Columbia National Guard soldier saves lives with organ donations

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 | 9:47 p.m. CST; updated 10:00 a.m. CST, Thursday, February 23, 2012
Patriot Guard Riders stand for the funeral of Calvin Joseph Genereux III, who was in the National Guard and expected to be deployed to Afghanistan next year. Genereux died in an accident at his home Sunday. Paul Hobbs stands as a member of the Patriot Guard Riders for his second year. Hobbs is a Veteran for the Navy Submarine Service from 1965-1972 during the Cold War.

COLUMBIA — Calvin "Joe" Joseph Genereux III was doing everything he could to be deployed earlier to serve as a National Guardsman in Afghanistan, said Nick Holman, his best friend and former roommate.

Mr. Genereux died Sunday, following a "tragic accident," before he ever got the chance to serve overseas, Holman said. He was 23.

His friends and members of his battalion described him as patriotic. Mr. Genereux served as a rifleman in the Second Squad, First Platoon as a private first class in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 138 Infantry Regiment of the Missouri Army National Guard in St. Louis.

Mr. Genereux was slated to go to Afghanistan next year.

"As a small child he wanted to go into the military," Holman said, adding that Mr. Genereux read books about historic military commanders and "kind of idolized" his veteran friends. Refusing to be put off by the lack of a need for infantrymen, he applied for several different military services before the guard accepted his service.

"He wasn't like, OK, now I'll get some money for school and stuff like that," Holman said. "When he would come home, he would talk about infantry training."

1st Sgt. Harol Naugle was part of Mr. Genereux's command team. He didn't have too many interactions with Mr. Genereux, which he said was good, because that means Mr. Genereux stayed out of trouble.

"To be in the infantry they have to have that extra dedication to end up being in the cold, in the rain," Naugle said. "We're like the postman in the military — rain, sleet or snow. It takes a special person to want to do that."

Holman, who has served in combat, said Mr. Genereux was very excited to do so himself, and they had many conversations about it. Mr. Genereux pursued an avid interest in firearms, trading and buying guns often. The plan was to graduate college and then serve, but Holman said, "he couldn't wait, he needed to serve now."

Capt. Shannon Holady was a member of Mr. Genereux's battalion. He described Mr. Genereux as a reserved, calm, extremely intelligent and professional soldier who was also multi-lingual.

"You don't find that with most infantrymen," Holady said. 

Mr. Genereux was in his third year of college at MU, majoring in psychology, but Holman said linguistics would've been a better fit. Mr. Genereux once took a full year of only language courses.

"He was like a walking translator. He could translate some Spanish, German, French and Arabic and tell you the history of all the sounds," Holman said.

This semester Mr. Genereux was taking a break, working full-time as a caretaker for a man who is quadriplegic, with plans to go back to school in the fall. Holman said Mr. Genereux was very altruistic.

"He would drop everything he's doing to help a friend," Holman said.

When Holman got married in December, Mr. Genereux was his best man. Holman's mother-in-law was concerned about the marriage because of the short engagement. Mr. Genereux walked up to Holman's mother-in-law and told her how Holman had been talking about how much he loved his wife, even before they found out they were having a baby.

"I didn't even know he ever did that until my mother-in-law told me while he was in the hospital," Holman said.

"All the stuff I've done for his family while we've been going through this, they've been thanking me, but I've told them I haven't done anything Joe wouldn't do. He saw things in a different perspective than most people."

Aaron Schaal, who was living with Mr. Genereux, described the 6-foot-5-inch man as a "gentle giant." When Schaal's father died, Mr. Genereux was the first person Schaal told, and he stayed up all night with Schaal and his brother.

"Joe was a friend that was always there for you when you needed him, a loving person," Schaal said.

Mr. Genereux is survived by his fiance, Ashley McGee of Columbia, whom he had been dating a little more than a year. Schaal remembers McGee and Mr. Genereux always being together and visiting Schaal often at Bangkok Gardens, where he is a bartender. Mr. Genereux's drink of choice was Jim Beam, accompanied by a good cigar.

"He would take a swig of the bottle and he could tell you what year it was made," Schall said. "He had a gift of the gab, he could have a conversation with anybody. He was a joker."

Mr. Genereux is also survived by a sister, Channon Hall a brother, Robbie Genereux; and parents Calvin Jr. and Nanette Genereaux, all of Virginia.

His heart, liver, pancreas and kidneys will be donated to four people awaiting transplants.

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