Keeper of the Family

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Claude E. (Claudie) Phelan Jr.

1927 - 2011

        

 

 

Claudie was a battler from his birth.  He was a premature baby born in Flagstaff in the winter of 1927.  Claude Sr. built a crude home incubator and his parents nursed him through a trying time.  After a normal adventuresome childhood he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 16 during World Was II.  He served in the island campaigns in the South Pacific.  At the end of the war he was a civilian for several years and then reenlisted and served through Korea and Viet Nam prior to retiring from the Corps.  He received two Purple Hearts and numerous other awards.

 His retirement was in Florida but his heart was always in Arizona.  He and his wife, June, made several trips to his home state.  The picture shows him in 2003 paying his respects at his parents’ gravesite in Goodyear, AZ.

Bill & Willow Seibert

 

Claude became a United States Marine at age 17.  I remember, as a five-year old, sitting on his lap as Dad drove him to the train station in Phoenix to begin his trip to the San Diego recruit training center.   He served his country as a tank gunner in WWII, a foot soldier in Korea and a helicopter gunner in Vietnam.  
After he retired as Staff Sgt. he was always referred to as Sarge. One of his many civilian jobs was as a mail carrier when one day he came upon an apartment fire.  Quickly he called the fire department and evacuated the residents.  Later he recognized for his heroism.  He met his wife June in, FL where he and she worked as prison guards.  In each of his jobs and volunteering he distinguished himself for his selfless service to people in need.  He always was ready to help others and was loved in return.  He has been a recovering alcoholic for at least over 45 years.  

When Claude was 13 he and my Dad put the first toilets in at Indian Gardens, in the Grand Canyon.   He said that getting the toilets down into the canyon by mule was quite a trick. He worked for the forest service in Arizona at one time. One of his jobs was to feed the fish in the hatchery at Kaibab, AZ.  He said he had to break the ice, with his bare hands and feed them raw horse meat.  Just what he really fed them, I am not sure.  He may have told me that story for effect, because he loved to kid and tease me.  Once when we lived in Goodyear AZ, he asked me to walk with him to the cobbler shop in Avondale to get his boots.  I took 4 steps to his one. I was in the 4the grade then, and he was six feet and some tall.  

When Claude was born mom said they did not know what he weighed, but at 6 weeks he was 2 lbs.  Her wedding ring hung on his wrist.  He had no pupils at first, and when he was laid on one side, his head would bulge on the other. He slept on a radiator with the thermometer under him. The thermometer cost $5.each, and after several were broken, Dad built an incubator for Claude out of a chicken incubator.   He had pneumonia 3 times before he was a year old. Mom said that he was no angel to raise.  He set on fire the wood shed out behind the house.  He smoked cigarettes at age 4.  Mom put a horse hair in each cigarette and made him smoke the whole pack, hoping to make him stop. Instead he said ,”I’m a little tired, Think I’ll take a nap.”   Then he came back and asked for more.  He did quit smoking when he was in his 70’s when he had a lobe removed from his lung.  Then even though his wife June smoked around him every day he never smoked again.  

Did I say yet how proud I am of him?  Let me tell you. All of his siblings are proud of him.  A finer brother you could not have had.  He had a model T ford he called Gizmo.  It had a rumble seat. I sat in the middle of the front seat between him and Mom.  In case you didn’t know, there is no seat in the middle.  What a ride I had.  He was a jack of all trades Master of none.  At age 65, he worked the Jaws of Life for the fire department in Immokalee, Fl. When he was in WWII, on KP duty, he was sent to burn the trash. He was told he was to put it in the hole and burn it.  But they did not tell him which hole, and so he set the ammunition dump on fire.  

Once he drove the ambulance for a funeral home.  And another time he was a Policeman on horseback in Phoenix.  All his jobs came with exciting adventures and stories.  He could keep you listening for hours.  He said that the funny papers were the best part of the News paper, and he always laughed out loud when he read them. When the Catholic Church in Flagstaff was first built, he was the altar boy who rang the bells for the first time.  We always sat 5 rows back from the front, on the right side.  On day mom caught him picking his nose and rubbing in on the wall.  Mom said, “Claude Junior! Use your hanky!  He said No, I don’t want to get it dirty!” When he was 16 he quit school to join the Marines.  He said, “I was put right back in school, and spent most of the time going to one school or another.”  He and June lived for quite a long time in Immokalee Fl. He has a son Steve, a grandson Douglas and three great grand children.  God has  truly Blessed us with wonderful parents, and great memories.  Thanks Be To God

Peggy Schmid