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The true life story of Waite - Part 2

... it's all over Waite  

by Russ Priestley

When we left Waite Patten last month, he had received from his parents the begrudged approval to go to sea just shy of his 16th birthday. The ship, the Belmont, was a square-rigged bark out of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The skipper was Captain Fred Ladd who was skeptical of hiring a mere lad to be a deck boy. He cautioned it was hard - men's work. Sailing before the mast was Waite's fondest dream and he begged for the job. Mentioning the fact that both of his parents were from Nova Scotia and his uncle was a captain were the convincing factors.

The boy raced home to tell his parents. That announcement enraged his father. "Young man you are not going to sea!" Waite realized his father wanted his eldest son to get the education which was denied to him. When all had calmed down, the father stated, "Let us know where you are so we'll know you're alive.

It took about a month to load the ship with lumber and provisions. Waite had to sign on for three years because the ship was headed for Buenos Aires, Argentina and the voyage took 66 days. On arrival, he found many ships docked there from all over the world. One was from Germany with a boy his own age and he could speak English. It was a pleasant surprise to find someone other than men the same age as his father.

From here the complete details in the book will be compacted. An apprenticeship as a carpenter was followed by duty on board a schooner out of Bath, Maine to the West Indies. At 19 he was a lumberjack before returning to sea aboard a brigantine, Nova Scotia to the West Indies.

A complete change of work came when he was hired by the Boston Elevated Street Railway on trolley cars for two and a half years, but again he was lured by the desire to go to sea. February, 1912 he was on a schooner which was headed for Newfoundland; then it was two months as a farm worker in Saskatchewan; three months working in a walnut grove in California; one year at a ranch in Bothell, Washington, followed by two years as a carpenter.

Again, he could not resist the call to sea. In 1917, with a third mate's license, he worked on the U.S. Mail Steamer, New York City to London. That duty was followed by a merchant marine ship from Baltimore to Genoa, Italy. Waite served during World War I with the Merchant Marines and the U.S. Navy, becoming an Ensign and later a Lieutenant, Junior Grade. After being relieved from Navy duty in 1919, it was back to working as a carpenter.

In February, 1922 he slowed down to get married. One year later his daughter Alice (the author of "Waite's Story) was born and he continued his carpentry trade, even building his own home in Malden, Massachusetts.  But wait, Waite was not cured of his seafaring. It was back to sea on a merchant ship in 1929 to France and later to Greenland in 1942. His final voyage was in 1943 on a merchant ship to Iran. At this point he suffered from stomach cancer.

His wife died, in April, 1948, but by September, 1950, he married again. Waite battled cancer from 1943 to 1967, first stomach, later lung cancer. He bought a home in Melrose, Massachusetts in September, 1958. By 1967 he endured lung surgery and cobalt treatments and it was August of 1967 when our world traveler, seaman, jack of all trades and loving husband and father died in his Melrose home.

March 3, 2006

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