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Veteran of World War I battles on to age 103
ANNA, Ill. -- Warren Hileman, who lived to be 103 and was the last World War I veteran residing in any of Illinois' veterans homes, was buried Friday in his hometown cemetery.
"Every day he checked the calendar to make sure he knew the date, read the newspaper and drank a Pepsi," said Connie Duncan, adminstrator of the Illinois Veterans Home in Anna where Hileman had resided since 1995.
"He liked to go out and eat shrimp," Duncan said. " He loved car rides and current events."
Hileman, who died Sunday, regularly served as grand marshal at Veterans Day parades in Anna, she said.
"I remember he always used to say, 'I'm not old. I've just been here a long time,'" Duncan said.
Hileman was 17 years old when he joined the Army during World War I. He and other members of the American Expeditionary Force were sent to Siberia to protect the Trans-Siberian Railroad and vital supplies. He served in Siberia from September 1919 to March 1920 in the immediate aftermath of World War I.
Hileman's unit was involved in combat at Posolskaya, action that later entitled him to the World War I Victory Medal.
He was awarded the medal in January 2004, which was 86 years after the end of the war.
Veterans officials said it was an oversight that Hileman hadn't been awarded the medal sooner.
Duncan said Hileman used to talk about the bitter cold of Siberia. He recalled shivering even under layers and layers of clothing, she said.
He was just shy of his 18th birthday when he landed in Vladivostok, Russia, on Sept. 6, 1916.
"It was 30 below and four feet of snow on the level," Hileman told The Southern Illinoisan newspaper in 1995.
Food often froze on the soldiers' plates before they could eat it, Hileman remembered. "We didn't take baths. There was no running water. Everybody got smelly and lousy."
Hileman is survived by a daughter, Janet Hardin of Anna; and a half sister, Nina Davidson of Anna; two grandchildren; two great-grandchildren and a great-great-granddaughter.
Hileman Funeral Home, no relation, handled the arrangements.
335-6611, extension 123