In the thick jungles of the South Pacific, Edward “Eddie” Youhas, a messenger for the Marine Raiders, dodged bullets and evaded enemies to deliver commands to troops during World War II.
“Eddie was the direct line we had,” said Archie Rackerby, a platoon commander for the elite ground forces group, considered the predecessor to many special forces. “He’s come tearing through the jungles—day or night—when they had a message to deliver: He had guts.”
Mr. Youhas, 81, who was awarded the Purple Heart and later worked as an attorney in areas ranging from personal injury to real estate, died Saturday, Dec 11  of a heart attack at South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest. He lived in Homewood.
Mr. Youhas enlisted in the military in January 1943. The U.S. Marine Raiders launched an offensive to prevent the Japanese from capturing the South Pacific, Rackerby said. It was a journey that took Youhas from Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, to Guam, then Okinawa, Japan.
Friends noted Mr. Youhas’ bravery. As a runner, Mr. Youhas often conducted his missions alone, wandering through jungles in search of platoons to pass on battle instructions relayed by the commander, said Bill Landfear, part of Mr. Youhas’ close circle of war buddies.
“You’re by yourself running through the jungle,” Landfear said. “You don’t know who your enemy is. You can’t see them anyway. It’s kind of a scary job, whereas when you’re in a battle, you’ve got a lot of people around you.”
Discharged from the military in December 1945, Mr. Youhas went on to study at Drake University in Des Moines, where he graduated with a degree in commercial science in 1950. It was there that he met his wife, Jeanne.
They married in 1953 and had four children. When Jeanne died in 1964 of heart problems, Mr. Youhas took on the role of “Super Dad,” raising his children with the help of his mother, said daughter Terry Youhas McCoy.
While working as an insurance adjuster for Maryland Casualty Co. in Chicago, Mr. Youhas attended John Marshall Law School, eventually earning his law degree in 1970.
Despite his work schedule, Mr. Youhas always made his family a priority and attended as many of his children’s events as he could, McCoy said.
“He would leave his job and come to see my ballet recital,” she said.
Mr. Youhas used his law degree to help others, often offering free legal services and advice to friends and family. For many years, Mr. Youhas was the lawyer for the U.S. Marine Raider Association of Chicago, a group he helped form in the 1950s.
“My dad was always a champion for the underdog,” said his son Russell. “He would help anybody when he could.”
As his children grew up and moved out, Mr. Youhas adopted five dogs: Hooter, Raider, Moose, Duke and Penny, a group of beagle-shepherd mixes. After Mr. Youhas retired in 1995, he spent his days exploring hobbies such as collecting coins and tackling crossword puzzles.
A decade-long struggle with congestive heart failure forced Mr. Youhas to rely on oxygen in his later years, but he still cared for his dogs.
“He would feed them off the table with a fork,” McCoy said. “If he was having meat and potatoes, the dogs would have meat and potatoes. It’s like having another set of kids in the house.”
The friends Mr. Youhas made while with the U.S. Marine Raiders also were like family. No matter how much time passed, the U.S. Marine Raiders remained an important presence in Mr. Youhas’ life.
He remained active in the organization, often visiting friends and attending yearly reunions. Friends remembered Mr. Youhas as a likeable fellow, avid swimmer and master cribbage player.
“One thing about him: He was very honest,” Landfear said. “You could trust him. During the war you needed people you could trust. You could depend on him.”
Other survivors include another daughter, Ellen; another son, Randall; and a grandson.
Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Friday in St. Joseph Church, 179th Street and Dixie Highway, Homewood.