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Source: Joseph Ward Poché Jr.
Reflections on Joseph Ward Poché, Sr. (1895 -
and his Family
"....You leave with the mark of approval on
everything you have done.
Not only have your efforts in your work been successful, but in addition
you have conducted yourself in your few hours off as a gentleman
and a soldier...."
My father never talked much about his Army life either here or in
the Great War even though he served with distinction in an administrative capacity,
according to surviving records.
I was named for my father, Joseph Ward Poché, who was born in
Donaldsonville, Louisiana and have a "Junior" at the end of it like most people
so-named. We both go by Ward but officially he was J.W. Poché and I am still
trying to sort out what I want. Usually it is Ward although sometimes it is J. Ward
even though I never liked the initial first like W. Averell Harriman. It sounds
affected. Anyway, since I am now approaching 70, I better decide soon.
Dad was a construction engineer and sugar refinery superintendent
and was drafted into the "National Army" on October 22, 1917. He served about
three years and was a supply sergeant for purposes of rank and pay but did most
of his work in personnel. He was assigned to Company C, 156th Infantry,
according to his pay book.
At the end of the war, his apparent immediate superior, Lt. John
urged that he be sent home as a special favor citing him as "one of the best men
I ever saw, always faithful and on the job and it seems as if we should reward
Th memo went to Colonel George L. Tait who was Adjutant General,
Replacement Depot, American Expeditionary Forces (How strange that sounds
all these years later). The Colonel obliged and in a commendation for my father
dated June 25, 1919, observed:
" ...it is but fitting that you be advised of the esteem in
which you are held by
your superiors in this Depot. For a long time you have been on duty at these
Headquarters in the capacity of stenographer in the Personnel Adjutant's Office.
This was one of the busiest departments here and one which required its
members to work long hours. Upon the accuracy of your work depended much.
You worked faithfully and hard regardless of hours or personal comforts...."
"You leave with the mark of approval on everything you have
done. Not only
have your efforts in your work been successful, but in addition you have
conducted yourself in your few hours off as a gentleman and a soldier...."
Viewed in modern times, his discharge papers also seem strange
form was printed but it was completed by hand rather than typed. For the
most part, a clerk did the work. But in two places the writing was different.
That was where the commanding officer signed and filled in the character
assessment. For my father that space was filled in with a single word,
"excellent." Those who knew him knew he maintained this standard for life.
While he didn't talk much of his own service, there was a classic
war movie, "The Big Parade," which he liked and always talked about when
the subject of films came up. He and my mother, Cecile, had driven from
Texas City, Texas to Houston to see it in one of those opulent movie houses
of the Twenties. It was shown complete with the sounds of a full-fledged
Dad came to Texas City to help build the sugar refinery there and
when it was completed to help run it. He was to have been Plant Manager
but the Depression ended that and the facility closed. My mother worked in
the refinery office where they met. They later married. I was born in 1929
followed by my two sisters, Cecile and Mary Ann.
As a result of the Depression, we moved to New York City in the
where Dad became shift superintendent for the Sucrest Sugar Corporation in
Brooklyn where we also lived. In Brooklyn, there was a movie house every
two or three blocks (there were five in the immediate area of out apartment)
and being sickly, I became interested in film. As I got older and able to travel
the subway system, I became familiar with the Museum of Modern Art in New
York City. The Museum had a film library concentrating on silent classics
which were shown to the public and changed every few weeks. When "The
Big Parade" was scheduled, I wanted to see it and took the family.
Because the movie in Houston had been so special to my parents
orchestra setting tone and adding the sound effects, seeing it again in little
more than a viewing room without sound was a disappointment to Dad. I
remember him saying, "the memory was better." I thought it was great. I
had waited a long time to see it and was fascinated by the name of the
leading actress -- Renee Adoree. How could someone with a name like
that not be a star.
An English major in college, I always wanted to write and made my
Washingtonville, New York in 1954 to work on a weekly newspaper for
experience. Washingtonville is located in the lower Hudson River Valley
about an hour from New York City and 40 miles from the U.S. Military
Academy at West Point. After a year and a half on the weekly, I switched to
the Newburgh News, a daily, in the nearby town of Newburgh. I stayed with
this newspaper for the rest of my career and through three name changes to the
A popular spot in Washingtonville following World War II was
There I met Helen Figurski, a physical education instructor who was born and
raised in the area. Helen was a graduate of Ithaca College and teaching in the
Albany area when I met her. She came home in the summers to work at Feller's
and to run the village's summer recreation program.
Helen and I were married on June 7, 1959. We had two
Joseph, born August 22, 1996 and Stephen Ward, born March 5, 1962. Helen
died on February 23, 1996
Dad passed away on September 3, 1970.
Covering many of the major stories involving the Newburgh area
was my good
fortune during my 36 years with the newspaper. The paper went out of existence
as the Hudson Valley News on August 26, 1992. In another stroke of good
fortune, I retired a year earlier. Many of my friends throughout the plant weren't
-Ward Poché, 1998