Friday, November 30, 2007
MUSEUM BENEFACTOR JAMES FECHT DIES
Thanksgiving Day Menu November 26, 1942 - Third Marine Division - Camp Elliott, California - Gift to The Museum of the San Fernando Valley from James L. Fecht - two of four pages.
James Fecht, older brother of Gerald Fecht president of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley, gave our Museum Community memorabilia from his exploits during World War II. Among these items was this Thanksgiving Menu.
The following is an abridged obituary of Mr. Fecht
James Fecht was born on the 12th of March 1924 in Mexico, Missouri. He was the oldest son of Mildred and William T. Fecht.
A natural athlete, Jim was an amateur boxer and played baseball on various teams in Audrain County.
At the age of 17, Jim graduated from high school just as the Second World War began. In August of 1942, he secured his parents permission to enter the United States Marine Corps. He was inducted into the service in Kansas City, Missouri and sent by train to the Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. He was assigned to the 645th Platoon of the 3rd Marine Division.
During a weekend leave Jim went with his buddy Webb McKelvey to Hollywood. At the USO, Webb introduced his friend to his cousin Joye Barnes. Still a high school girl, Joye took the young Marine to the sets of Universal Studios where she played minor film roles and showed him around her glamorous city. Jim fell in love.
With Joye's photograph in his wallet, Jim was shipped to Hawaii where he saw the devastation that resulted from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His unit was then sent to New Zealand, where Marines trained for jungle warfare and acted as additional security for a country whose sons and fathers were in combat in Europe.
The next two years took Jim Fecht into a world he that he could never have conceived. He trained continuously, experienced fierce combat and spent endless hours between tedium and terror. Names like Noumea, New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands, Eniwetok, and Guam seared into his memories. He watched the flag of the United States raised on Iwo Jima.
Badly burned Jim was in recovery on the island of Guam, when he wrote to his sister Dorothy Fetterhoff that two young combatants visited him from his hometown, "Bob Osborn and the Patterson boy, who lived nearby in Mexico."
On Mother's Day 1945 a telegram arrived at the Fecht home on West Boulevard. Jimmy Fecht was back in the United States and would soon be home on furlough. He expected to return to the South Pacific for the dreaded invasion of Japan. Three months later the Japanese surrendered.
Shortly after the war ended, Jim Fecht and Joye Barnes were married. They made their first home in North Hollywood, California. His father-in-law got the young veteran a job as an apprentice electrician at Universal Studios. There, surrounded by the glamour of the movie business, Jim learned the trade that would serve him well for the next 40 years. It was an exciting time; he played catcher on the Universal softball team and became friends with the cowboy actor Dale Robertson who "was a darned good ball player." Jim recalled how Universal "starlets" came to cheer for the team and the occasion when Frank Sinatra sang the Nation Anthem at an exhibition game played for the disabled veterans at Birmingham Hospital.
Joye and Jim Fecht had two children, Susan Lynn and Steven Thomas, both of whom live with their families in Lake County, California. After his retirement from electrical contracting and estimating, Jim married a second time to his beloved Virginia Bossler-Matter. He and Gini spent glorious hours in their Tarzana, California garden, where an amazing assortment of birds, possums, and desert tortoises shared their afternoons. Jim taught himself how to paint in oil and acrylics. Among his favorite works were those war-torn islands of his youth, with their foliage re-grown and at peace.
Jim Fecht wrote wonderful stories in the style of his beloved Mark Twain. One his favorite works was "Tales of Our Family - Truths and Possible Truths." He remained lifelong friends with Roy Harper of Mexico, Missouri and mastered the Internet to send his buddy emails.
Aside from his wife and children, James Fecht is survived by his sisters Dorothy Fetterhoff of Jackson, Missouri and Genevieve Rebbe of Granite Falls, Washington. Also by his brothers Robert of Sun City, Arizona and Gerald Fecht of Tarzana, California. He died in his sleep at dawn on the 30th of November 2007 in Reseda, California. His ashes will be scattered on the Pacific Ocean.
Jimmy requested that no flowers or contributions be made in his name. "Ask them to put out their flag for me, and to be good to one another."