Sunday, June 29, 2014

Keith Wessman (1925-2014)

Keith Hayward Wessman was the last living of the ten sons of Henry Richard Emanuel Wessman and Jean Hayward Wessman. [1] He died in Henderson, Nevada, this week at the age of 89.

After Jean's funeral, 1959.
Front, left to right: John, Keith, Liz, Boyd, Gam.
Back: Ernie, Harry, Jean, Phil, Norinne, Paul.

Here are a few anecdotes about his early life taken from several family histories.
Keith was a premature baby and did not do well at first. Henry said to put him out in the dirt and sunlight. He got quite brown. For many years, he was called "Brownie."
[One day] Jean was scrubbing the kitchen floor in her bare feet. Keith was in the bathroom (just off of the kitchen) taking a bath. He was about seven or eight years old. She said that she just got done and needed to wash her feet so she could get her socks and shoes on. She came and sat on the edge of the tub and put her feet in the water. She slipped right into the water. It ended up that she popped Keith up in the air and he ended sitting on top of her. It was a big surprise but they laughed about it for many, many years. 
Keith's first memories of his parents are of taking two cars loads full of family and friends and going up to the canyons to camp, eat, swim and play ball. On Saturdays, Jean made bread. She would also cook beans all day. After coming home from the canyons, the family would sit and eat biscuits and beans. Keith learned to love biscuits and beans from this experience....
Henry expected certain things out of his children. One time, Keith tried to run away from church and he almost got home. The next thing that he knew, he heard the old Dodge tearing up the road. Henry never went over 45 miles per hour.... He came screeching up the road and spotted Keith. He got Keith right back in the car and took him back to church. Keith does not know how he found out he was gone.
Another time, Keith was attempting to cut school (the first time). Henry ran him down and took him right back. Keith did not try to cut school again until he was a senior.
Keith with his niece Ann.
After his father died, Keith (even though he was six) felt as if he had to grow up. He wanted to do things that would bring his mother comfort. He did not want to give her anything to worry about. He knew that she was counting on him to do what he should.
The [Wessman] children were ... musically inclined.... Around 1930-31, John got an accordion for Christmas. Dick played quite well also on the guitar, ukulele and mandolin. They played quite a bit together. Keith took up the accordion and the girls took piano lessons. They were good at it. [Jean] tried to teach Keith the piano, but he never took to it.
Keith and Lilly Wessman and family, 1961.

Jean fought tooth and nail about Keith going into the service during World War II. Finally, she said that he was going to be 18 on his next birthday and there was nothing she could do to stop him. She signed for him to go a month before he turned 18. She was a good letter writer to all her sons in the service even though others may or may not have been. Ernie and Keith frequently sent letters home to their mother. Getting mail to Keith was tricky because he was on the ship.
Seven Wessman sons in the service, World War II.
From the Salt Lake Tribune, November 11, 1944: Seven uniformed sons of Mrs. Jean H. Wessman of 184 E St., have won for her a good citizenship medal, the fourth such destinction [sic] to be given a Utah mother during this war.... 
The Wessman servicemen are as follows: Cpl. [Corporal] Richard H. Wessman, 32, stationed with a repair squadron in Italy; Cpl. Philip H. Wessman, 24, who served for two and one half years in the Pacific Theater, now stationed with an infantry outfit in England; G.M. 3-c [Gunner's Mate 3rd ClassKeith Wessman, 19, somewhere in the South Pacific; Sgt. [Sergeant] Ernest H. Wessman, 23, now stationed with the field artillery at Camp Shelby, Miss., also served two and one half years in the Pacific Theater; S-Sgt. [Staff Sergeant] Paul H. Wessman, 30, stationed at an army general hospital in England; Pvt.  [Private] John H. Wessman, Camp Fannin, Texas, and Amm 2-c [Aviation Machinist's Mate? (US Navy) 2nd Class] Gammon Wessman, 21, reciptient of the Presidential Citation for serving in the battle of Attu and Kiska

[1] Henry and Jean Wessman had fifteen children: Merle (1909-1945), Henry (1911-1972), Richard (1912-1997), a stillborn son (1913), Paul (1914-1985), Jean (1916-2004), John (1917-2004), Elizabeth (1918-1999), Philip (1920-1989), Ernest (1921-2010), Gammon (1923-2004), Keith (1925-2014), Norinne (1926), Boyd (1928-1985), and Marilyn (1930-2010). Henry died in 1932 when Marilyn was one year old.