Gene Amos serves as Parade Grand Marshal
July 1, 1998
CHESTER – On February 25, 1982, Gene Amos of Chester was completing an ordinary day as the head millwright at the Ceramic Color and Chemical Manufacturing Company in New Brighten, Pennsylvania.
A strong man who could lift 100 lbs. over his head, Amos was surprised to find he could barely lift a 25 lb. box. He finally sat in a chair hoping his strength would return, but instead found that getting out of the chair was almost impossible.
He had to drive home slowly that day as his reaction time for braking the car and maneuvering the steering wheel was greatly impaired. When he arrived home, he could hardly walk. His family realized the seriousness of the situation and took him immediately to the emergency room of City Hospital. Within 24 hours Amos was completely paralyzed form the neck down except for some movement in two fingers.
Diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Amos had no idea that his life as he had once known it was over. Guillain-Barre in an uncommon and acute form of Peripheral polyneurophy (affecting multiple nerves), which can follow virtually any type of viral infection or even an immunization.
Why it occurs is not clear. Some physicians think it may be caused by an unpredictable allergic reaction to the virus that caused the illness or to the vaccine used in the immunization.
Unlike chronic forms of neuropathy, the nerve damage of Guillain-Barre syndrome is usually only temporary; however, even with optimal treatment including intensive physical therapy and plasmapheresis (which removes damaging antibodies from the blood), about ten percent of individuals will develop a chronic neuropathy resulting in varying degrees of impairment.
Gene Amos falls into this ten percent. He was in intensive care and on a respirator for two months. He could not swallow and consequently lost 42 lbs. Six months passed before he could turn over in bed.
The first tow months were frustrating for Amos since he couldn’t speak or write. He had learned the Morse Code as a requirement for his license as an amateur radio operator, and a male nurse who had served in the army saw Amos blinking his eyes. “Are you blinking the Morse Code?” he asked. Amos shook his head yes and the communication problem was temporarily solved. Amos’s son, Gary, also knew the code and brought his father the Morse Code key and laid it on his father’s chest. He placed two of Amos’s fingers on the key since he was too weak to press the key with a single finger.
Amos was transferred after two months from City Hospital to Hill Side Rehabilitation Hospital in Warren, Ohio, where he spent three months undergoing intensive therapy. He was sent home for two months then sent back to Hill Side for another two months of therapy. It was then that the doctors told him he would never walk again.
Amos felt for a long time that the methods they were using were not going to help him walk. It was at this juncture that his long career as a millwright kicked into gear. Amos invented his own exercise machine and during the 13th month of his slow recovery, he walked into the kitchen with a walker.
“When I went back to the hospital for a check-up, they wanted to know what was holding me up,” Amos chuckles. “I told them about my machine and they now use a similar device at the hospital.”
Amos spent the next year walking around town on crutches, trying to build his strength. “If I had fallen I would not have had the strength to get up,” he recalls.
Amos later bought a three wheel tricycle to ride, all the time gaining a small measure of strength. “The tricycles didn’t last too long without needing repairs,” Amos relates, “so I eventually bought a small tractor. It was more power and I am able to go more places.
Although Amos still walks with crutches, he has gained some strength in the past 16 years allowing him to maneuver steps and allowing him to stand for long periods of time.
Since the onset of his illness Amos has devoted himself to many projects in Chester and the area that have had a decidedly positive effect on the town. Amos helped reestablish the Odd Fellows Lodge #245 and the Knights of Pythias Lodge #166 in Chester, holding every office in each lodge and serving as district director of each lodge.
Amos was instrumental in having the Rebekah Lodge #74 move from Newell to the lodge building in Chester. Amos served as chairman of the Citizen of the Year committee for the Rebekahs.
Amos writes poetry and several of his poems have been published in the yearly journal published by the Grand Lodge of West Virginia, the state headquarters of the Odd Fellows.
Amos was one of the originators of the Chester Fourth of July celebrations and the originator of the breakfast with Santa held each December as part of the Chester Hometown Christmas celebration.
He worked at the foodshare at the Hookstown Free Methodist for three years, served as a board member of Boy Scout Troop #26 in Chester, and currently serves as treasurer for L.I.V.E. group, an organization that opposes WTI.
One of Amos’s proudest achievements is the program that sends one Oak Glen student every year for a twelve day pilgrimage trip to the United Nations in New York. Sponsored by Odd Fellows Lodge #245, the students are selected by a panel of judges who choose a winner after hearing the finalists present a talk about the United Nation. The trip is financed by holding baked steak dinners at the lodge several times a year. The program is now in its seventh year and Amos hopes next year will result in sending two students to the pilgrimage.
Amos never tires of doing chores that enhance the town. He mows the grass at the city playgrounds, the teapot area, the library and the two gazebos.
Once very active with ham radio organizations, Amos now spends his time working on computers and establishing old and new friendships through E-Mail.
Active with the organizations of the First Christian Church of Chester, Amos has served as treasurer for seven years and as an elder for five years. He was also a deacon for three years and chairman of the shepherding committee.
A fitting resident to serve as Chester’s Grand Marshall in the Fourth of July Parade, Amos is humbled to have been chosen for that honor. “It’s an honor. I am very grateful to represent my town,” Amos said.
Amos was born in Porters Falls, West Virginia. He attended West Virginia University and received a Technician Degree from the Commercial Trade Institute in Chicago, Illinois.
Amos met his wife Mary Lou on a blind date in Weirton. They were married in 1960 and moved to Chester not long after. The Amos’s have two sons; Rodney Amos of Spring Hill, Florida, and Gary Amos of Chester; and one daughter Tammy Amos of Columbus, Ohio. A grandson, Rodney Paul Amos, lives in East Liverpool.