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D-Day group from Denver pays tribute to Ike, a war hero with Colorado ties

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SOUTHWICK, ENGLAND – Even 75 years later, they still like Ike.

On Saturday, a group of World War II veterans visiting Europe for the anniversary of D-Day paid tribute to the war hero with lots of Colorado connections.

They visited Southwick House in Southwick, England. It’s the historic building where General Dwight Eisenhower finalized the plans for Operation Overlord, the allied invasion of Europe that would eventually turn the tide of the war.

FOX31 was along with them for the visit. All this week, our Jeremy Hubbard is traveling with The Greatest Generations Foundation, a charity founded in Denver that returns war heroes to the places they once served.

For the 75th anniversary of D-Day they're taking several Normandy survivors, ranging in age from 94 to 99 years old, back to France. For some, it's their first time returning since the end of World War II.

But before crossing the English Channel, they paid tribute to Ike by visiting the office at Southwick House where he finalized the plans for D-Day.

But there's a part of Ike's history you won't find in southern England.

Eleven years after led the charge on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, Eisenhower led the country from, of all places, a metro Denver hospital room.

“I think there`s probably nothing like this room anywhere,” John Stewart, a Denver historian, told FOX31.

The hospital room, on the eighth floor of the old Fitzsimons Army Medical Center on the UCHealth Aschutz Medical Campus in Aurora has been restored to look just as it did in 1955, when then-President Eisenhower was being treated there for seven weeks after a heart attack.

Everything from his presidential dinnerware to the hospital's old medical equipment has been meticulously restored.

“And I believe they checked out what were Eisenhower`s tastes. For instance, they have a Jackie Gleason record over there. We know the President liked Jackie,” Stewart said.

President Eisenhower had been spending part of the summer of '55 in Denver, where he had deep roots. His wife Mamie was from born and raised here. The could went to church at a chapel in Lowry during their Mile High visits. In fact, their favorite pew is marked with a plaque to this day.

And it was at Mamie's family home on Denver's Lafayette street - the very house where the Eisenhower's had been married - where on September 24, 1955, “Ike” had a heart attack.

He spent the next two months recovering at Fitzsimons.

“He had an entourage. His wife Mamie was down the hall, the Secret Service were here, members of his staff were here, many of them worked out of the auditorium,” Stewart said.

The leader of the free world, leading the country from an historic Colorado hospital room.

It wasn't until 2002 that restoration architects spent a year returning the place to its 1995 glory. It's now a museum, that few people know about, and only a few hundred visit every year.

“A lot of people did realize this room was sitting here,” Stewart said.

A small local monument to the man who led the big invasion, 75 years ago on D-Day.

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