Conway man sends Purple Heart to fallen Marine’s nephew

  • U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. Michael “Mickey” Fitzpatrick, who was killed in action in World War II. Contributed photo/PETER JESWALD

  • The Purple Heart posthumously awarded to U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. Michael “Mickey” Fitzpatrick, who was killed in action in World War II. Contributed photo

  • The Purple Heart posthumously awarded to U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. Michael “Mickey” Fitzpatrick, who was killed in action in World War II. Contributed photo/PETER JESWALD

Staff Writer
Published: 2/14/2020 9:56:47 PM
Modified: 2/14/2020 9:56:34 PM

CONWAY — Margaret “Peggy” Fitzpatrick’s life was shattered in 1944 when she received a Western Union telegram stating her husband, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. Michael “Mickey” Fitzpatrick, had been killed in action.

She also got a letter informing her she was entitled to the Purple Heart her high school sweetheart was posthumously awarded, and the grieving woman treasured it in the decades that followed. That medal, recognizable by its purple and gold colors and profile of George Washington, is now in Florida waiting to be presented to Pvt. Fitzpatrick’s nephew at the end of the month, all thanks to the son of the fallen Marine’s widow.

Conway resident Peter Jeswald grew up hearing stories of his mother’s first husband and admiring the medal he earned by making the ultimate sacrifice for his country. About 20 years ago, a box of Peggy Fitzpatrick’s belongings arrived at his home from the veterans hospital where she resided, and inside was the Purple Heart.

Jeswald made some unsuccessful attempts to track down Pvt. Fitzpatrick’s family in order to send it to them and eventually reached out to Purple Hearts Reunited, a St. Albans, Vt., foundation dedicated to returning lost or stolen medals to veterans and military families at no cost.

The nonprofit located Chicago resident Michael Collette, Fitzpatrick’s nephew. There are plans to present the medal to Collette during a “Return Ceremony” on Feb. 27 in Florida, where he reportedly spends his winters.

Jeswald, whose mother died about 10 years ago, would like to attend, but he said his duties as a grandparent will keep him up north. Still, he is thrilled Fitzpatrick’s Purple Heart will be with one of the Marine’s blood relatives.

“I can tell you that from reading her scrapbooks she was completely in love and devoted to Mickey,” Jeswald wrote in a Jan. 7 letter to Collette to express his excitement. “Even after his death, she carried his memory close to her heart and when times were hard for her she sought solace in their relationship.”

Jeswald, who moved to the Pioneer Valley in the early 1970s, explained his mother (born with the surname Cassidy) and Fitzpatrick graduated from Maine Township High School in Illinois in 1943. Fitzpatrick enlisted shortly thereafter and the two were married in San Diego, where Fitzpatrick was stationed, on Oct. 23.

It appears Fitzpatrick was killed in 1944 fighting on Saipan, an island in the Pacific Ocean. The telegram from Lt. Gen. A.A. Vandegrift, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, informing Peggy Fitzpatrick of her husband’s death was typed in all capital letters and written in the concise, punchy sentences typical of a telegram. It states there was “no information available at present regarding disposition of remains.”

“Temporary burial in locality where death occurred probable,” it states. “You will be promptly furnished any information received. To prevent possible aid to our enemies do not divulge the name of his ship or station. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy letter follows.”

Jeswald, 70, said Peggy Fitzpatrick married his father in 1947 and the newlyweds moved to Paris, France, where Jeswald was born while his father attended art school before the family moved to New York City. His parents divorced when he was a child.

Fitzpatrick’s death, Jeswald said, had a profound impact on his mother, who frequently reminisced about her first love. Jeswald said his mother suffered from mental health problems — possibly exacerbated by the trauma of Fitzpatrick’s death — and was a resident of a mental hospital from 1970 until she died in October 2011.

More information about Purple Hearts Reunited and how to donate to the foundation is available at purpleheartsreunited.org.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 262.




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2019 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy