KEYSER, W.Va. (WDVM) — Funeral services rolling into this New Year’s weekend for a West Virginia military hero, Clifton E. “Gene” Brooks, Sr., who left an impressive legacy.

Before earning the rank of sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, Brooks, born in 1922, attended West Virginia State College. In the 332nd fighter group, he was a cryptologist — code breaker — for the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the elite group from which he is the very last to survive in West Virginia.

“He will be remembered for great service to country,” said friend Bud Redman, “and he was a great inspiration to many people.”

He is remembered with deep affection here in Keyser.

“One day I was at his house,” recalls friend Ted Twyman, Commander of American Legion Post 152, “which I visited him a lot of times – that he went upstairs and brought that uniform down. And that was many years ago. From that point on he really opened up a little bit about what he did and kind of held it to himself for a long time.”

After military service, Brooks worked four decades for the Kelly Springfield Tire Company just across the West Virginia state line in Cumberland, Maryland and was active with the American Legion, Masonic Lodge, the Shriners, Order of the Moose Lodge and VFW. Active as well in the Janes United Methodist Church in Keyser and involved with Mineral County Community Action programs.

“He will be greatly missed,” says Redman. “He was like a pillar in the community. He really was. We love him and we miss him.”

The City of Keyser even named a park in his honor.

“Proud wasn’t the word,” recalls Twyman. “It was above and beyond. Gene cared a lot about his country his family and his church.”

A military graveside burial followed his memorial service. Brooks leaves behind 24 loving grandchildren, 48 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice issued a statement saying that Brooks will be remembered for his service to state and country. Brooks was interned with military honors at the Thorn Rose Cemetery in Keyser, a true American hero. We honor his life, dedication to West Virginia and his community and service to the country.