Back Bay Wildfowl Guild Memories: Paul de Witt

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June 5, 1911 – November 27, 2008

Paul was the 9th of the 10 siblings and the last living that all lived in the deWitt Cottage. Paul was two years old when he lost his father Cornelius and only 12 when his mother Cecile passed away. His two oldest sisters, Cecile 22 years old and Elizabeth 20 years old took over as heads of household and raised the remaining eight children in their family home. 

Paul graduated in 1929 from Maury High School in Norfolk, VA. He only missed one day of school in four years despite a daily round-trip commute of 35 miles by light rail and trolley from the deWitt Cottage to the steps of the high school. He graduated from Virginia Military Institute; Class of 1933. He served in World War II as a First Lieutenant in the 45th Division Thunderbirds, 157th Infantry Regiment, and fought in the Allied Invasion at Anzio Beachhead, Italy, in January 1944. In May he participated in the breakout battle for Rome; marching with his fellow soldiers and the liberation forces into Rome on June 4, 1944. He was buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery shortly after his death on November 27, 2008. 

We were fortunate in 2018 to be gifted Paul’s VMI Cadet Jacket. Mrs. Ewing Fears Best, a local resident and recent guild member, was at the deWitt Cottage in 1987 for a yard sale held by the deWitt sisters. She found the jacket waded up and purchased it for $5.00. She had it cleaned and pressed; then mounted and framed as a present for her husband who was also a VMI graduate. Her husband passed away not too long ago and she felt like the cadet jacket should come home to the deWitt Cottage. Thank you, Ewing, for this most precious and valuable gift! 

Paul was born June 5, 1911, in Virginia Beach, son of the late Cornelius and Cécile Amélie Mottu deWitt. His family home, deWitt Cottage, built in 1895, was the first brick cottage on the oceanfront, the last original one remaining and is on the Virginia Landmarks Register. It is now home to the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum and the Back Bay Wildfowl Guild. Following his honorable discharge from the Army in 1946, Paul and Naomi built the Blue Water Apartments in Virginia Beach and operated them for 48 years. He was employed by Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company for 43 years and received national recognition as top sales representative. He was a member of Galilee Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach and in his mature years, served as an usher for Sunday services. He served as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, and was a charter member and past secretary of the Virginia Beach-Combers Kiwanis Club. He was also a charter member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Virginia Beach Post. 

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