By BRAD KELLAR
Caddo Mills has lost one of its most influential businessmen, while Hunt County has lost one of the men responsible for starting the Hunt County Fair and installing two of the event’s most visible icons.
Harold Payne, 92, died Sunday. Services are scheduled Friday morning at Coker-Mathews Funeral Home.
A native of Caddo Mills, Payne enlisted in the Army Air Corps late in 1942. Flying in a B-17, “Payne’s Punch Packers” were part of the 8th Air Force, 390th Bomb Group, 570th Squadron and carried out missions over Czechoslavakia and France from 1944 to 1945. Payne is a founding member of the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Museum in Tucson, Ariz.
Payne started Payne’s Famous Furniture Village in Caddo Mills and served on the boards of several institutions, including the Audie Murphy American Cotton Museum, the church board and the hospital board.
Payne had also served on the Hunt County Fair board since its creation in 1967. Payne helped jumpstart the fair with financing, and was also responsible for bringing to the fairgrounds “Fair Boss,” the Hunt County Fair’s mascot.
“Mr. Payne purchased Fair Boss about six or seven years after the Fair began and donated it to the Hunt County Fair Association,” Joe C. Johnson said in 2006. “He’s been our symbol ever since.”
Johnson said Fair Boss was manufactured in Paris and is the largest Hereford ever to be seen in Hunt County.
“At that time, Hereford cattle were the predominant cattle in this part of the country and Harold’s father also raised Hereford cattle,” Johnson said. “I guess that was another reason why he bought a Hereford.”
Also in 2006, Payne was responsible for the archway above the main entrance to the fair, which includes all of the different departments at the Hunt County Fair. Payne donated the sign and dedicated it to the memory of his wife Wanda, to whom he was married for 65 years before she passed away in April of that year.
“She was my supporter all the way,” Payne said. “She knew the fair was something very good for the community.”
Payne was the only original member of the fair board still living. He was treasurer for 20 years.
Payne said the original purpose of the Hunt County Fair was to serve the area youth.
“We had to crawl at first,” Payne said. “That first fair was pretty skimpy, but we’ve continued to promote it, and now it serves as great entertainment for adults and senior citizens, as well as the kids. But to the children, it is still one of the highlights of the year for them.”
Payne also served as grand marshal of the 2009 Park Street Independence Day Parade, but will be known for all of what he helped bring to Hunt County.
“You give a lot of time, but what is your life about?” Payne asked. “If it isn’t about service to others, then what is it about — yourself?”