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After a career in the U.S. Army and civil service, Willie Little, 74, and his wife, Berlie, settled in Radcliff and have become active in the community, working with many outreach organizations and as advocates for those with special needs.
Originally from Tuscaloosa, Ala., Little graduated from Tuskegee University, where he met Berlie. After he and Berlie married, Little was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army.
When they first moved to Fort Knox, his last duty station before retirement, the couple’s main concern was finding opportunities for their special needs son, who lives with them.
Communicare provided many services for his son, Willie Jr., who is participating in a sheltered workshop opportunity.
Most of Little’s volunteer work has supported special needs issues.
He was a board member and president of the Association for the Retarded and Handicapped of Hardin County and a board member of The Arc of Kentucky.
By gubernatorial appointments, he’s served on the Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities and on a regional council for the Hart-Supported Living Program.
The Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities helps determine activities and projects that can be used by those who are handicapped. The Hart-Supportive Living Program is devoted to help those who are disabled and able to remain in their homes by widening doors or building ramps and providing services for those with specific problems.
Little wants other special needs families to know they don’t have to do it all alone. There are programs and agencies to help, he said.
He’s also an active member of the choir at the Main Post Chapel.
“Willie Little has the sweetest spirit, biggest heart and warmest voice that I know,” choir director Dee Corkran said.
But Corkran’s bond with Little goes beyond music. They both have sons with special needs and Little helped the Corkrans seek out benefits for their son, Josh, through the Army, she said.
They work together through the Communicare workshop.
“Our choir would not be the same without him, and my family has been blessed by being able to call Willie, Berlie and Willie Jr. our friends,” she said.
Corkran enjoys Little’s sense of humor and friendliness.
“When Willie gets tickled about something, which is often, he says ‘by George,’ and blushes,” she said. “He really is the sweetest man I know.”
In addition to his community involvement, his 21 years of military service left him with broad experiences. He served two tours in Vietnam and was stationed in Korea and Germany before moving to Fort Knox.
One of his sons was born in Korea in a memorable way. The Littles were in Pusan, Korea, which only had a medical clinic. Women were to go to the hospital in Seoul to have babies, but his son decided to come early. They were getting ready to go to a party when labor started and the baby was born in the clinic on Valentine’s Day.
While stationed in Germany, the family traveled through Europe. Little remembers taking a large nine-passenger station wagon full of the family to Paris. They traveled down roads filled with tiny cars in this massive vehicle.
In Vietnam, he was in the Corp of Engineers and cleared paths through the jungle. He was the executive officer for the battalion. It was a gratifying experience for Little because he could physically see what he did was a helpful service there, he said.
After retirement, he decided to settle near Fort Knox.
“The base kind of grows on you a bit,” he said. “When I got out I took a look at Tuscaloosa and didn’t see anything there that would draw me back there so we decided to stay here.”
Closeness to facilities for retirees was a big draw to stay here, he said.
After his Army career ended, Little had a 19-year career in the civil service as chief of the supply division on post. His wife was a registered nurse until her retirement.
In his down time, Little travels, participating in many family, school and community reunion groups who meet in various places around the country. He likes going to the reunions to see old friends.
“Once you get to my age, your friends get less and less,” he joked.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting to know Willie Little: