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About Utah: For Memorial Day, woman remembers fathers service — in the Civil War

SALT LAKE CITY — For Memorial Day this week, all sorts of people took time to especially remember fathers for their service in the various wars that have protected and preserved America.

But it's highly likely that only one remembered a father who fought in THE war that preserved America.

Bathsheba Fisher Thomander's father, Joseph A. Fisher, served in the Civil War.

This is the provenance: Bathsheba is 94. When she was born in 1916, her father was 74. Many years before that, in 1862, when he was a mere lad of 21, Joseph Fisher joined the Union Army when Abraham Lincoln requested his service.

Of the 7 billion people currently living, who else can drop a line like that?

I'm hearing this remarkable family history from Bathsheba herself in the parlor of her comfortable condominium in Salt Lake City. But I don't have to take her word for anything. She's armed with proof.

In her lap is a copy of "Utah and the Civil War," a book published in 1929 by her mother, Margaret M. Fisher. The book tells the whole story. How in April of 1862, when the Civil War was a year old and it was not looking all that promising, President Lincoln sent a distress message via the secretary of war to Brigham Young in the Utah Territory. The Indians were wreaking havoc with the mail, preventing important communication from making it to the West Coast. Men needed to be mustered into the Union Army immediately to safeguard the mail route.

Of the 106 men who responded, Joseph Fisher was one of them. He was a private in an outfit led by Capt. Lot Smith. For three months, until Gen. Patrick Connor arrived from California with regular Army troops, Lot's men guarded the mail. Only one volunteer died — and not because of Indians but because he drowned while crossing the Lewis fork of the Snake River — but several were wounded, including Joe Fisher, who took an arrow in his back.

He recovered nicely, although for the rest of his life, he had a small hole in his back.

Joseph Fisher was just getting started when he helped win the Civil War. He settled down in Coalville, married two wives, at the same time, which was allowed then, built them each a house, had 11 children, and by the time he was 65, had outlived both wives and raised all the kids.

He moved to Salt Lake City in 1906 to sell horses, which is when he met and married Barbara, who, at 35, was 30 years younger and eager to start a family.

Barbara and Joseph had five children in the next 10 years. Bathsheba was the last in the line. She was 6 years old in 1922 when the man she calls "Papa" died at the age of 80.

Bashie, as she prefers to be called, recalls living with her father like it was yesterday. She also recalls yesterday like it was yesterday. At 94, she is remarkably lucid and, like other people whose body and mind have made it intact into their 90s, tends not to boast about getting there, as if that might jinx it (or maybe not boasting about it is the secret).

"Oh, I don't know," she responds when asked how she's managed to stay so young and beautiful, and then says maybe it has something to do with the filtered water she drinks.

Neither does she boast about her dad fighting in the Civil War. (It was her daughter-in-law, Nanci, and son-in-law, Mark, who alerted the Deseret News about Bashie's ageless story.)

But the young/old woman's eyes do take on a glow when she talks about the "splendid" man her mother married.

While Bashie doesn't recall ever discussing with her father his fighting in the Civil War, she does recall him getting off the streetcar after a day at work and her running down to greet him. She remembers his large hands drying her off after Saturday night baths.

And near the time he died, she remembers wandering out to the barn and finding him there, working. He looked up and told her she might get hurt and that she should go find her mother.

"He didn't give me a big hug and say, 'Oh, I'm so glad you found me,' " says Bashie, still, 88 years later, obviously wishing he had.

"I'm so looking forward to seeing my father again," says the ever-faithful woman. "I've got a few things I'd like to ask him."

Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com.