Charles H. Coolidge, who was the country's oldest Medal of Honor recipient and a beloved Chattanoogan, will be laid to rest Friday afternoon. Members of Coolidge's family — as well as the board and staff at the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center — are encouraging the public to show support for Coolidge on a day celebrating the Chattanooga legend.
Coolidge will be buried Friday at the Chattanooga National Military Cemetery with full military honors reserved specifically for Medal of Honor recipients. His funeral service will be held at First Presbyterian Church, where Coolidge and his family have been members.
Keith Hardison, executive director of the heritage center, said members of the public are encouraged to visit Heritage Funeral Home Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. Hardison expects a large crowd, so he recommends people come early.
On Friday, the public is invited to the funeral at First Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m. Seating will be very limited, and masks will be required.
Although the service at the cemetery will be private, Hardison encouraged the public to line up safely on McCallie Avenue and Holtzclaw Avenue between 11:30 a.m. and noon as the funeral procession makes its way to the cemetery. Hardison said students at McCallie plan to come out and show support.
Hardison hopes everyone who comes out shows their patriotic support for Coolidge.
Coolidge will be placed alongside his wife, Frances, who died in 2009 at 86. A significant number of the nation's Medal of Honor recipients are expected to attend.
Coolidge battled multiple sclerosis for the last 50-plus years of his life. After leaving the military in 1945, Coolidge spoke frequently around the country and worked at his family's business, Chattanooga Printing & Engraving. He retired from the company officially in 2017 at 95.
Coolidge was born on Aug. 4, 1921, to Walter and Grace Coolidge of Chattanooga. He was one of three children and graduated from Chattanooga High School in 1939.
"Mr. Coolidge was a remarkable individual and genuine American hero in every sense of the term," Hardison said. "We don't have a lot of those anymore. Given his service to his country and longstanding role in this community, it is important that he be remembered appropriately."