On Purple Heart Day, August 7th, Osceola History pays tribute to a local businessman who served his country and the community he called home for sixty-two years.
After serving in World War II, Elmer “Pete” Louis Hunt, born in 1923 in New York, came to Kissimmee, Florida. The youngest of five sons born to Homer and Lena Hunt, the family moved to Oviedo before 1940. When Pete enlisted in the US Army on May 20th, 1943, he was a clerk in a drug store.
While serving with the 34th Infantry Division between 1943 and 1945, Pete had tours of duty in Africa and Italy. Known as the Red Bull Division, the 34th was credited with a record 517 days of continuous front-line combat. During his 2 ½ years of duty, Sgt. Hunt received numerous injuries after encountering a nest of machine-gun fire, resulting in severe damage to his hands. Refusing to be treated until he could check on his men at the front, this incident in April 1944 along the beachhead of Anzio earned Pete his first Bronze Star.
In 2004, when requesting duplicates of some of his medals, Pete discovered he was eligible for a second Bronze Star for heroism in Cassino, Italy. Pete also was awarded the Purple Heart, but it is unknown what year it was awarded.
Pete and his oldest brother Al, who had served in the Navy, purchased the Crayton Drug Company in December of 1945. The brothers added many features and items to the drug store – cameras, cosmetics, candy, toys, and gift merchandise. There was also a soda fountain to buy hamburgers for 30 cents and French fries or grilled cheese for 15 cents. Pete and Al even manufactured their own ice cream.
In 1949 Pete married Beulah Bushey; both became very involved in the community. Pete was a member of the Lions Club, Jaycees, the Silver Spurs Riding Club, the Disabled American Veterans, and a member of the First Presbyterian Church, serving as an Elder for thirty-five years. In 1966 he was elected as “Big Boss” for the Silver Spurs and in 1991 was awarded the title of “Coca Cola Cowboy” by the Club.
Pete Hunt passed away on November 24th, 2007, and rests in Osceola Memory Gardens. He and Beulah had no children of their own but “adopted” several young boys in the community and aided them in growing up to be hard-working, conscientious men.
Sources: Ancestry.com; “Orlando Sentinel” February 17th, 1991, March 18th, 2004, November 25th, 2007; “Kissimmee Gazette” December 19th, 1958
Written by Anza Bast