My grandfather, Bee H. Lusk, was awarded the Carnegie Medal for his heroic act of 1918, and accompanying grant funds were used for the education of one of his children. In our family, the benefits of that grant manifested themselves well beyond the original recipient, and the lesson here is that the Hero Fund’s scholarship program lives on.
“Grandfather Bee,” who lived in Norton, Va., was given the medal for saving a woman and two children from being struck by a train in Bluefield, W.Va., on Feb. 9, 1918. Then 36, he was a railroad brakeman and was in a car of the train that the woman was about to board. Carrying a baby and a suitcase and followed by another child, the woman was attempting to cross the track on which another train was approaching. The older child was moving slowly and delayed them. Aware of the approaching train, Lusk ran 50 feet to them, pushed the woman aside, and carried the child off the track, clearing the oncoming train by only three feet.
Later that year, the Hero Fund awarded my grandfather a bronze medal and a grant of $1,000. When he received the money, he knew that it was to be used for educational purposes. Starting with the oldest of his six children, he asked each if they wanted the money to further their education. They all turned him down except for my father, Forrest. Dad applied to West Virginia University and was accepted. My grandfather gave him $5, put him on the train for Morgantown, and told him, “Good luck.”
Dad had to get a job to support himself while in school, but found that he had to work too much to make ends meet. His grades suffered, and he dropped out of school and came back home. He then received a letter from the Hero Fund asking why he had dropped out. When he replied, the Hero Fund informed him of a cooperative program of the Ohio Mechanics Institute of Cincinnati: Students went to school for six weeks and then worked for six weeks. Dad enrolled in the program, moved to Cincinnati, and received a degree in industrial engineering from in 1936.
It was the Carnegie scholarship that provided my father the first step in furthering his education. The opportunity ingrained in him the importance of a college education, and he passed that fundamental belief on to his own four children. We lost our father to cancer at age 49 in 1961, but his strong belief in the value of higher education lives on.
By David Forrest Lusk