Title: Army Private, World War I; Coast Guard Seaman, World War II
Birthdate: September 27, 1896
Death Date: November 22, 1967
Plot Location: Naval 4, Row 12, Site 23
In the years just before and after the dawn of the 20th century a letter carrier and his wife had eleven children while living in the East Germantown section of Philadelphia. They were all girls except for Joe, the third in line, and Ed, whose twin sister was one of three girls who died in childhood. The two boys wouldn’t have been close, since there was nine years difference in their ages.
Joe was working for the Pennsylvania Railroad when he registered for the draft, as required, on June 5, 1918. Then he was inducted, as required, as an Army private on September 5. He was assigned to the motor pool at Camp Greenleaf, Georgia where he used the mechanical skills he acquired from working on the railroad.
After four months there, Joe was assigned to Embarkation Hospital No. 1 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken, New Jersey. Troops arriving from overseas needing medical care came there first before being assigned to facilities elsewhere in the country. Joe’s specific duties aren’t documented but probably centered on vehicle repair and maintenance. He was released from the Army on June 27, 1919.
Like many men who have discharged their duty to their country, Joe found an 18-year-old named Anna McAnanny and promptly married her. They lived with her family and Joe went back to the railroad to become a brakeman. Years later, the Depression tore apart the economy and it didn’t help Joe’s marriage. Although the couple were still together in 1930, Joe was unemployed. By 1934, when he filed for his World War I veterans benefits, he was divorced and living with his parents in Germantown.
The 1940 census asked the question, “In what place did this person live on April 1, 1935?” Joe’s response was “Port Allegany, PA” on the northwestern edge of the state, for reasons unknown. His joblessness spiraled into homelessness because his address in 1940 was the “Whosoever Gospel Mission” in Germantown. But hope returned when he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1941. As part of the President’s New Deal program to put people to work, it was only for single, unemployed men ages 17-28 but somehow Joe got in at the age of 45.
The program was stopped in 1942 as the nation returned to war. Joe returned to the service, joining the Coast Guard Reserve that November. He was assigned to the Lewes Coast Guard station in Delaware for almost his entire tour until being discharged February 26, 1944.
During that time both his father and mother died. Of the eleven children, only Joe and a never-married sister were alive.
The 1950 census found him back in Philly, living with 166 others at the Salvation Army in Manayunk where he worked as a janitor. At some point after that he was admitted to the US Naval Home in the Grays Ferry section where he lived to age 71. “Natural causes” was listed on his death certificate, and he was rewarded for his service with a military headstone over his grave in the Naval Plot.
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