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David Hitt: A man who wears many hats

Dave Hitt and his grandson Harold DeGeare at the Jackson Memorial Day celebration last year at the City Cemetery. Submitted photo

Jackson resident David M. Hitt is man who wears many hats and has been crowned with many honors over the years.

He has received the R.A. Fulenwider Award from the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce and the 2011 Spirit of America Award from the Southeast Missourian. These are the top awards given by these two organizations.

Hitt currently serves as the city alderman for Ward 2.

Some of his many volunteer passions include the American Legion Post 158 (serving as Americanism chairman), Rotary Club of Southeast Missouri Service, and the Jackson Senior Center, where he delivers “meals on wheels” to shut-in seniors.

Hitt was born in Cape Girardeau. He moved to a farm with his family when he was 7 years old. He went through Jackson schools, graduating from JHS in 1964, just as the Vietnam War was starting to heat up.

Hitt went to Southeast Missouri State University for two years until he and two friends decided there was no future in college for them.

“This was at the height of the Vietnam War,” Hitt said. About 75% of the boys from Hitt’s graduating class had either been drafted or had voluntarily joined the military, so Hitt and his two friends dropped out of college and joined them. Hitt went into the U.S. Army.

On May 8, 1968, while serving in Vietnam, Hitt was wounded (for which he was awarded a purple heart). “I was in the wrong spot at the right time,” he said. During a rocket attack, he was hit by shrapnel in his shoulder and back. “I was pretty lucky,” he said. “If this one [pointing to his shoulder] had been an inch higher, it would have gotten me in my throat, and I would have never survived.” He was shipped to Japan for surgery. “I was there 41 days and went back to Vietnam to my old unit.”

After serving for three years, Hitt was honorably discharged from the Army and returned to this area, where he continued his college classes and graduated in 1971 with a marketing degree.

He went to work as an insurance adjuster for Farmers Insurance Group, but he had enjoyed college so much, he gave up his job and used the G.I. Bill to go back to college to get a teaching degree.

He never became a school teacher. Instead, he became a loan officer for Heritage Savings and Loan for two years.
The Army started a trial program in 1977, which was then called Organizational Readiness Specialist, and invited Hitt, who was in the National Guard, to come back full time into the Army to be an ORS for two years.

“My teaching career had never panned out, so I said, ‘Sure.’ I had always liked the Army,” Hitt recalled.

Before the two-year trial program ended, the Army turned it into a permanent position. Hitt remained for 17 years. His final position was battalion operations sergeant, Missouri Army National Guard, responsible for the planning, scheduling and training of approximately 625 soldiers in southeast Missouri.

Hitt then went to work for Chateau Girardeau as a marketing/public relations director. “I wasn’t very good at that job,” he admits, saying it was like being a telemarketer, calling people all over the country, trying to get them to move to Cape Girardeau.
He tried his hand at selling real estate, but did not do well there, either.

In 1996, Hitt began working as the emergency management director (and became the 911 director) for Cape Girardeau County. He retired in 2007.

“Ever since ’07 I have been doing just about anything I want to do,” he said. And from his record, what he wanted to do was to be involved in the community.

Hitt takes the most pride in his involvement with the American Legion Post 158 in Jackson, but the beginning of their relationship was shaky. Joining as a Vietnam War veteran, he was looked down upon by a World War II veteran and was told to sit in the back of the room. “I didn’t go back for 25 years,” Hitt said.

He has now been active for many years at Post 158. He has served as commander for two years and has been a member of the Honor Guard that posts flags at special occasions.

Hitt is also a charter member of the Jackson Memorial VFW Post 10485 and a member of the Jackson Elks.
He has worked with local Boy Scouts on the U.S. flag retirement program.

Although he was never a school teacher, Hitt has been involved in Jackson schools. He was once on the board of directors of the Jackson R-2 Foundation, and he served as a member of the Drug Free Advisory Council for Jackson High School. For 26 years he was a high school football referee “until my knees gave out,” he said. (As a referee, he did a lot running up and down the football field.)

Hitt has been an alderman since 2007, but that is not his only involvement with the city. He currently is a board of aldermen liaison with the Jackson Community Outreach Board, and is a past member of the City Park Board, where he served as chairman for three years.

He served eight years as a member of the MAGNET board of directors (he was chairman twice), and he served nine years as a board member of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, including the offices of president and secretary/treasurer.

He has held positions with several other organizations and has received a number of other accolades.

Today, Hitt gets a real sense of satisfaction from delivering meals on wheels to home-bound seniors. He says he may be the only personal contact that senior has for days.

In his retirement from a steady job, Hitt has set his eyes on distant horizons as he hopes to travel more.

He likes to recall his August 2018 road trip to Alaska with his friend, Lawson Burgfeld. They had quite an adventurous excursion to the Arctic Circle. Hitt’s truck ran out of oil 86 miles from civilization (it had developed a leak). He drove slowly so as not to “blow the engine” until he could buy some oil, and then had to keep adding oil the rest of the trip. He made it all the way home and to Ford Groves just before his truck’s warranty ran out.

What’s the next destination for Hitt? Nothing is set in stone, but he admits the Grand Canyon is on his list of places to see.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at cashbook@mvp.net.

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