“They treated me like I was a long-lost person,” said Mr. Allen. Originally matched in 1938, Gene Allen is the oldest living ‘Little’ in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Dallas family and one of the first Little Brothers matched when Big Brothers Big Sisters first began serving children in Dallas 91 years ago. His life-long relationship with and commitment to Big Brothers Big Sisters began at the age of 13, when he became a Little for the first time.
He credits Big Brothers Big Sisters for his “particular happiness.” His father passed away when he was 18 months old, and he was raised by his mother and step-father. Growing up in Oak Cliff during the Great Depression was not easy. His step-father couldn’t find a job, so it was tough for them to achieve financial independence. Ultimately, his mother decided to enroll him in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and that’s when his life started to turn around.
“They treated me like I was a long-lost person,” said Mr. Allen.
Mr. Allen often says the time spent as a little brother were some of the happiest moments of his life. When asked about his favorite memory as a Little Brother, he reminisces about the time he went to Camp Tammi Babi in Cedar Hill near Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center. Mr. Allen was so eager to attend the camp, he decorated the windows at his big brother’s shoe store to help pay the $5 admission fee.
Gene stayed in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program until he joined the Navy as part of the 103rd Naval Construction Battalion during World War II. He was very successful in establishing his military career as he went on to serve in two wars and received more than 10 medals for his service.
After his time of service in the military, Mr. Allen became a Big Brother himself to give back to the organization he says made him a “good citizen.” Over the next decade, he mentored several Littles, although he sees the time they spent together as simply having adventures. But as a former Little, he understood the impact those adventures could have.
After the birth of his two children, Gene remained active with Big Brothers Big Sisters and helped establish the Garland office, but he decided to focus most of his energy on raising his kids the way his original Big Brother helped raise him.
He credits the lessons he learned from his Big Brother for the man he became as a father. He understood how important it was for children to have someone who believes in them and is constantly there to help them overcome the hardships in life because of the time he spent with his Big Brother, so it is no surprise he decided to pass those lessons along to his own children becoming the father he never had to them.
Mr. Allen lives is 93 years old and still lives with his wife in Southern Dallas.