My grandpa-OJ Preece
Contributor: BlantonRoots Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
My grandfather Oral John Preece was born June 10th 1901 in Inkom, Idaho. He weighed in at 13 pounds. He was born to Elvira (Ella) Elizabeth Hickman and John Isaac Preece, the second son, third child. The Preece farm /ranch in Inkom was not far from one of the Shoshone Indian Reservations. I remember many stories of watching the Ghost Dances, or funeral dances that the Indians performed. He described the dances , the dress, the songs, drum beats, and how they buried their dead. He was friends with some of the Indian boys his age. Though his family lived in "Mormon" country, nevertheless it was still a bit of the old West as he told about gunslingers and other excitements. He claimed he was born on a horse-though I don't believe that, though he was an excellent rider. Ella Hickman Preece's father was a Railroad man from Chicago, who had changed his name to Sheldon, as he was a deserter from the Union Army during the Civil War. After her father's death, her mother with her young family moved to Idaho joining the Latter Day Saints and remarrying a man named Williams. OJ's father's family joined the Latter Day Saint's in England/Wales and journeyed to America. John Isaac's grandfather died crossing the plain's but his grandmother with her young family finished the journey ending up in southern Idaho. Peter Preece, OJ's grandfather Peter Preece was killed in the Black Hawk War in Southern Utah.
OJ, as a fifteen year old boy joined the Army when the US went into World War I. His mother went and got him, showing that he was too young. He was tall and well built for his age. A year later, he enlisted again and was a mechanic in the Army Air Corp. He caught the Flu there, survived, but was sent home to recuperate. In 1919 at a dance in Pocatello, Idaho, he met Viola Pugmire. It was love at first sight! They eloped on a dare one week later on March 30th 1917. It lasted 62 years and eight children: Audrian Joanne, Edson Eugene, Oral Junior, Bobby Orlo, Teddy Delbert, Richard Keith, Ronald James and Gary Dean were born into that union. It was solemnized in the Salt Lake Temple in 1933. Audrian died just days from her 14th birthday of pneumonia and Ronald James died as a baby.
OJ started a road construction company-Preece Engineering- and educated himself as a construction engineer. Grandpa only had an 8th grade education, but loved roads and machinery and learned much in the Army Aircorp. They lived in Provo, Utah. They had jobs all over the Western US, particularly in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. They took care of both of their families in the Great Depression, being fairly prosperous. My dad loved those years, as they traveled allover, working hard, but playing hard too, and then back to school in Provo.
The summer of 1941, the Provo bank foreclosed on the company and it closed. But Grandpa moved his family to Ogden, Utah where he then worked as a engineer on the Railroads.
After World War II, where three of his served in the military: Ed, JR and Bob. Grandpa got on as a Construction Engineer for the newly formed Civil Service of the USA. He would work in Alaska, Saudi Arabia. He had some very interesting stories about Saudi Arabia and Islamic culture there. The family then moved to southern California. They lived in Guam, constructing roads, visiting Hawaii and Japan, more roads. Upon moving back, they were transferred to Fort Ore and lived in Carmel Valley. They were again called to work in Thailand, visiting Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and India, building roads. Returning to the US in 1966, he would retire and in 1972 would move back to Ogden. I loved OJ and Olies return to Ogden, where they were often at our family parties and get togethers. I grew very close to them at during this time. Grandpa would die of a heart attack one day after his 62nd wedding anniversary, March 31st 1981. Grandma called me and told me that Grandpa had fallen and was unresponsive. Rodney watched the children, as I called Mom at the hospital and Uncle Bob just in case he was home and went to their home. The ambulance had taken Grandpa and attendants were working on him and I took Grandma to the hospital, where Mom and Uncle Bob met us. Grandpa had not survived. He died with his boots on! Loved my Grandpa OJ!