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Franklin Joseph Wilgus
1917-1942

"Some day we shall meet again
We will our love renew
Until that time I love you still
Till God brings me to you. Wife."

Inscription on the headstone for Franklin J. Wilgus

Franklin Joseph Wilgus (Frank) was born on August 2, 1917. While his Army enlistment record shows his birth date to be July 2, West Virginia birth records and his headstone note an August date of birth. He was born to Stanley and Jean (Jennie) Gallant Wilgus in Raleigh County. By 1930, they were joined by Wanda and Eloise. Mr. and Mrs. Wilgus were not living together by 1940. The 1940 Federal Census records that Mrs. Wilgus was no longer living at home but was living in Marion County. Mr. Wilgus was living in National in Monongalia County with the three children. The status of Mr. Wilgus was listed as married, but as divorced for Jean Wilgus. Mr. Wilgus was working as a blacksmith and miner. Franklin Wilgus was listed as a laborer and was 23 years old.

On August 14, 1941, Franklin Wilgus enlisted into the Army Air Corps at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio. His occupation was listed as an actor, though he was a West Virginia University student. His enlistment record shows he had two years of college. Research did not uncover when he learned to fly, but the death notice which appeared in the Fairmont Times (“Lieut. Wilgus,” June 15, 1942, p. 1) states that he had graduated from the civilian flight school at the Morgantown airport. He then graduated from Kelly Field, near San Antonio, Texas, and began his career as a flight instructor at Randolph Field, also near San Antonio, in March 1942. (“Coolidge Youth Dies in Crash of Army Plane,” Mexia Weekly Herald, June 19, 1942, p. 3.) When he enlisted, he was single, but by the time of his death, he was married. (“2 Randolph Men Killed in Crash,” Austin American, June 12, 1942, p. 12.)

A Texas death certificate for Frank Wilgus (available on Fold3), a Texas birth certificate for Franklin Wilgus Jr. (from Ancestry.com), and the 1940 census records document that Franklin Wilgus had married a young woman named Garnet Emma Whoolery, who lived not far from the Wilgus family in Monongalia County, West Virginia. They moved to Texas when he was transferred to the Texas air fields. To them was born Franklin Joseph Wilgus Jr. on May 2, 1942, in Texas.

Tragically, the next month, on June 12, 1942, several Texas newspapers carried the sad news that Frank Wilgus died in an airplane crash. According to the Lubbock Morning Avalanche (“Flying Instructor and Cadet Are Killed,” June 12, 1942, p. 1), “The men were on a routine training flight.” With 2nd Lieutenant Frank Wilgus was cadet Stansell B. Sellers. They died in a field seven miles northwest of Randolph Field.

According to the June article about the incident, which appeared in the Fairmont Times:

News of Lieutenant Wilgus’ death was telegrammed to Fairmont last night by the War Department. Sergeant R. A. Watts, of the city police force, received the message from the Western Union office and took the telegram to the Wilgus home.

Upon receipt of the telegram, Mrs. Wilgus became hysterical. Late last night she and a daughter went to Morgantown to notify her husband who is employed there.

The remains of Lt. Wilgus were transported to West Virginia. He was buried in the Beverly Hills Cemetery near Morgantown.
grave marker

Grave marker for 2nd Lt. Franklin J. Wilgus in Beverly Hills Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens



Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
June 2018

Honor...

Franklin Joseph Wilgus

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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