Gen. Everett H. Pratt started his military career in 1964, accumulating more than 4,000 flight hours and rising to the rank of lieutenant general by the end of his more than 30 years of service, making him the highest ranked officer in McHenry County.
Despite all of his successes, those who knew him best did not hear much about his military days. Regarding that part of his life, he mostly maintained a humbled silence.
Instead, the family and friends who surrounded Pratt remember him as an avid bridge player and golfer, a calculated planner, a southern boy and a quiet, powerful man.
“I was thinking about how I’d describe him. There’s so many adjectives that I could use. The first one that comes to mind is he was a gentle man – two words, not one,” said Paula Dorion-Gray, a close friend of Pratt. “He was a gentleman, but he was just a gentle man.”
Pratt passed away at age 73 in March. To honor this man who not only served his country, but also worked to better the community in which he lived, this year’s patriot run will honor the three-star general.
Mike Splitt, the race director who came up with the idea to honor Pratt, said “How can I not honor the guy?” It was through the Patriot Run that Splitt met Pratt, who was a fellow volunteer on the race committee.
All three races since the Patriot Run’s inception have generated an average of $30,000 a year in donations. Splitt believes this year that average will be broken.
“True patriot, through and through. [He] had given so much to his country and continued to give back after he retired,” Dorion-Gray said. “[I] definitely think that it’s a tribute him and his devotion to the military and to this country.”
Dorion-Gray and her husband, Robert, became close friends with Pratt and Joyce, Pratt’s wife of 40 years, after meeting at the Crystal Lake Country Club, and the couples spent much of their time together over a shared enjoyment of golf.
They went on to play many more rounds of golf, have bridge tournaments organized by Pratt and even went on a trip to Paris, also organized by Pratt.
“He put together most of the trip because he was really detailed-oriented, and so if Ev was in charge of something, you could count on the fact that it was going to be absolutely seamless,” Dorion-Gray said. “He was great at the details, and he loved to do it.”
Bob and Rosemary Blazier took part in his bridge tournaments and also became good friends with the Pratts.
“I could see where he would be a leader in the Air Force. He had all the earmarks of someone who could lead others,” Bob Blazier said. “At the same time, I think he was the kind of guy that you really could depend on.”
Laura Franz saw these organizational skills as well as his leadership up close after Pratt hired her as executive director of TLS Veterans, where his golf hat still sits in her office. TLS Veterans is an organization that helps veterans when they hit a barrier such as those struggling with housing or financially. Pratt saw it as a way to give back after retiring from the military. He served as president of the board.
Pratt also supported fellow veterans by taking part in Chicago-based Leave No Veteran Behind and Disabled American Veterans.
The Patriot Run will begin at 7:30 a.m. June 25 and will feature a 1-mile walk that costs $15 to register and a 5K which costs $38. Those who wish to register or have additional questions can call 815-459-1773, ext. 300, or visit www.mchenrycountypatriotrun.org.
“You meet people sometimes and there’s a connection, and you sometimes don’t even know why,” Dorion-Gray said. “I had such great admiration because some of the things I knew he had done in his career. He was a quiet, powerful man.”