Elizabeth “Bess” Cacy Kirkpatrick
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Elizabeth Boyer Cacy was born June 8, 1901 to William Evans, III and Marcia (Smith) Cacy. She was the second child of five children, three girls and two boys. From an early age she was known by the nickname, “Bess.”
According to the 1910 U. S. Census the family resided at 179 Washington Avenue, Dumont, New Jersey. They resided there for her entire youth and young adult life. In a 1920 census it appears the household included her parents, sisters, Dora and Mary, brother Albert (her other brother died in infancy), and her maternal grandparents, Albert and Dora Smith. The children attended school in Dumont. Her father was an agent for a steam railroad company at this time but later began work for New York Central Railroad, the United States Railroad Administration where he eventually became District Clerk.
Although Bess’ education ended with high school, she contributed to the education of her younger sister, Mary, helping her attend college in the nearby town of Montclair, NJ. Bess was also an accomplished seamstress and made ball gowns for her sisters and herself to wear to dances at West Point, and in later years sewing for herself and her daughter, Mary.
When Elizabeth Cacy was twenty-five she took a cruise on the Wilhelmina, departing San Francisco, California December 15, 1926 and arriving in Honolulu, Hawaii on December 21, 1926.
In the 1930 U. S. Census Bess is listed with the occupation of secretary for a mining business, but not working at the time the census was taken. She was twenty-nine and living with her parents, her fourteen year old brother, Albert, and her maternal grandfather, in the same home in Dumont . According to her daughter, Mary, Bess worked with a financial firm on Wall Street until the “crash” when the firm closed. At some point she was briefly a Ziegfeld Follies dancer. She became a dance instructor for Arthur and Kathryn Murray at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City, where she continued to work until her marriage.
She likely met Lewis Spencer Kirkpatrick, around 1930 or 1931, through her sister Mary’s husband, Ralph Glasgow, who was also a 1924 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Bess married Spencer on June 30, 1932 at the Church of Transfiguration in New York City, also known as the Little Church Around the Corner. Spencer’s parents, Dr. E. E. Kirkpatrick and Claudia (Spencer) Kirkpatrick were unable to attend the wedding, but a newspaper article of the event records William Cacy was able to give his daughter away while Bess’s sister, Mary, and her husband, Ralph Glasgow also attended the event.
Prior to their marriage, Spencer attended the Coast Artillery Command School at Fort Monroe, Virginia where he completed the Battery Officer’s course from September 1931 through June 1932. Following their wedding night at the Waldorf Astoria, the couple planned to drive to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana to see Bess’ sister Dora and her husband and then drive to Oklahoma City to visit Spencer’s parents. They traveled to Green Mountain Falls, Colorado to spend their honeymoon at the Kirkpatrick family cabin before driving to San Francisco where they sailed on August 17 for the Territory of Hawaii.
Spencer reported to Fort Kamehameha, near Honolulu, in late August 1932. He became Battery Commander with the 15th Coastal Artillery on Oahu, until March 1935 when he transferred to Fort Preble in Maine again as Battery Commander, and in August he was promoted to Captain. Elizabeth had their first child, Roy Spencer Kirkpatrick, November 5, 1935 in Portland, Maine.
The family continued living in Maine and on May 15, 1938 their daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was born in Portland. Two months later Spencer received orders that he would be sailing for the Philippines in September 1938, but the orders were changed, and the family sailed for the islands in February 1939. They lived in the officer’s quarters at the fort until Bess and the children were evacuated in February 1941. They returned to the States arriving in San Francisco. In a letter from Spencer written in March, he encouraged Bess to spend the summer in Cascade, Colorado, near Green Mt. Falls, close to his friends and family. However, she and the children continued sailing on to New York.
Dumont, New Jersey was again Bess’ home, temporarily with her parents, until she could decide definitely where they would want to live when Spencer returned. They also stayed for a time with Ralph and Mary in Washington, D. C.
In May 1941, Spencer encourage Bess once more to settle in Colorado for the summer or in North Carolina, since he may be assigned there. She received a February 1942 letter from Spencer relating he was able to increase the allotment again for his family by one hundred dollars ($350). By late 1942 Bess, Roy and Mary moved to a home in Washington D. C. at 3400 Porter Street N. W. where Bess took in boarders to supplement their income.
Separate cards of correspondence were received August 1943 by Bess and Roy from Spencer, written Christmas week 1942, stating that he was imprisoned by the Japanese in a Philippine Prison Camp and that he was in good health. By September she was notified by the U. S. Army that he had died of pneumonia on April 27, 1943.
Following the notification of Spencer’s death, Bess corresponded with several military personnel regarding Spencer’s imprisonment and death. She was ultimately given Spencer’s West Point ring by Major John M. Wright, Jr. who told her the story of Spencer’s last days. He related that Spencer was cremated on the beach after his men dressed him in full uniform and concealed a draped American flag under the blanket covering him. Larry Wozniak, who was with Spencer when he died, wrote to Bess that Spencer was taken to Manila for burial by the Japanese. He later saw his grave marker at Bilibid Prison.
As Bess began to cope with the loss of Spencer she spent time at outside interests that included bridge club at Ft. McNair Officers Club. Her daughter Mary later wrote that she also continued her love of bowling, in which she had won six trophies while still living in the Philippines.
On September 15, 1948 Bess received a Western Union telegram from Lt Col. C. R. Yost informing her that the remains of Lt. Col. Lewis S. Kirkpatrick were enroute to the United States and that their records indicated that her wishes were for his remains be interred in Arlington National Cemetery.
During the early 1950s Bess was employed in sales at the Washington D. C. branch of Best & Co., a well known clothing and accessories store for children and women, Also during the 1950s she became an active member of The Gold Star Wives of America, an organization for widows and widowers who lost their spouses during wartime active duty. She also volunteered with the Gold Stars and worked at Walter Reed Hospital. Bess as her children continued to live in Washington, D. C.. Mary and Roy continued their schooling, with Roy changing schools his senior year .
Bess and the children took a few weeks for summer vacation with her sister Mary and her husband Ralph together with their two sons at Betterton Beach, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, enjoying boating, swimming and eating blue crabs. Bess’s parents would also go on these vacations, all renting separate beach cottages next to one another. Vacations were also taken at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware.
Much time was also spent at her grandparents farm near Massey, Maryland, taking Roy and Mary and helping her parents and grandparents.
Caring for her parents in their later years took a great deal of Bess’s time and energy until after her mother’s death in 1952 and her father’ death in 1954. Her sister, Mary Glasgow, also died in 1952. In an August 1954 letter Bess relates that she and her daughter Mary took a vacation and she was feeling much better.
In correspondence written to John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick Bess related Mary’s good progress in her school work and asked John advice about Roy’s preparations for the United States Military Academy. Roy entered the Academy in 1954.
Bess wrote a letter to her mother-in-law, Claudia Kirkpatrick on January 6, 1955 thanking her for the gift which helped with their trip to visit Roy at West Point and gave Mary spending money of her own. She and Mary left December 23, 1954 to visit Roy, spending a week there which included Mary’s attending formal dances with Roy and friends.
In July 1955 Bess wrote to Eleanor and John Kirkpatrick advising them she had been diagnosed with cancer and would have surgery that week. Expressing that it was a very difficult letter to write, she told them she had made out a will, and as they had discussed, she wanted her children to go with them.
The cancer ultimately led to Bess’ death on May 10, 1956. She was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D. C. alongside Spencer.