Saturday, June 11, 2016

Weldon Baldwin 1919-1953

Weldon A. Baldwin
Army Air Corps

Father - Husband - Son - Brother

Weldon Baldwin as a youth
Weldon Baldwin was my mom's oldest brother.  Since Weldon died when I was young, I have no specific memories of him. But, I have heard many stories of him over the years -- it seems that everyone loved Weldon.  His sister Esther adored him.  His brother-in-laws trusted him and liked being around him.  Weldon was a friend to all who knew him.

Weldon Albert Baldwin was born January 30, 1919 in Mountain Park, Kiowa County, Oklahoma. He was the oldest of fourteen children born to Jesse and Mabel (Leffel) Baldwin.  Weldon spent the first fifteen years of life living in Oklahoma.  

Weldon started school in 1925 in Fort Cobb, Caddo County, Oklahoma.  Below are two of his school enrollment cards.  Weldon was enrolled in school by his middle name of Albert in 1925.  In 1929, he was still enrolled on the school records as Albert, but in 1930 he was listed was Weldon Baldwin.
Albert Baldwin
1925 School Enrollment, Fort Cobb, Caddo, Oklahoma
Weldon Baldwin
1930 School Enrollment, Fort Cobb, Caddo, Oklahoma
While the family lived in Mountain Park, Weldon’s great-grandmother Betty Medlin Stewart lived with them, and a lot of extended family members lived close by -- aunts and uncles from both sides of the family.  
Baldwin Family 1928 Oklahoma (Weldon on far left)
The Great Depression was taking a toll on Weldon's family in Oklahoma. It was hard for his father Jesse to feed and care for the growing Baldwin family.  In addition, Jesse did not like living with the threat of tornadoes.  Jesse’s uncle, Charley Stewart, talked Jesse into moving to Gilbert, Arizona.  Charles Stewart had citrus groves and cotton fields and needed help. So Jess and Mabel sold their home in Oklahoma and moved to Arizona right after their daughter, Verna, was born in 1934.  Once they were living in Arizona, Weldon was old enough to help his family by working in the orange groves and cotton fields.

The Baldwin family lived in Arizona several years, before moving to Summit Point, San Juan County, Utah. Summit Point was located on the Utah–Colorado border.  Grandma Baldwin's brother, Lane Leffel, who had previously homesteaded in Southwestern Colorado, encouraged them to move into the area.

Below are photos of Weldon and his friend, Crock, when they were teenagers living at Summit Point.  Arthur "Crock" Cressler was Weldon's neighbor and friend.  Crock said of Weldon: "I never met a man as upstanding and true to his word as Weldon."  
Weldon's sisters said he had a pair of pants that looked looked like sailor pants and he would wear them all the time.  It looks as if Weldon had his "sailor pants" on when the below photos were taken.  Cute:)
Weldon (right) and friend, Crock.

Weldon (left) playing accordion, Crock playing guitar
Weldon goofing off on horse

Weldon was musically gifted.  He could sing and play an accordion, guitar, saxophone, and piano.  In a photo above, he's playing his accordion.   
While living at Summit Point, Weldon was mentioned several times in the Monticello, Utah newspaper -- The San Juan Record.  Below is an article that mentioned some car trouble he had while returning home from a dance with his friends.  

San Juan Record, 8 Sep 1938

Marriages and Military
After living in Summit Point for several years, Weldon's family moved to Montrose, Colorado.  It was there that Weldon met Louise Hotchkiss.   Their marriage record is found in Clark County, Washington for the 6th of July 1942.  Two children were born to Weldon and Louise.  Weldon moved his family to Yamhill County, Oregon.  On 7 Oct 1942, he enlisted in the Army and soon left for basic training.  After Weldon was gone, Louise did not like being tied down with their children.  One day she took the children and left them on the steps of the court house.  When Weldon returned home on leave, he found his children were in foster care.  Weldon divorced Louise and with the help of his sister, Esther, he got his children back.  But, since this was during WWII, Weldon had to return to his military duty.  Esther eventually adopted the children.  

After joining the Army, Weldon was sent to basic training in San Antonio.  He was trained to be a pilot for the Army Air Corps.  After he completed his training as a navigator for B17's,  he was made an instructor for pilots.  According to different family members, Weldon was an instructor at Fort Hood and also at a military base at Sioux City, Iowa.

The US Army Air Corps was the military aviation arm of the US Army during WWII and was the forerunner of the US Air Force.

After the war, Weldon returned home.  His sister Esther introduced him to one of her friends named Nancy Jane Tingstrom, a native of California.  In about 1948, Weldon married Nancy in California. They had one daughter.
Weldon and Nancy - Wedding Day
Weldon and family
Weldon continued to fly airplanes after the war ended and he returned home to civilian life.  He and a friend, Alan Thomas, started flying supplies into Alaska. In September 1948 while flying an empty cargo plane back to Portland, they had a plane crash. His co-pilot died and Weldon almost froze to death before he was rescued.
28 Sep 1948; Oregonian newspaper
In another business venture, Weldon is said to have invented a fork-lift and obtained a patent for the fork-lift.  But, I have not been able to find a patent in his name.  After Weldon died, his brother Joe sold the fork-lift business.

Weldon and a friend started a business to investigate airplane failures and crashes for the military and insurance companies.  Below are photos of Weldon transporting airplanes.

Died in a Flaming Truck Crash
In 1953, Weldon was hauling airplane parts on a flat-bed trailer behind his truck when he was hit head-on by a car trying to pass a logging truck.  Weldon's truck exploded during the crash and he was burned over 80% of his body.  Six days later on July 31, 1953, Weldon died in a Eugene hospital from injuries and burns caused by the accident.
Weldon's truck after the crash
Newspaper articles about the crash

The Oregon Statesman (Salem, Oregon) 26 July 1953

Eugene Guard newspaper, 31 July 1953
Weldon was only thirty-four years old at the time of his death.  
He had lived an extraordinary life in a short time

Eugene Guard (Eugene, Oregon) 1 Aug 1953

Funeral program for Weldon
Army Air Corps
Father - Husband - Son - Brother

To view Weldon's Find-A-Grave Memorial Page, click here.

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