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Gene Montgomery dies at 84

February 11, 2019

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Horseman and racing starter Gene Montgomery, of Charleston, Ill., passed away after a courageous battle with cancer on Saturday (Feb. 9) at his home surrounded by his loving family. He was 84.

Visitation will be held from 4-6 p.m. on Tuesday (Feb. 12) at Adams Funeral Chapel, 2330 Shawnee Drive, Charleston, Ill. The funeral service honoring and celebrating his life will begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday (Feb. 13) with Pastor Ray Finney officiating. Burial will follow at Mound Cemetery, Charleston, Ill.

It is requested that donations in his honor be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105. Gifts may be left at the visitation or service or mailed in care of Adams Funeral Chapel, 2330 Shawnee Dr., Charleston, IL 61920.

Gene was born on April 30, 1934 in Bone Gap, Ill. to the late Robert W. and Mary (Garrison) Montgomery. He married Sylvia Braden on Jan. 7, 1955 in Charleston, and they just celebrated 64 wonderful years of marriage. Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Sylvia Montgomery of Charleston, Ill.; their children, Vickie (Tom) Austin of Camargo, Ill., Jane (Chuck) Bell of Greenup, Ill., Teresa (Ken) Montgomery of Charleston, Ill., Robert Gene Montgomery Jr. (Amanda) of Sullivan, Ill., and Tim (Kristi) Montgomery of Sullivan, Ill.; 11 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; a sister, Patsy (Don) Johnson of San Bernardino, Calif.; and a sister-in-law, Dorothy Montgomery of Ocala, Fla. In addition to his parents, Gene was preceded by two brothers, Ben and Jess Montgomery; and his beloved dog, Bandit.

His love of horses led him to begin his career as a horse trainer and driver, racing in California, New York, Florida and Maine, just to name a few. He transitioned to become one of the sport’s premier starters and race officials for over 40 years. He started races in Chicago, along with numerous state and county fairs, including the sport’s biggest event The Hambletonian. He was inducted into the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association Hall of Fame in 2013.

Later in life he enjoyed camping, going to festivals, and shopping while riding his scooter, sometimes a little too dangerously. He cherished holidays and attending parties with his wife Sylvia and family. Gene followed University of Illinois athletics, but his greatest joy was attending his grandchildren’s sporting events as their biggest fan.

Gene had a courageous fight with cancer and was cared for until the end by his wife Sylvia and his entire family. Gene always had a smile on his face, was a good friend to many, and a great family man, and he will be missed dearly.

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