FAYETTEVILLE — A reception was given recently at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville for a 95-year-old Floral man, Donald Eugene “Gene” Warren, who is a former member of the Razorback Marching Band, after he presented his 1950s traveling band uniform and Razorback jacket to the university. They are the oldest uniform and jacket that the university has and the only traveling uniform.
During the reception, he met with cheerleaders, band members and many dignitaries of the band and the college. He and his family watched the game from a skybox courtesy of the university.
Gene was born Feb. 4, 1927, about 3½ miles south of Berryville in Carroll County, northwest Arkansas. He attended a one-room, one-teacher cove community rural school. The school was in session from the first week of July through Christmas each year. In 1940 he graduated from grade school and entered Berryville High School.
In 1944 he graduated from Berryville High School and was awarded a Competitive Scholarship to the University of Arkansas. The value of his scholarship was $35 per quarter, $105 for a full year. He rode the bus to Fayetteville, then walked, carrying all his belongings, from the bus station to the campus. His housing was in Razorback Hall and he ate in the Military Chow Hall. He began work at the mess hall for 35 cents per hour, then later drove a team of horses to spread manure on the university farm along with other farm chores.
Gene joined the band in 1944 when he enrolled as a freshman. He marched in the band and played the trumpet. In 1945 he withdrew from the university and volunteered to serve in the Navy. Three years later, in 1948, he left the Navy and returned to the university and rejoined the marching band. Warren said the highlight of the 1950 year was going to New Orleans with the band and being a part of the King Rex parade during Mardi Gras. “We were told that our trek was 14 miles, beginning of the parade to the end. I believe it was,” Warren said.
During this time he was working in the mess hall for 50 cents per hour, and he lived in Lloyd Hall.
Gene received his bachelor of science in agriculture in 1951, then enrolled in graduate school in pursuit of his master of science in agronomy degree. When he was working on his master’s degree, he moved to Gregson Hall and was appointed Senior Student Counselor of its residents.
In 1952, he married his sweetheart, Lorelei Altom, at her family home in Floral. They had met at an Alpha Gamma Rho party at Lake Wedington in 1951, and he went to her home to meet her family and was favorably impressed. She enrolled in summer school at Arkansas College in Batesville, then transferred to the University of Arkansas in mid-August. In 1953 they graduated together, she with a bachelor of science in education and he with his master’s degree.
In 1952 he was hired as chief chemist and quality control manager for Thurston in Joplin, Missouri. His job was to fertilize plants in Joplin, Missouri; Trenton, Missouri; Wichita, Kansas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In 1968 he was sent to England to determine if England was a good market for nitrogen solutions. He said it ended up being a “no” due to the extreme fear of ammonia nitrate explosions.
Gene and Lorelei made their home in Joplin until 1980, and they had three children, Donnie, Steve and Natalie.
In 1980 he was transferred to Tulsa to be production manager for W.R Grace Chemical Division Southwest Region. His job was regional manager of production in warehousing of the company’s fertilizers. He managed production plants in Joplin; Pittsburg, Texas; Plainview, Texas; Hillsborough,Texas; Littlefield, Texas; Slaton, Texas; and Monroe, Louisiana. He managed 19 total warehouses in Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.
In 1987, an asbestos lawsuit caused W.R. Grace to declare bankruptcy. The company sold or closed nearly all their assets. He and Lorelei moved back to Joplin, and he disposed of the company’s assets in Joplin.
In 2008 they sold their home in Joplin and moved to Lorelei’s family farm in Floral and built a new home.
Lorelei, his sweetheart and companion for nearly 70 years, died Feb. 2, 2022.