Through Any Given Door

1.45 Death of Gordon Chatfield

Gordon Chatfield 1944

Just two months after my arrival, my mother—along with losing her mind—lost her brother. Gordon Gregory Chatfield, at the age of 42, died in Letterman’s Veteran’s Hospital in San Francisco from his WWII injuries.

Gordon lived in Chico the three years he was married to Hylda Hughes, then joined the Army Air Force, serving in the 306th Airdrome Squadron in the South Pacific in WWII. He wasn’t actually wounded; he was injured falling from the bay of a truck, and walked with a limp and a cane thereafter. He lived on his pension and worked some as a furniture finisher and upholstery worker.

Like his brother Roy, he also had a slight mean streak. Whenever Joanne or Shirley, Ina’s two young girls, were near him and no one was looking, he thwacked them with his cane. They learned pretty quickly to go around a chair or run past him to avoid being his target. Everyone took his side when he denied doing it. Maybe they felt sorry for him because of his injury during the war, or figured it was par for the course as a few of the Chatfields had an ornery streak in them.

Following the elegy on Nov 23, 1948, my uncle was buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.

Except for his brothers Howard and Arden (they’re not in the pictures anyway), the whole family was there for his funeral. These photos, taken at Uncle Charlie and Aunt Velma’s house in South San Francisco, memorialize the occasion.

Ina and Nella May

Roy Chatfield, Leo Chatfield, Charlie Chatfield, George Day

Gordon’s funeral: Grandma Nellie at top of stairs, Verda, Leo, Charlie, Aunt Ada Whitaker, Noreen (Mom), Nella May, Ina, Joanne Fouch, Jim Fouch; kneeling is Velma Chatfield

My mother’s ability to cope waxed and waned. There were times when she appeared “normal” and times she could not deal with everyday life. I know this story feels disjointed (rather like my mother) but I don’t know what happened in the blank spaces. I’m simply telling the stories as they were relayed to me, how they appeared in Larry’s diary, from the pictures and newspaper articles I have, and later, from my own experience. I’m trying not to make up what happened in between. Like life, it’s complicated.

to be continued …

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. Oh my gosh, Catherine. Your honesty in regards to your family is so truly what the world needs now. So many secrets kept and hushed down to everyone’s detriment. So much emotional pain tolerated on behalf of both the perplexed and unwilling perpetrators and the equally perplexed and unwilling recipients that has caused so much emotional damage to ourselves, our families, and to our entire world.

    Though your accomplishments in life are many, if you had done nothing else than to get some of this out into the open yours is a life tremendously contributory and phenomenally well lived.

    Having come from a troubled family my heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing your story so that people like me can know we are not alone.

    • Deborah, thank you for this note. Some of the time I don’t know if I’m even being read, so to receive a missive like this that not only I am—but that what I write makes a difference—is much appreciated. I have a number of people who I know are following the story and they are always generous in their comments, which allows me to feel like I’m not a tree falling in the woods with no one there to hear it. Those of us who come from troubled families received gifts that others who had a happy clappy childhood perhaps did not. Not that they were the experiences we wanted, but they were the ones we got, so we transform them in the best way we can.

  2. Life can’t help but be complicated with that many players in the picture. I love reading your stories of family life and especially enjoy the pictures you post along with them. I think the picture of the four men in front of the car might be mis-labeled. I think that is my dad, George Day, on the right.

  3. Jim Chatfield says:

    Life is complicated, more so in some families than others.

  4. It sure is…

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