Joseph Orlin Fawcett 1916-1985
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Joseph Orlin Fawcett b 17 Sep 1916 Pomeroy, Garfield Co, Washington. The oldest child of Thomas Fawcett age 48 and Alta Wright age 20. (Alta was the daughter of Harvey Wright and Julia Ivey, residents of Pomeroy.) On his birth certificate, his father Thomas Fawcett is listed as a Machinist.
His military enlistment records show that his folks lived in a small town and he lived on a farm when small. From 1909 to sometime between 1920 and 1926 the family lived in Pomeroy, Garfield Co, Washington. On the 1920 census both Thomas and William, who lived with his brother and family (and their mother) say they are machinists. William was a Spanish-American war veteran.
By 1922, according to Julia Wright's death cert (Alta's mother), Julia and Harvey Wright had moved to Kelso, Cowlitz Co and perhaps the Fawcett's moved at this time as well or a little later. We do know that, by 1926 Thomas, his family, William and their mother Mary Otis Harbin had all moved to Kelso, Cowlitz Co, since Mary died there in 1926.
In a later interview, Joe said he had had an appendectomy abt 1925 or 1926, and he had an appendectomy scar as indicated in his vet file.
By 1930 Thomas, his family and his brother William, who continued to live with him, had moved on to Snohomish Co where they lived on Interurban Blvd. In the same spot where Thomas, William and Alta were all later to pass. In the 1930 census both Thomas and William say they are mechanics. The exact nature of what they did hasn't been determined yet.
Joe's father Thomas died in 30 Dec 1933 in Clearview, of a paralytic stoke. His mother Alta was later to say that [Joe was unable] "to deal with adult responsibilities at age 15 when he was placed in this role due to his father's death". [Note that Joe would have actually been 17].
Joe graduated from High School as saluditorian of his class, he stayed at home a few months then went to Pullman, WA where he began study at Washington State College but was unable to continue due to finances. He "...worked as a handyman on a lettuce farm for a while then quit and went home again for a few months. Then went over the mountains with another fellow to Wenatchee to pick apples. Drove a truck for 6 weeks, returned home and cut x-mas trees a while then joined CCC. Stayed about 1 year. Then enlisted in Navy to see a little of the world." [Initial entrance interview upon joining Navy]
I have recently acquired a series of letter from Joe to his mother. In one of these [25 Sep 1936] he alludes to the hours being "...like Frye's Lettuce Farm..." so I think that's the lettuce farm he worked at above. There was a Frye's Lettuce Farm, in Monroe, Snohomish Co during the depression. They employed people for about 15 cents a day, and closed in the late 30s.
The oldest letter is postmarked 5 Nov 1935 from Cashmere, Wash
Headquaters 2944 Co CCC, Camp Mission Creek, Cashmere, Wash 4 Nov 1935
Dear Mother, Uncle Will & kids
Hello! I hope everyone is feeling fine. I am feeling "okay" fully recovered from my fall, ha, ha.
How is the wood situation, Uncle Will, pretty well under control? Remember don't hesitate to buy some if the supply runs low. Don't catch cold
We have a new commanding officer. I don't know but what he is okay, but he isn't Lieut Osborn.
I was glad to receive the navy "dope", it is a true account of the service today -- brains not brawn.
Tell, Noel hello for me. Is Verdeent [?] Red workng in the Xmas trees?
Well, I am enclosing a copy of our first issue of comp paper. I hope you like my editorial, ha ha,
Good-bye, Love Joe
PS If you could spare $5.00 this month it would be appreciated. Cost me $12.00 to get my teeth fixed.
Did Will get the raise in pension? I hope so.
Much later in a 1946 exam we find the statement that "While in the CCC he suffered a head injury that caused him to become unconcious following which he suffered from severe headaches." [Neuropsychiatric Exam 19 Jan 1946]
The camp Joe was living at was part of the Soil Conservation Service, this was a service to prevent erosion. It's location was "Mission Creek 8 mi SW". I expect this means 8 miles South-West of *Cashmere*, but it's not made clear.
On 13 Dec 1935, Lt Josiah Osborn wrote a letter to P A Wright, Superintendent of Snohomish Schools, recommending Joe to go to West Point, however just a few days later Joe joined the Navy. This is a bit odd to my mind. Also, in the above letter, Joe refers to a *new* commanding officer, that he "...isn't Lieut Osborn" implying that Osborn has left by this time. Perhaps Joe was intending to go to West Point, when he changed his mind and suddenly decided to enroll in the Navy. I tried to find a family connection between P A Wright and Alta Wright, Joe's mother, but P A was born in Wisconsin according to his family and the 1930 census, while Alta was born in Arkansas.
Joe joined the Navy at the Seattle Recruiting Station 16 Dec 1935. At that time he was 5'7"1/2 and weighed 152 lbs, blond hair, blue eyes.
Working backward from this fixed date, we can see that he must have been in the CCC from Dec 1934 to Dec 1935. This would match his cutting xmas tree just before. Driving a truck from Oct to Dec, picking apples in Sep/Oct would match the ripe season for apples. So he would be at home for a few months in the Summer of 1934, working as a handyman prior to that and at Washington State College probably Fall of 1933.
So the later statements of Alta don't seem to add up. We can see that Joe must have graduated high school at age 16 and that he had to drop out of college probably because his father had died and the family had little to no income. Alta could not work according to her later statements because of her "vericose veins". William her brother-in-law was on a Spanish-American War pension and died in 1944.
On 24 Dec 1935, a letter from his new commander [J.B. Jarnagan, Capt Inf Res, 305th Inf., Comdg 2944 Co CCC] asks Alta to sign a few papers in order to discharge Joe from Fort Lewis "...for urgent call, as you requested in your letter." Evidently Joe's sudden decision to join the Navy upset the proper procedural flow and Alta had to do some quick work to arrange his discharge from the CCC.
On 19 Dec 1935 Joe was sent to the Naval Training Station and stayed until 4 Jul 1936. While at the Naval Training Station he contracted Catarrhal Fever 25 Jan 1936 in which his temperature hit 103.
I have a letter to Alta from Joe with return address "Group II Communications School, US Naval Training Station" 10 Apr 1936
Hello! Hope everyone is feeling fine today. I really enjoy this San Diego weather, makes you feel like doing things and going places.
How is Tom getting along in high school? Tell him to send me his grades (expecially Band). Say, Tom, if you get good enough when you join the Navy you will be a musician. That is a easy life with good pay when you become a Bandmaster.
Well, I got my grades for the first month. I received a 4.0 in Typing (Mary I typed 64 (sixty-four) words a minute yesterday with 1 (one) error in a five minute test), 3.9 in Radio, 3.2 in Signaling.
I intend to take up Storekeeper during the next three months, but I don't know if they will let me on account of my Radio grades are good. Maybe, I will have to become a Radio Operator and a Signalman, perhaps a Quatermaster.
How are the Strawberries comming along? Have you planted any garden as yet? 1st April was indeed an April Fool's Day for Seattle vicinity wasn't it.
I received your letter addressed to my old company address, and also the other one address to my school.
What is everyone doing? Are they all back on relief? Well, anyway in the Navy they give you 3 squares a day. My expenses, here at School are a little higher but even at that I manage to save about $8.00 out of $21.0. When I get the raise to $36.00 I intend to save $20.00. My insurance is about $6.00 a month, but this is also a saving. When I get my discharge at the end of 4 years service if I decide to get out of the Navy I will draw 96% of the total money I have put into the insurance.
Will, no more news. Write soon
Love to all, Joe
PS Don't work to hard Uncle Will and Mother.
PSPS Just took a typing test and made 71 words a minute with 3 errors. Not bad
A postcard from the US Naval Training Station states that:
"24 Jul 1936 Joseph O Fawcett has completed the course of training at this station and is being transferred to sea. His new address will be USS Cincinnati, San Diego."
He was put on duty on the USS Cincinnati 6 Aug 1936
The Cincinnati was a light cruiser of the Omaha class, launched in 1921 (or 1924), it was sold for scrap in 1946. "The cruiser briefly revisited the Atlantic for the May 1934 fleet review off New York City, trained Naval Reservists in 1935-1938, and was reassigned to the Atlantic at the end of the decade." (Department of the Navy, Navy Historial Center).
Here it is in the later 1930s,
and again in 1942,
A letter home on 25 Sep 1936 states that his battle station "... is on the anti-aircraft rangefinder. I man the JW Talker on the Battle Communication Circuit, reading the altitudes and sending, receiving orders from the Officer in charge to the Sky Control which is connected directly with the Anti-Aircraft Battery."
On 21 April 1937 his ship is in Port Angeles and on its way to Hawaii for some time.
On 21 Jun 1937 he he was sent to the Naval Hospital in San Diego for a tonsillectomy. Said he had had sore throats off and on for 15 years
After the tonsillectomy, he was back on duty on the USS Cincinnati from 2 Jul 1937 to 26 Oct 1937
His ship was due to stop over in Bremerton, Washington from Aug 12 to 20th when Joe will get some leave.
On 26 Oct 1937, he reported back to the Navel Hospital complaining of a dull frontal headache, that had continued for an hour at a time over ten days. He also complained that he had lost 30 lbs over eight months. His weight at this exam was 133 which only shows a loss of 19 lbs from his enlistment weight. Initial diagnosis was sinusitis. He was at the hospital until 10 Dec 1937 when he was sent back, via the USS Rigel (10 Dec 1937-18 Dec 1937) to the USS Cincinnati which must have been out-to-sea.
He refers to this, in a letter to his brother Tom on 4 Dec 1937, when he says "...Things are about the same here at the hospital. I have been here for about 5 weeks now and will probably be here for another 3 weeks until my ship returns from San Pedro upon completion of a two weeks overhaul period."
He was onboard the USS Cincinnati for another stint from 18 Dec 1937 until 26 Feb 1938 when he requested and was granted transfer to the Hospital Corps. His mother Alta was to later say that he was interested in becoming a pharmacist
His last letter home was writen 11 Mar 1938 from the USN Hospital Corps School in San Diego
I received your letter today and was glad to know that everyone was happy, especially Noel since at last he had the opportunity to earn a living without a P.W.A. job. Noel is proud, I know that since we worked together for two years. I am confident that he will make good. Mary's youngster must be quite a youngster from what you write of him in your letter.
So Tom bought a radio for the car, this is a great youngster. In fact I don't believe that you could find two brighter children than Betty and Tom -- my opinion as well as yours.
I hope that Lois recovered from her accident without any serious complications. I will answer her letter in the near future.
You asked me to tell you something of the school. Well, I have been here about 12 days and am enjoying it more each day, and looking forward to the time when I will really know something about what I am now studying. The most interesting subject that I am taking at the present for me is Anatomy & Pyisology [sic], the study of the human body. All of my instructors are very capable men, and women, since I take nursing from a nurse in the Naval Nurse Corps. It is hard for me to master the art of concentrating once again on my school work, but I am on the road!
Fifteen minutes until taps, so will close with love to all.
Your loving son, nephew and brother Joe
PS Use address on heading of letter
He was at the Hospital Corps training facility from 2 Mar 1938 until 29 Mar 1938 when he was sent to the US Navy Hospital of the Hospital Corps and diagnosed with Psychopathic Inferiority. He was transfered 29 Mar 1938 to the US Naval Hospital in San Diego, then to the USS Nitro 7 Apr 1938 for shipment to the US Navel Hospital at Mare Island, California (near Oakland, in the San Francisco Bay). On 10 Apr 1938 he was admitted to the locked ward at Mare Island. On 12 Apr 1938 a physical shows that he was 5'8" 1/2 and weighed 154 lbs.
A letter from the American Red Cross 11 Apr 1938 to Alta
My dear Mrs Fawcett:
We have been asked by the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego to inform you of the transfer of your son, Joseph O Fawcett, on April 7 via the USS Nitro to the U.S. Naval Hospital, Mare Island, California
While in training at the Hospital Corps School in San Diego, your son became suddenly ill with a form of mental unrest. He was placed under observation in the hospital, but his condition was such that it was necessary to transfer him to Mare Island, where facilities for treatment for cases such as his are more adequate.
We can assure you that your son will receive the best of medical care and attention and that everything possible will be done for him. Should you desire a further report as to his condition, we suggest that you write to Miss Mary Randolph Hughes, Field Director of the American Red Cross, U.S. Naval Hospital, Mare Island, California, who will be glad to let you know how your son is getting along.
Mrs Nelle R Boud, Field Director
At this time, a note in his file states that the husband of his sister [Noel DesMarais] is a "laborer in Seattle". Joe also states at this time that his father had been a mechanic, and also that Joe had been sending $30/month back home for the past six months. This last note struck me because Joe had been in the Navy for 2 1/2 years at this point, his mother consistently stated that she did not work except to keep house for her brother-in-law William who as a Spanish-American war vet received $60 a month pension. So I assume that William, Alta, Mary, Tom, and Betty all lived off this allowance from Dec 1933 until Mary married in Aug 1936 a grocery store clerk [Noel DesMarais] whose father [Napoleon] had died in May 1935, perhaps plunging their family into economic hardship as well.
On 27 May 1938, Joe was transferred to the US Naval Hospital in Washington DC and directly to St Elisabeth's on 1 Jun 1938. Presumably to determine if his condition was permanent. It was declared so and he was honorably discharged from the Navy 14 Oct 1938.
On 16 Jun 1938, a letter from Saint Elizabeth's states that he was hospitalized "...because he was doing poorly at the Hospital Corps School, and it appeared that his poor work was due to a mental ailment. The doctors who examined him at that time found that he was inattentive, preoccupied, listless, abnormally quiet, dull and disinterested, and had a number of unusual imaginations....He is seclusive, takes little interest in his environment, does not speak except briefly in response in questions, and then his replies are frequently incoherent and irrelevant. His behaviour indicates that he hears imaginary voices and that he has withdrawn from his environment into a phantasy world. His physical condition is good and he is able to be up and dressed daily, eats and sleeps well."
[One of the most disturbing and puzzling characteristics of schizophrenia is the sudden onset of its psychotic symptoms.]
On 5 Aug 1938, the hospital sent a letter to Alta, asking for permission to start Insulin or Metrazol Therapy which consists of injections to the point of causing unconciousness, "...after which the patient is more accessible to all forms of mental therapy". She sent back her permission dated 22 Aug 1938.
In his vet file, there is a letter sent to his mother Alta 30 Dec 1938, evidently in response to one she had writen, which discusses how much his pension allowance might be.
A letter 29 March 1939 from the VA in Seattle to Alta states
"Dear Madam: There is enclosed a petition asking the Court to appoint you guardian of your son which, if it meets with your approval, you are requested to sign before a Notary Public and return to this office so that same may be presented to the Court for its action thereon. You will note that this petition is made out for Snohomish County.
You will be further advised as to the time and place of the hearing of this petition so that you may be present and testify as to the contents contained therein.
Very truly yours, Lester E Pope, Chief Attorney
On 12 Jun 1939 in the Superior Court of Snohomish Co, Alta took out letters of guardianship on Joe, with a bond of $1000. Probate #13-631
A pension of $45/month was granted, but was not started until after 24 Jul 1939 (retroactive to date of disablement). Per Public No 257, 76th Congress enacted 4 Aug 1939 the pension was raised to $75/month
In May 1943 Joe was still at St Elisabeth's in Washington DC. He was transferred to American Lake VA Hospital in Tacoma in accordance with a new law that allowed totally disabled vets to be placed in a hospital near their hometown. This was on 11 Nov 1945, at that time his pension was listed at $86.24/month.
In 1946 his brother [Tom] was serving in the US Navy as a metalsmith secondclass and his sister [Mary] had two children, and his sister [Betty] was unmarried and a stenographer
At his time he has a comprehensive Neuropsychiatric Exam, in which they recommened Electro-Shock Therapy
In an affidavit received 6 Oct 1948, Alta states that she was born 7 Dec 1895 and she is incapable of supporting herself due to vericose veins. That she has no property, and gets $40/month from the pension.
Per Public Law 877, 80th Congress, the Pension was increased to $124.40 effective 1 Sep 1948.
On 4 Nov 1957, he was put on a 90-day trial visit, at this time his pension was $181.00. On 6 Mar 1958 he was returned to American Lake. There are several reports regarding this visit where his family tried to adjust him to living at home, with his mother. The reports have several interesting and personal insights which I don't want to share online.
On 19 Nov 1959, Joe was still at American Lake, Alta was disbursing $120/month for her suport and as of 18 Jun 1959 the estate totalled $17529.36
On 30 Nov 1959, since the estate exceeded $1500, Public Law 86-146 was used to stop all allocation to Alta as guardian or seperatly as a dependent. She was authorized to continue withdrawing $120/month "per court order of 17 Jul 1959".
On 15 Nov 1961, at American Lake, Joe's pension was $181/month and he was placed on a 90-day trial visit. On 14 Nov 1961 a trial visit summary report was writen by a neurophychiatrist at American Lake. This report states that [Joe] "received a course of electro-shock treatment during February and March in 1946...by 18 Aug 1947 he was started on a course of deep insulin shock therapy....terminated 20 Oct 1947 after forty treatments. On 18 Jan 1950 he was given a pre-frontal lobotomy. During Summer 1950 he was given electro-shock treatment again, then taken off. In Nov 1950 he was given EST twice per week....He was never considered a suitable candidate for psycho-therapy. On 14 Feb 1957 he was placed on the tranquilizer thorazine combined with serpasil. By 14 Nov 1961 he was taking mellaril, 300 mgm BID.
In Dec 1961, Alta submits "legality of bond" for $15,700 evidently the authority is the same as 21 Jun 1939 but stated as Pierce County, WA. Not sure if there would be another probate case in that county or not.
Since Joe was released on trial visit, and 86-146 only applies to vets housed "in a government facility" the pension to Alta was restored effective 14 Nov 1961 for $195/month.
On 21 Mar 1962 a trial visit report says that he was placed in the foster home of Mrs Vera Martin in Tacoma. He was returned 21 Dec 1962 to American Lake to be discharged into home care.
On 29 Mar 1963, Joe is still living in the home of Vera Martin and the social worker closes his case.
On 20 Mar 1967, Alta says her monthly expense are: Fuel $20, Water and Lights $6; Groceries $50; Medicare $3; Clothing, Medicine and Incidentals $41.
On 21 Nov 1969, Joe gets $337/month from the VA plus $17.25 from a government insurance plan, that he had paid into, prior to his disability. There is, in force, a court order including $225/month for his care plus $25/month for incidentals and $150/yr for clothing. In addition a court order that $150/month be taken from his estate to support his mother. This letter is addressed to the Valley Terrace Nursing Center in Puyallup.
14 Oct 1976 Alta and Tom are named as co-guardians, Cause P13631, Snohomish County Court
2 Aug 1977 Tom is sole guardian, Alta died 21 Aug 1977
1 Jan 1978 Monthly amount is changed to $754
29 Sep 1981 Joe came by ambulance to American Lake from Valley Terrace Nursing Home "in respiratory distress". He was taking Mellaril 400 mg po qns, Doss 250 mg two po bid, Lasix 40 mg qd, Slow K two tabs po qd. Recommend to be placed on continuous O2 therapy
6 Aug 1985 Admitted with congestive heart failure. Due to estate being more than $1500 and no dependents, monthly award reduced to zero
30 Aug 1985 Admitted again and died 4 Sep 1985 at American Lake, Tacoma, Pierce Co, Washington
Bauer Funeral Chapel, and G.A.R.Cemetary, arranged by Tom
Cost of funeral $2000, cost of plot $1000
For information on this veteran, write me at