Eugene T. Fitzpatrick, 96, infantryman participated in World War I offensive

November 13, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Eugene T. Fitzpatrick, who as a 17-year-old infantryman participated in the savage World War I Meuse-Argonne offensive, died on Veterans Day of complications of a stroke at St. Elizabeth Home for Nursing Care in Arbutus.

He was 96 and had been a resident of Charlestown Retirement Community since 1985.

Mr. Fitzpatrick was interviewed for the Maryland Public Television series "Maryland in the Great War: Over There, Over Here," which is airing this week.

Born on Patterson Park Avenue, he lied about his age and was 16 when he joined the Maryland National Guard at 5th Regiment Armory in 1917.

"He came home one night dressed in a uniform and the whole thing caught us completely by surprise," said his sister, Hanorah Alseth of Baltimore.

After Mr. Fitzpatrick's unit was inducted into the regular Army's 29th Division, it was shipped to France in July 1918.

"He said when they were put ashore at Brest, they received no additional training and were marched directly to the front," said a nephew, Patrick Prendergast of Glen Burnie.

In September 1918, the last great Franco-American offensive of the war got under way when troops attacked between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest.

The savage battle, which raged for six weeks, resulted in 100,000 German and 117,000 U.S. casualties.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, who as a member of the 115th Infantry built roads, dug trenches and stretched barbed wire under artillery barrages and machine-gun fire, talked about the experience in a 1993 article in The Sun.

"The worst was going out to bury the dead where we found them. Some bodies had been there a week or more. We took their identity tags, if we could find them, and then stuck their rifles or something in the ground to mark where we buried them," he said.

"He didn't talk about it much," said Mr. Prendergast, but he noticed that when his uncle went to funeral homes, he never looked at the deceased person and stayed in the hallways.

Mr. Fitzpatrick was given $60 and discharged in July 1919 at Fort Lee, Va.

"He was the same person who went to war and the same person who came back. He was lucky considering his horrendous experiences," Mrs. Alseth said.

After the war, Mr. Fitzpatrick worked as a Fuller Brush salesman and served in the merchant marine.

He joined the Navy in 1919 and was discharged in 1927.

He later earned a general equivalency diploma from Polytechnic Institute and became a diesel repairman for Standard Oil and the Arundel Corp. In 1939, he went to work for the naval experimentation station in Annapolis, testing and developing diesel engines, and retired in 1963.

In his 60s, he studied painting at Anne Arundel Community College and the University of Maryland. He claimed he took up art because his wife "wanted me out of the house."

Mr. Fitzpatrick, described as quiet and patient, worked in oils and painted landscapes and houses. His work was exhibited and he earned many ribbons.

Shortly before his death, he had completed the restoration of a 400-year-old Italian frame at Charlestown, where he also restored and repaired the community's religious statues.

In 1931, he married Margaret A. O'Leary, who died in 1991. The couple had no children.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at Charlestown, 719 Maiden Choice Lane.

Other survivors include another nephew, Robert Fitzpatrick, and a niece, Sister Maura Anthony, S.N.D., both of Washington; and several great-nieces and great-nephews.

Pub Date: 11/13/96

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