Troy Edwin Garrett Sr.

| September 14, 2020 9:25 AM

Troy Edwin Garrett Sr. passed Nov. 24, 2019, in his home in Wallace, Idaho, where he lived most of his life. As a World War II veteran, he will be buried at sea with full naval honors. He was on oxygen many of his last years, and his lungs finally gave out. At his request, there will be no memorial service.

He was a go-getter, a miner, an ironworker and he drove with a lead foot. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1943, at age 17, to avoid jail for drag racing through the Woodland Park area on the road up to Burke. A football fan, he cared little for pro ball, preferring college games. He liked southern teams — Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia — the states that played heavily in his family’s history. He knew more about NASCAR than most. For a while, he had fun trying to trip up Google with little known facts and questions about cars, races and drivers. Always a Ford fan… his red Ranger had a special place for his traveling partner, a small Mexican Chihuahua named Jose.

He roared around the backroads of North Idaho and Western Montana in his red Polaris Razor, with a tricked-out stereo system blaring Buck Owens and Willie’s Place as loud as he could crank it. Jose would be sitting in a milk crate with his little face turned to the sun and wind. Troy found Jose about 18 years ago in the desert outside Yuma, Ariz. Jose has some puppies in the Wallace area, and Troy was as proud of those puppies as he was his own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Jose was beside Troy when he passed.

Troy was born in 1925 in Red Bay, Ala. His parents were poor. They picked cotton and moved to Oklahoma during the Great Depression with the promise of work in the oil fields. His siblings Archie and Ora Mae died of mysterious stomach ailments during the Depression. Troy’s momma Ethel Garrett thought the oil fields were rough, and she urged Troy’s daddy Matthew Garrett to find another kind of work. Matthew hopped the rails to California’s orchards, but soon hitch-hiked north to Wallace where he worked at the Hecla and Star mines in Burke for the next 40 years.

In 1939, with his first paycheck, Matthew rented a small house up Gorge Gulch with an outhouse over the creek and sent bus tickets to Ethel and Troy. Troy and his mom sold their laying hens in Maude, Okla., to have food on their bus ride to Wallace. They ran out of food and money in Montana, more than 24 hours from Wallace. Troy attended Burke School. He had a southern accent, was small in stature, and his mom dressed him funny. He wore homemade shirts and bib overalls. He was teased and he never got over some of that bullying.

He did his basics at Farragut and was a gunner on the Naval Destroyer USS Bebas in the South Pacific while still a teenager and was rendered deaf from the constant firing of large guns. He traveled 170,000 nautical miles — 150,000 of those in enemy waters; fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest battle of the war; and in 1945 he returned home to Wallace where he married Georgia Fay Hendrix. They had two children, Patsy and Troy Jr. “Buddy.”

Troy returned from the South Pacific with what today would be called PTSD. He was jumpy and paranoid. He experienced night terrors for the rest of his life. Because he could not hear, he often misunderstood things and could hold a grudge. He ran hard, drank hard and worked harder. He stopped drinking about 30 years ago, but kept the war inside and never talked about the six battle medals he was awarded until Jim and Susan Hendrickson took him on an Inland Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. That trip was a touchstone for a lot of healing for Troy and his family.

His work history was varied. Troy worked at the Hecla and Star mines until the late '50s. Once, he and Bethel Beck were buried over a mile underground and cut off from the top for three days. Sometimes that cave-in was part of his night terrors. For a while, in the mid-50s, the family lived in Osburn and he had a Texaco Station on the main street. He rode a big Harley. In the late 1950s, he moved his family to California.

Troy got into the Ironworkers Union with help from Chris Richau and got ahead by teaching himself to weld and read prints. The family traveled to New Mexico and Arizona, where Troy welded on the hot cells at Los Alamos for the Atomic Energy Commission and held one of the highest civilian security clearances possible during the Cold War. He worked underground outside Tucson installing the Titan Missiles. Because of his small stature, he could crawl deep into tunnels and weld. Later he returned to the Northwest and Portland, Ore.’s, Local 29. He ran jobs in both downtown Portland and Seattle. “The jobs were big and the cranes were small,” said another Ironworker. The Ironworkers were good to him. In return, he worked hard and praised the unions.

Troy and his third wife Eva Elliott, settled back in Wallace when Troy retired. Troy enjoyed buying lottery tickets and won often enough to support that habit.

None of his tremendous life was achieved alone, however, and he was loyal to his friends. His best friends were Bill McKinstry, in Wallace, who kept him independent and his home and yard in tip-top shape, and Chris and Wilma Richau, who helped him get in the Ironworkers Union and were family friends since the 1940s. In the later 1950s Chris and Troy also hauled hay from the Rathdrum Prairie to Guy Ghigleri’s dude ranches in Montana. They huffed and puffed in a smoking old hay truck through Fourth of July Canyon and over Mullen Pass with buzzy intermittent AM radio… Troy was smoking Lucky Strikes then and they both were still working a night shift at Star Hecla.

In later years, he traveled and enjoyed life with Canadian friends, while living in an RV and four-wheeling in the hills around Yuma with Ron and Shirley Vode and others. The Canadians were involved when he found and kept Jose, the little dog lost in the desert, by the Rio Grande River. Doris (Arndt) Hendrix Mangold, once his sister-in-law, from up 9 Mile remained his dear friend through times thick and thin. They enjoyed steak dinners in the finest steakhouses in Seattle, Portland and at Albi’s in Wallace, and over a cocktail or two they laughed and talked about old times and old friends.

Troy thought Susan Hendrickson, who is with the VA in Shoshone County, hung the moon. His friend, Mike Atwell, at the VFW Hall hung Troy’s American flag outside his house after he fell about two years ago, and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary spoiled him with all their home cooking and friendly visits. This was all important to Troy’s well-being and he appreciated them all!

All his friends and family were very good to visit, to call and send mail. He was beloved. His daughter, Patsy, a history nerd and a licensed clinical social worker lives in McCarthy, Alaska. His son, Troy Jr., a retired ironworker like his father, lives in Vancouver, Wash., and Cebu Bay, Philippines. Just a few years ago, Troy Jr., with the help of the Wallace Library staff saw to it that Troy Sr. received his high school diploma from Wallace High School on Aug. 11, 2011. This fulfilled a promise made to Troy’s mother by the Navy recruiter in Wallace in the early 1940s. Troy couldn’t tell this story without tears.

His grandchildren were the light of his life. Patsy’s children Walter, Bettsie and Jennie Lind knew a kind, generous, witty grandpa who was a real character and was full of stories. The girls were down from Alaska frequently and catered to his every need. Walter III his oldest grandson and family, frequently visited from Bend, Ore., ordering pizza, watching NASCAR and talking jobs. Troy Jr’s children also knew a wonderful, generous, colorful grandfather. Lisa rode shotgun in his custom high-powered flashy Trans Am with the eight-track stereo blaring country music beside her grandpa for many years. Sarah shared grandpa’s love of family and Civil War history and the military. His grandson, Josh, played football and joined the Electricians Union.

Then there are the great-grandchildren he thought walked on water. Bryan Gene, an Alaska pilot and fisherman (deceased); Andria Jade, who programmed his TV clickers and hung all the photos in his front room to his specifications; Chelsea, who drew him wildflowers and could remember his meds when he fell and hurt his hip; Miranda, who gave him his first and only great-great-grandson; Jessica, who voted for Obama and lived in New York City; Lena, a gymnast and dancer who visited him as an infant and ran through his front yard sprinkler; and Talon, who plays hockey and joined him on his Honor Flight in Washington, D.C. He held his grandsons-in-law Rodney Wild, Wayne Wittrock and Ryan Hall, and his granddaughter-in-law Michelle Kirchenwitz-Swafford and her daughter Jordyn in highest esteem. This diverse family provided Troy with adventures and bragging rights for much of his life. He was a gifted story teller, a total history nerd and a hell-raiser. He loved his family. May he now know peace.

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