
I and knew what kind of man Dad was. Otherwise, well, appointing
a one-armed constable would have been unthinkable!"
Hunt was born that same year, and "practically grew up in
the back seat of his patrol car."
The popular constable kept the peace until 1943.
"He was leading a posse
in search of an asylum, that was the word they used then, escapee,"
Hunt explains, "who had tried to rape a woman living on
a ranch in Upper Ojai."
Hunt's father gave chase, following the fugitive over an embankment.
"The guy hailed my dad with bullets, but he still managed
to shoot the guy; killing him on the spot.
"Dad was in critical condition when he was rushed to the
hospital," Hunt adds. "But he convinced the doctors
to release him ... and several days later, he died."
Only 9 years old at the time, Hunt, the oldest of three children,
took a job delivering papers. "We all went to work,"
he said. "It was a great family effort, and the people were
very supportive of us. My dad, well, he really gave a lot to
The Korean War broke out in 1951, and in 1952, the draft came
to Nordhoff High School. "The principal called several of
us into his office, telling us that since we had enough credits
to graduate, we might think about enlisting - while we still
Chuckling, Hunt recalls how different the reality of the Marine
Corps was from the picture painted by the recruiting officers.
Still, "my military experience prepared me for the 30 great
years I spent in law enforcement." As a California Highway
Patrolman, Hunt rose to the rank of lieutenant, retiring 15 years
"Sure, I miss it sometimes," he smiles. "They
were very good to me. But you never really leave the patrol.
When I retired, it was time.
"It's nice to be back," he adds. "My wife and
I raised three kids together and I had a great career. But Vesta,
she deserves all the credit. She's always been there for us."
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