Wallace Bassett Gatrell of Farmington, Utah, died peacefully 13 December 2022 at Barton Creek Assisted Living in Bountiful. His son, Garth, was at the bedside caring for him.
Wallace was born in Salt Lake City 25 January 1921, the first child of Cyrus Grosvenor Gatrell and Lois Knight Bassett Gatrell. He grew up at 749 Green Street with his younger brother, Gordon. He attended West High School, where he enrolled in Junior ROTC. After graduating in June 1938, he joined the Utah National Guard. That Fall, he started at the University of Utah, and joined ROTC. His college was interrupted in March 1941, when his National Guard unit was called to active duty. Except for a brief gap after World War II, he was in the Army until 1972. He served as a cadet, enlisted soldier, warrant officer, and commissioned officer, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He spent over 20 years in the Artillery, beginning with 75 mm howitzers and finishing with nuclear-capable Honest John rockets. He then spent more than 10 years in the Finance Corps. His military service began during the lead-up to World War II, and continued during the War itself, the Korean War, and into the Cold War. His decorations included the Silver Star, two awards of the Bronze Star with “V” device, and the Purple Heart.
Wallace’s unit sailed from San Francisco for the Philippines on 6 December 1941. The next morning he was on deck, seasick and leaning over the rail “feeding the fish.” He noticed from the wake that the transport had made a U-turn. Pearl Harbor had been attacked, and the transport was not equipped for combat. The ship headed back to San Francisco, where the unit was loaded onto a requisitioned liner, with artillery pieces positioned on deck for defense. Redirected to Hawaii, they arrived 23 December 1941; the first reinforcements since the Pearl Harbor attack. Their artillery was emplaced to defend against possible Japanese landings. He earned four campaign stars in the Pacific as his unit went from Hawaii to Kwajalein, Saipan and Tinian, the Philippines, and Okinawa.
Wallace earned five more campaign stars in some of the most critical actions of the Korean War. He took part in the defense of the Pusan Perimeter, the fighting retreat after the Chinese attacked across the Yalu River, and the Battle of Chipyong-ni, often called the Korean War's “Battle of Gettysburg.”
Before shipping out in 1941, Wallace asked Ruth Josephine Barton to marry him. She said “no.” He then asked her to wait for him. Ruth again said “no.” But as they corresponded during his years in the Pacific, she had a change of heart, and wrote to say “yes” in April 1944. When his ship docked in Seattle in July 1945, he called Ruth in Salt Lake City, and asked, “When are we getting married?” She answered, “I’m free next week.” They were married in the Salt Lake Temple 18 July 1945. The Temple was closed for summer maintenance, but Elder Mark E. Peterson opened it to perform their ceremony.
Wallace and Ruth were a devoted team until her death 72 years later in 2017. They raised 5 sons and 3 daughters, and mourned a stillborn son. During Wallace’s military career, he went back to finish his Accounting degree at the University of Utah, and earned a Master of Commerce degree from the University of Richmond. The family lived in Japan, Germany, the Territory of Alaska, and several States before settling in Farmington.
The family’s military adventures included sailing to Alaska on the same troopship that had taken Wallace to the Korean War; camping down the unpaved ALCAN Highway while driving back to the Lower 48; troopship voyages to and from Japan; climbing Mount Fujiyama there; living in an unused hospital ward in Colorado; flying to Germany in a piston-engine airliner; returning by troopship past the Statue of Liberty; and living on the Petersburg Battlefield, where the younger boys could find Civil War minié balls.
Wallace retired from active duty in 1972. His example influenced family from three later generations to serve in the military. He then worked 25 years as a Budget Officer with the Utah Bureau of Finance, retiring from there in 1997.
Wallace was known for his sense of humor and quiet generosity, never seeking credit for doing good or helping others. He made skilled use of his extensive collection of tools. He had a remarkable scope of knowledge, constantly adding to it through his love of reading. An example of rectitude and unwavering devotion, he sacrificed for his children and supported Ruth in her many musical activities over the years.
A faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he served in many callings, including Servicemen’s Group Leader in the Pacific; Branch President in Germany; and District President in Korea. After his second retirement, Wallace and Ruth filled a Member Locator Service Mission from 1997 to 2017.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Gordon; his beloved wife, Ruth; a stillborn son; their second son, Arn; and a great-granddaughter, Eliana Hanton. He is survived by 7 children, Shawna Dortzbach (Jack), Kaysville, UT; Cloyd (Kathryn), Carlisle, PA; Garth (Cheri); Layton, UT; Aleta Grandy (Paul), Midland, TX; Tammy Van Tassell (Gene), Salt Lake City; Lance (Laurie), Castle Rock, CO; and Quinn (Jenny), Farmington, UT; a daughter-in-law, Venita Gatrell (Arn), Salt Lake City; 45 grandchildren; and 107 great-grandchildren.
Viewing will be 20 January 2023 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at Russon Brothers Mortuary, 1941 North Main Street, Farmington, UT. Funeral services will be 21 January at 11:30 am in the Rock Church, 272 North Main Street, Farmington, UT, preceded by additional viewing from 10:00 - 11:00 am, and followed by burial with military honors in the Farmington City Cemetery.
Funeral services will be streamed live on the Russon Mortuary & Crematory Facebook page and on this obituary page. The live stream will begin about 10-15 minutes prior to the services and will be posted below.
The ward will also be providing a link to the services. This link will include the cemetery. https://zoom.us/j/94070993120
The family thanks A-plus Hospice, others who assisted, and Wallace’s friend and neighbor, Gary Peterson, for their caring help. In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to the American Red Cross (which held a special place in Wallace’s heart for their help after his wounding in Korea), or to a charity that helps veterans.