Sunday, September 6, 2009

Corporal Waddoups, World War I Veteran

How could the boys of the 145th Utah Field Artillery really know what it meant to become part of a "World" war? Omer and friends, like many american boys, sought the adventure and patriotism that enlistment would bring. His regiment was organized at Fort Douglas, UT, and then the troops were sent to Camp Kearny (near San Diego), CA, for training. Off they went and across the Atlantic to France in December of 1917. With them they carried a banner emblazoned, "Watch Your Girls - We're from Salt Lake."
France was a mess. Omer was there from August 1918 to January 1919. Despite their anxiousness to "enter the fray" the 145th never really saw battle. Fourteen of the soldiers of the 145th died from the Spanish Flu while stationed and training off the front lines at Camp De Souge, 600 soldiers in all were afflicted with it. They had just finished their training at De Souge when the Armistice was signed, and they were mustered out within a month.

Omer looked very good in his uniform - he was 5 foot, 6 inches tall, with brown hair and deep brown eyes, with a dark complexion. What girl wouldn't fall for a man in uniform, fresh from the War, and handsome, too? Ardis certainly did. Omer and Ardis were married in the Salt Lake Temple on 4 February 1920. Omer worked as a Farm & Dairy man on his father's farm. A year later, they were happy to be announce the birth of their own little girl, Mary Ardis Waddoups. The family was living in Ogden.

Sometimes the best things don't last however. Omer, with his friends Louis Whitesides and Jim Morgan and another friend, went into the hills near Howe early in the moring to hunt deer. Louis left the party to work his mail carrier route, and the others soon separated to pursue their game. As Omer carefully ascended a small hill Jim called to him. Hushing his friend, Omer let Jim know that he was tracking something. Jim waited behind, and eventually heard the expected shot. He waited for the second shot, a signal that the prey had been taken down but it did not come. Jim went in the direction he'd last seen Omer, and as he crested the hill he saw Omer down. Sliding into unconsiousness, Omer's last words to Jim were, "I fell...water." Assuming Omer wanted water, Jim rushed to get some, only to find that Omer had passed on in his short absence. Officials suspected that as Omer had been closely following the deer, he was walking with the gun cocked. The inquest held a few days later determined that he evidently slipped and fell and the gun was thrown behind him. As it discharged, the bullet entered the back right shoulder and exited the chest. Funeral services were held in Bountiful and he is buried in Ogden. He was 25 years old.
Years later Edith, Mary's younger half-sister, discovered this picture on the wall of the Yellowstone National Park lobby labelled as "Campers in the 1920s." She had found the only known picture of the Omer and Ardis family with baby Mary before Omer's unexpected death. The tent is erected over what looks like an early model Ford with beds perched on the car. With the Waddoupses are some old family friends. This accidental photo opportunity becomes a treasured family memory to their descendants.