Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Chester Carpenter

This is the story of my Uncle, Chester Carpenter as told by his sister, Bessie Wirig.

Chester Joseph Carpenter was born November 17, 1919, in Robertson, Uinta County, Wyoming. Robertson was an out-of-the-way, rugged, frontier homestead in Western Wyoming, not far from Old Fort Bridger.

Chester was the third Child of Raymond Linzy and Verbena Mary Carpenter. He was the youngest child for only a few minutes, because very soon after his birth, his twin brother, Charles William Carpenter was born. There was no attending physician to assist. Both of these babies weighed under three pounds at birth.

They were tiny and had difficulty nursing, so milk was warmed over a coal oil lamp, and fed to them with an eye dropper. Eventually there would be 12 children in the family, and Chester would have many responsibilities.

Chester's early years were spent in Robertson. Later they moved to Evanston, Wyoming where he attended public schools and graduated from high school in May 1937. Life in his youth was hard (during the Great Depression) and being one of the oldest boys, he had many chores to handle as the family struggled for necessities.

He learned at a very young age to milk the two cows. This meant arising early each morning to milk the cows before school, and then again after supper in the evening. Along with keeping a garden, tending to chickens, rabbits, geese, and hogs, there was little time for anything else.

Chester was a talented writer, and wrote lyrics to music used for the High School and Junior High school songs. These were sung at every major school event for many, many years after Chester graduated. He wrote many poems that dealt with historic events and his love for life and his surroundings.

During the Great Depression, employment was almost unheard of, so Chester joined the CCC (or the Civilian Conservation Corps) one of the government projects put in place to help solve unemployment. He later worked as a sales clerk for the JC Penny store in Evanston.

War was brewing in Europe and it was evident that it would only be a short time before the United States would be involved. Drafting young men into military service was on the horizon, so Chester decided to enlist, rather than be drafted. In June 1941, he entered the military as a buck private, 21 dollars a month was his wage. He was in Cheyenne, Wyoming on December 7, 1941, and was immediately sent to the West Coast where his unit was being shipped out to the Pacific Theatre of war. The night before the scheduled departure he had an appendicitis attack, and was rushed to the hospital. The ship left without him. He learned later that most of those who were in his unit did not return from the war.

He was a good soldier, and won the respect of many. He was nominated to go to Officer's Candidate School, where after many hours of instruction, he was commissioned a Second Liutenant. He was assigned to the Army Medical Corp as a Registrar.

He was sent to England and witnessed the awful blitz bombing by the Germans where he sustained some eye damage. Right after D-day on June 6, 1944, he witnessed the first of many casualties coming back to England. Shortly thereafter he was sent to Calais, France, overseeing medical field units which were set up to take care of the wounded from the many bloody battles fought thereafter -- including the Battled of the Bulge. He witnessed a lot of pain and sorrow as he worked with the wounded and the dying. He advanced through the ranks of First lieutenant, then Captain, and became a Major.

He was a good soldier and a devoted son to his parents. He wrote a letter every week and expressed his love and appreciation for them. He was always interested in their well-being. For mother's day, 1943 he wrote this poem that expresses his love and concern:
Dear Father, bless my mother
On this war-time Mother's Day.
Give her comfort, free from worry
While her sons are far away.
Bless each one, that none will ever,
'Til the Victory Bells are tolled,
Change to white, the red carnation,
Or the stars of blue to gold
(Chester J. Carpenter, Army Medical Corp, May 9, 1943)
The war ended and Chester was discharged. He took employment with the W.T. Grant Company as one of their field managers in El Paso, Texas for a short period of time before he took advantage of the GI Bill and enrolled in college.

He received a Master's Degree from the University of Southern California (USC). He then attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa and earned another Master's Degree. Afterwards he attended Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he earned his PhD in Psychology. He taught at FSU as professor and then accepted a position at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he taught until his retirement. He still had difficulty seeing, and had to wear very thick eyeglasses. However, he struggled through his eye impairment and succeeded in his profession.

Chester was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was sealed to his parents and family in the Salt Lake Temple as young boy. Eventually he was ordained a Seventy, and served as a Stake Missionary for the Woodruff Stake.

On November 22, 1962, he married Earlene Rose Schlotthower in Tallahassee, Florida. She died in May, 2005.

To this union was born Alexander Joseph Carpenter in 1963, and Ellen Rose Carpenter in 1965. Alexander was born with multiple birth defects, due to oxygen deprivation at birth. Alexander required constant care, and has been attended to by his family over the years. His sister Ellen has cared for him the last few years, until very recently, when circumstances required that he be placed in a care center. Ellen has taken care of her mother, and her father until they passed away. She took care of her brother for quite some time as well. She has truly been a blessing to her family.

My father (Joel) remembers his older brother Chester, taking a tablet of paper, and finding a shady spot under a willow tree to write. There he would sit, along the banks of the Bear River which ran next to their property, thinking, and pondering and writing. Chester was a gifted writer, and you can read some of his poems here.

Chester will be remembered as a loving father, dedicated husband, caring son, and a wonderful brother and uncle. Our love goes with him.

He was buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, in St. Louis, Missouri. I understand that this is the largest national cemetery, outside of Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia. He was buried with full military honors, due to being a veteran of World War II.


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