Boswell named parade marshal

January 19, 2002|By DORA DEPAOLI, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — J.T. Boswell, 78, recently was named parade marshal of the 2002 Carrot Festival.

A veteran of World War II, Boswell served in the Army Air Corps.

Three months after he was drafted he was sent to England for 13 months. He was part of the forward echelon with the 9th Airdrome in the Normandy invasion and was among the first ground troops going into France. He went into Germany with the 104th Infantry Division. Boswell earned many European medals and eight service stars.

"We went in where they were going to build an airfield and had to clean out all the stragglers and started setting up gas and ammunition dumps," Boswell said. "I remember one night we were there it was kind of hairy. I never did a thing to those people and they were shooting at us."

The Tennessee native's colorful speech belies the fact that he left that state more than 50 years ago.


He said the people of France were just "smack dab" good people.

"The people all had apple trees and brought us out apple cider or bread. They were so proud," he said. "They wanted to give us things out of their tiny gardens that weren't half as big as our living rooms. It was just fantastic."

Born in Winchester, Tenn., Boswell has lived in Holtville since 1948. He came here because he had relatives living in Heber. A custom home builder by trade, he worked all over the county for 20 years, building homes from Calipatria to Calexico.

He never kept track of the number of houses he built, but is proud they are all still standing.

"I had people wait a year and a half for me to get around to building their houses, and the pressure finally got to me. I never even had time to build a house for myself," he said. "One day I went to the Holtville school district office to see about a job in maintenance. I didn't even fill out an application. They wanted me to start working for the schools the next day. I stayed with it for 16 years until I turned 65."

He retired in 1989 as superintendent of maintenance and contends he has gotten lazy since his retirement.

"I own up to it. Most people won't," he said. "I used to fish and hunt all the time and I liked camping in the desert. We used to have a wonderful, wonderful time."

Boswell always was willing to lend a hand where needed. He contributed supplies and labor to help build Holtville's first Little League park as well as locker rooms at the city swimming pool.

Hi-Pass, the children's summer camp in the Laguna Mountains, is near and dear to his heart. Run by the American Legion, Boswell and his wife, the late Jerry, volunteered summers at the camp for more than 15 years. J.T. worked in maintenance and Jerry worked in the kitchen.

"I worked with J.T. at the school district and at Hi-Pass," said Virginia Durbin, another American Legion volunteer. "He is lots of fun to be around. He goes around telling big tales about things in general."

His friends agree Boswell puts a humorous slant on most things. He took it in stride when he surprised illegal immigrants who broke into his trailer at Hi-Pass. As they stumbled out of the trailer he took inventory of what was missing. The bald Boswell made a big point of letting people know they took all his combs.

Rod Bryant of El Centro has been a friend of Boswell's for many years. As commander of the Bradley/Keffer American Legion Post 138, he has spent a lot of time with Boswell.

"He is a peach of a man. He is a hard worker and the best knife sharpener I have ever seen. He took care of all the electrical and plumbing at Hi-Pass," Bryant said.

"He is also the best liar I know. My daughter is fixing to make him a badge that says he is the ‘Champion Liar of the Blue Hairs at Brunner's Coffee Klatch.'"

Boswell has two daughters, Joyce Maring of El Centro and Rhonda Van Bebber of San Diego. His son, John, also a veteran, died in 1996. Boswell has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Maring said her dad was a devoted father.

"I was brought up in a home where God was first and family was second," Maring said. "I know few men who have the integrity my dad has. He is a very honest person, but likes cutting up and ‘carrying on,' as they say in the South."

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