I’ve had some challenges researching long lost relatives, but the mysteries and myths in and around my grandfather, Howard W. West Sr., continue to amaze as I dig through his history. The following is what I have at the time this was published. I will edit it and update it as I uncover more information.
Updated: April 2015 In April 2015, I was cleaning up the papers inherited from my father and found the Service Record log book of Howard W. West Sr. with all of the vessel discharge papers charting most of the course of his naval career in the 1920s and 30s. The information dated journeys to the Orient, as they called it. This will help to date the photographs from his photo albums and gives us more of a picture of his early years and adventures.
Biography about Howard William West (senior) from interview by Lorelle VanFossen with father, Howard William West (Jr.), March 12, 2006, Mobile, Alabama. The biography includes notes from the Farlin-West Family Bible, the David West Descendants family tree, and family stories gathered over time.
- Howard William West (senior) was born circa September 29, 1905 in Michigan or Canada. Died June 1968, Bridgeport, Washington. Mother, Louella Pinder (?-c1930). Father, Walter E. West (1881-1965).
- Howard traveled with mother and/or father to Portland, Oregon, area. Walter worked in the camps. Possibly faked marriage to Pinder, so is considered illegitimate by family history stories.
- Circa 1909, he was abandoned by mother (Louella Brunner Pinder) and taken with half-sister, Carmen (of Pinder and Clyde Moorhouse), to Catholic Convent Orphanage in Portland, Oregon. Records from Rescued by father circa 1919, at age 14. Howard could not read or write.
- Circa 1919, Howard ran away from home in California and lied about his age and joined the Marines (according to family stories). Traveled the world including crossing the Panama Canal and traveling to Japan, Philippines, and other nearby areas. He was on the USS Arizona 1924-1925. He learned to read and write from his shipmates. He joined the Merchant Marines or Merchant Service which eventually became the Coast Guard in 1939.
- Married Faye Vaughn March 31, 1925, in California.
- From the Service Record log book, Howard spends much of each year away from home. He served on the SS West Cayote, SS Oregon, SS Ryder Hanify, SS San Angelo, SS Admiral Farragut, SS Kentucky, SS Oakridge, SS West Nixton, and other vessels traveling mostly in the San Francisco to Portland Pacific coast waters, though some of the voyages took him to “The Orient,” “Transpacific,” and “foreign” lands and waters. His job on the ships was as an oiler, wiper, or fireman, positions considered entry-level marine and described by the Coastal Vitality Project – “Guide to Basic Licenses and Endorsements in the US Maritimes” as “the most junior crew member in the engine room of a ship. Their role consists of cleaning the engine spaces and machinery, and assisting the engineers as directed.”
- Daughter, Reta June West, born July 4, 1928, in southern California (Long Beach?).
- Coast Guard duty (Light House Service) moved him to the Pacific Northwest Coast where he manned light houses in Friday Harbor, Washington.
- In September 1931, we have record of a certification for smallpox vaccination in the Philippine Islands.
- Son, Howard William West, born April 20, 1937, Everett, Washington.
- The West family lived at Sholtes, Washington. He was on a light ship, the Swift Shore Light Ship, with six weeks on the ship and three weeks off home. He lived next door to Madge (Smathers) McClure, his step-sister.
- Circa 1939, the West family moved to Friday Harbor, Washington, on San Juan Island, to supervise the lighthouse.
- In 1945, the moved family to The Dalles, Oregon, where Howard tended the river lights (aids to navigation), in the Coast Guard Ship, the Lollipop (possibly nickname). This is the only evidence we have from a story by my father that the family lived in The Dalles, but it makes sense as Reta June married and raised her children there. Currently seeking military reports to support this information.
- Circa 1947/48 transferred to Seattle to the ship, Watusis (Watchusus?), Destroyer Escort Class. Left family behind in The Dalles, Oregon.
- Wife, Faye Vaughn, died 1949 of heart attack, possibility of also compilations from obesity and diabetes. She was sick for at least one year before her death, and spent a lot of time in the Marine Hospital in Seattle, where she died. Death certificate credits death as Bilateral Massive Pulmonary Embolism, a complication of obesity and heart disease. Son believes they forced her to lose weight too fast, which put tremendous pressure on her heart, strained by polio as a child and too many years extremely obese. Body was buried in The Dalles, Oregon.
- Howard Sr. returned to duty in Seattle immediately, leaving son, Howard, with sister, June, and her new husband and baby, Rochelle.
- Met and married Ana Mae Larmar of Ritzville, Washington, in October 1949.
- In 1952, after three years of marriage to his new wife, returned for Howard Jr. and brought him to Seattle, Washington, where they lived on Valley Street, on Queen Anne Hill.
- In 1952, the family moved to Illwaco, Washington, to man the Northhead Lighthouse. Howard Sr. suffered several heart attacks, and the family moved back to Seattle, setting up home at the base of Queen Anne Hill, at one block off Mercer on First Avenue West (second house in from Mercer – a Safeway Grocery Store sits there now). Howard Sr. worked for Boeing for a short time and then applied for the Core of Engineers, and moved to Camp Hayden in Port Angeles, Washington, and then was moved to Hudson Point, Port Townsend, Washington, then moved to Whidbey Island, Washington, on various jobs. Ana Mae and Howard Jr stayed in Seattle so the teenager could complete his high school education.
- Unemployment documents find him in Port Angeles, Washington, in 1956-1957.
- March 23, 1962, Howard Sr. and Anna Mae moved to Chief Joseph Dam, Bridgeport, Washington, where he worked as a guard. The date is remembered because his grandson through Howard Jr. was born on that date and they didn’t stop in to welcome the new member to the family as they passed through on their way to Eastern Washington. Howard Jr. had gotten special permission from the military hospital to permit his father to visit the newborn, and he was a no show.
- Most summers until Howard Sr’s death, Howard Jr and his family would travel to Bridgeport to visit Howard Sr. and Anna Mae in their mobile home in the desert, surrounded by cherry, plum and other fruit trees.