'Oxygen boy' meets Mr. Hoodenpyle

Thursday, February 28, 2002

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn. - Henry Early Hoodenpyle calls his 43-year-old HME provider, Rick Forshee, "oxygen boy." Forshee calls the 108-year-old WWI veteran Mr. Hoodenpyle.

By most standards, Hoodenpyle, who goes by Early, is not your typical O2 patient.

"He's more active than most 80 year olds because most 80 year olds are dead," said Forshee, DME manager at Cherokee Pharmacy & Medical Supply in Cleveland, Tenn., which has supplied Early with oxygen for about six years. "He lives with his daughter and when she goes to the grocery store, Henry goes to the grocery store. When she goes to get her hair done, Henry goes to the beauty parlor."

Mr. Hoodenpyle is blind, hard of hearing and moves around in a manual wheelchair. He's on oxygen around the clock, using a concentrator at home and an e-tank and conserver when he accompanies Virginia on some errand or to dine on his favorite meal: chicken and dumplings.

"If it wasn't for his doctor and Cherokee, we'd probably have to put him in the nursing home," said his daughter, Virginia. "He wouldn't have lasted no time in a nursing home. Nursing homes are a good place to be but not if they are blind, especially if the are 108."
In Signal Mountain, Mr. Hoodenpyle is "the news," Forshee said. Because of his age and status as the state's oldest WWI veteran, Hoodenpyle's been written in up in the Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and Atlanta newspapers.

Locally, the former cattle farmer is a Signal Mountain landmark. On a road leading into town, a sign proclaims: "Welcome to Sequatchie County, home of Henry Early Hoodenpyle, Tennessee's oldest World War I veteran, (born) February 26, 1894."

Early's also the "ultimate oxygen patient," and he and Virginia haven't let fame go to their heads.

"Virginia's the kind of person that if it's 5:30 in the afternoon and she's had problems with the concentrator she'll say, 'I'm not going to call Rick because he'll come up here in the middle of the night,'" Forshee said. "She'll call me in the morning. They never bother you. There is never a problem. They are just good people." HME