It seems only fitting that Paul Thomas Hacker should pass away so close to “the flagpole.”

A memorial service is planned next week for the retired Air Force chief master sergeant, a man who spent his later years bolstering the rights and benefits of retirees and their widows in military communities in Germany.

“He was a military person in his heart and soul,” said Hacker’s widow, Elizabeth Anne Hacker.

Hacker, 70, died Feb. 28 from what medical officials suspect was a heart ailment, his wife said in a telephone interview. At the time he was stricken, the 30-year veteran was driving his car past the U.S. Air Forces in Europe headquarters building on Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Born in 1935, Hacker joined the Air Force when he was 19. In his three decades of service, he held many jobs, from instructor to data processor.

When he retired in the 1980s, Hacker became involved in retiree issues. He was the catalyst, for example, behind a policy change that benefited military widows who were also foreign nationals. Essentially, he got a 30 percent levy against their monthly government entitlement rescinded.

“He was tenacious,” said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Victor H. Musmanno. “He wanted to solve inequities.”

Hacker is survived by his wife, stepson and two sisters. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the American Heart Association.

As per his wishes, Hacker will be laid to rest with full military honors Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

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