Snow-covered awning falls, kills veteran in Anna, Ill.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

ANNA, Ill. -- At VFW Post 3455 just north of Anna, one chair at the post's bar has sat empty since Monday. Larry F. "Bo" Hardin, 64, of Anna always sat in that chair, but Hardin was killed when a snow-laden awning fell on him and a fellow VFW member just after midnight Monday.

"Nobody's sat in that chair since he's been gone," said John Middleton, past commander of the VFW post.

Hardin, a Navy veteran, and his friend, John David Lamer, a former Marine, survived the Vietnam War. But Hardin did not survive what Union County Sheriff Jim Nash called "a freak accident."

"A few seconds earlier or a few seconds later no one would have been hurt," Middleton said.

A sheriff's department spokesmansaid the awning on the building was made of sheet metal and was about 30 feet long. It was 12 feet off the ground. An accumulation resulting from a 16-inch snowfall that had thawed a little and refroze several times was more than the awning could support. Hardin and Lamer were standing under the awning when it gave way.

A team of 20 rescue workers tried for half an hour to extricate the two veterans, who according to the sheriff's department were buried under "tons of snow." The awning partially collapsed where the two men were standing, dumping the accumulated snow on them. Both men were first taken to Union County Hospital. Hardin was then rushed to St. Louis University Hospital, where he died at 7:15 a.m.

Lamer was transferred to Memorial Hospital in Carbondale. Middleton said Lamer suffered two broken ribs and a head injury and will remain at the hospital for observation for another day or two.

Both men have long been active in the VFW, Middleton said.

"They're both good friends of mine," he said. "They're fantastic people. Oh yeah, we're going to miss him."

Middleton said that Hardin was post commander a few years ago, and has held almost every VFW office available.

"He knew VFW right and left," Middleton said. "He was very jovial, he laughed a lot and enjoyed joking and telling his military stories. He was also very knowledgeable about the post and activities of the VFW in general. If someone wanted to know something about the VFW, he could always go to Bo and he would find the answer for him."

Following the funeral Friday, the VFW will hold a get-together in Hardin's memory, Middleton said.

His chair will be there waiting for him.

335-6611, extension 160

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