Soldier Of Fortune Saw World For Himself
By WILL LESTER
Record Staff Writer
Gary Paschal left Olympia mill village when he was 17, fought as a soldier of fortune, traveled the world and ran for congress, but he never abandoned Olympia or St. Luke’s Lutheran Church near his childhood home.
On Sundays, he leaves his Hermitage House apartment in Shandon and drives across town to Olympia where he attends a service and then visits with relatives a couple of blocks from the church.
The 85-year-old man’s health problems limit his activities and eating habits but if he gets restless, he will don his coat and him Homburg hat and roam the city or stop at a late-night cafe for conversation.
“You travel fast when you travel alone,” Paschal said recently. He seemed a bit moody. He still misses his wife, who died about two years ago.
PASCHAL WAS BORN in northwestern Richland County near the Blaney community by he grew up with 13 brothers and sisters in Olympia.
Relatives tell the story of a time when smallpox broke out in Olympia and one section of the community was quarantined. Fearful that the smallpox vaccination would endanger her children, Paschal’s mother took the children from the house and hid them behind a tree until the health officials had gone. None of the children got smallpox.
As a boy, he read the Bible and other book to a blind pastor who lived hear his home. His niece said, however, he was a feisty youngster and “if you crossed him, you had to whip him.”
He attended Newberry fitting school before joining the National Guard in 1916 at the age of 21.
He developed his love for military life when his National Guard unit went to Mexico for several months to aide General John J. Pershing in his search for Pancho Villa. Paschal served as a scout.
“We were never under fire but twice and that was from cattle thieves,” Paschal said.
When World War I broke out, he joined the Navy and served on a destroyer based in Ireland.
PASCHAL’S REAL adventures, however began after the war.
He had returned to Boston to visit a girl he met while in the Navy and had given her a ring to. The girl called Paschal into her living room one day and gave him the ring back, saying that the marriage could never work because their backgrounds were too different.
Not knowing what he wanted to do, he drifted aimlessly around Boston for several days.
One day while he was sitting on the Boston Commons, a man came through raising an army to flight in Central America. He was offering $25 a day for riflemen and $50 for machine gunner.
The stories of his days in Central America are his favorite stories. He often talks of these days when he speaks at church or meeting of the Mason or Lions.
FOR FOUR YEARS, Paschal and the mercenary army stormed the coast of the Honduras and fought in wars in five Central American countries, financed by American companies. Theodore Roosevelt once called this type of war “dollar diplomacy.”
While Paschal was fighting in Central America, he regularly sent money home to his mother.
“It was a bunch of cut-throats and good-for-nothing,” Paschal said with a touch of pride. “You didn’t ask any questions about people’s names. You often just referred to them by the name of the state they were from.”
Paschal told of snakes in the jungle that could “jump their entire length and of trapping giant lighting bugs to use as a flashlight in the swamps.
BY THE END of four years, Paschal had collected a .22 in his rump, a sizable amount of money and a case of yellow fever.
Before he returned to the United states, Paschal was involved in several lucrative shipping deals and returned home with a large grubstake.
But after Paschal had told his story, he cautions the listener, that “there ain’t no romance to it.”
Paschal returned to Richland County, finished college and attended law school. He became magistrate in Olympia. Before long he met Eugenia Adams, a schoolteacher in Olympia, and they were married in a union that lasted 52 years. The couple had one child, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
By 1932, he was a member of Columbia City Council where he served a total of 12 years. He ran for Congress unsuccessfully against incumbent Wade Hampton Fulmer in 1934 and 1936.
While in city council, he led an attempt to buy the electric utility, an effort he says would have prevented the high prices the consumer faces today.
“People fought it and threatened to burn my house down,” said Paschal. “We could have taken the property tax off homes. I wasn’t clever enough to pull it off, though.”
MANY THINGS have changed since Paschal, retired seven years, was practicing law. “There are so many lawyers around I don’t see how they’re making a living unless they’re stealing from each other.” Paschal also noted that there is less prejudice in Columbia now and the “aristocrats” of the town are less hated than before.
Paschal still gets a gleam in his eye when he talks about the days of figting and adventure in Central America. “I could go to New Orleans and raise an army of 500 in 30 days.” Paschal claimed. “But it’s not romantic sloggin through mud and fighting ticks…”
But the folks back home are entranced when he tells of his experiences, combinded with his knowledge of history.
“That’s a fine man, he can talk about anything,” said Bennie Murray, a nephew. “He didn’t learn it all from books either. He went to see for himself.”