BENSON — Most Benson residents know Franklin Hough via the popular restaurant he owned and operated for 25 years with his wife, Chloe.
But there’s a lot more to Franklin Hough, 79, than his entrepreneurial spirit and that iconic Benson eatery, Reb’s Café & Coffee Shop.
As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Hough was honored Tuesday for his military service in a special ceremony organized by Valor HospiceCare, with support from “We Honor Veterans,” a program of the Veterans Administration. Family, friends, a JROTC cadet, Valor HospiceCare staff and a group of veterans gathered at Hough’s home to pay tribute to his service and community contributions.
Terminally ill with supranuclear palsy, Hough is bedridden and in hospice care. While the debilitating condition has affected his speech, he recognizes friends and family and was able to shake hands and acknowledged those who lined up to see him during the tribute.
“The palsy affects his ability to move and his balance, and it limits his ability to speak,” said Chloe Hough. “This is a debilitating illness that progressed quickly.”
Between his experiences in the Marines and his role as a local restaurant owner, Franklin has had a fascinating life, she said.
“Sergeant Franklin Hough served as an MP (military police) in the United States Marine Corps from 1956 to 1960,” Tombstone High School JROTC Cadet Lachlan Gee said as he fastened a pin onto Hough’s shirt as part of the ceremony. “During his military career, he was assigned as a bodyguard for high-ranking officials, including Soviet statesman Nikita Khrushchev,” who visited the U.S. in September of 1959 during President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration.
Khrushchev’s visit marked the first time a Soviet or Russian leader set foot in the Western Hemisphere.
Because he was such a high profile dignitary, Khrushchev’s visit drew a heavy crowd and media presence, which made Hough’s job as his bodyguard both interesting and a bit challenging.
Hough also provided security detail for President Eisenhower.
Steve Deskins, one of Hough’s nephews and among the veterans who attended the tribute, describes his uncle as “an inspiration” and someone he admired from the time he first met him.
“I met Uncle Frank when he was in the Marines, and I joined the Marine Corps in 1970 because of him,” Deskins said. “He has an interesting background. Along with serving as Eisenhower’s bodyguard, he was with a detachment that was sent to Lebanon in 1958 to evacuate American citizens during the Lebanese political crisis.
“This was a dangerous assignment, and I’m very proud of his service to our country. I joined the Marines in 1970 because he had such an influence on me, and I served until 1992.”
Moira Walker, Hough’s 16-year-old granddaughter, has fond memories of Reb’s Café and spending time with her grandfather.
“I’m very proud of my grandfather,” she said. “Reb’s was my favorite restaurant when I was growing up and it always will be. I was going there from the time I was born. The food was amazing and it was always busy because everyone loved eating there. I was sad when it closed.”
While Reb’s Café was Hough’s last business endeavor before his retirement, his son, Frank Hough, said his father was in the restaurant business for as long as he can remember.
“He had a hamburger stand in St. David by the high school at one time and he cooked at the Horseshoe Cafe (& Bakery) for several years. Reb’s first opened in 1982 in one location, but my dad relocated the restaurant to 1020 W. Fourth St. where it remained until he and Chloe closed the business in 2017.”
Between the two locations, Reb’s served Benson for nearly 40 years. Hough closed the restaurant when he was 77, marking the end of a Benson landmark.
As a token of appreciation for his military service, Hough was presented with two pins at Tuesday’s ceremony: the U.S. flag by JROTC Cadet Lachlan Geen and the U.S. Marine Corps pin, by Heather Collins. He also received a certificate from Meagan Gee-Henry, volunteer coordinator for Valor HospiceCare.
“Mr. Hough, thank you for your service to our nation,” Gee-Henry said when presenting the certificate. “Thank you for the sacrifices you made and your willingness to serve our country. You endured hardships and were willing to risk your life to maintain our freedom.
“On behalf of the United States Veteran’s Administration and our staff at Valor HospiceCare, please accept our thanks and gratitude. When you see these pins, know that your service to the nation is deeply appreciated. We thank you.”
Following the ceremony, every veteran lined up to shake Hough’s hand and thank him for his service. U.S. Army Veteran Richard Moon served in the Gulf War during Operation Desert Storm and represented the only Army vet in a long line of Marines.
“I thought they did a fantastic job with the ceremony,” he said. “It was a very nice, well deserved tribute.”