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Betit, Joseph Washington - Juneau  
Surrounded by members of his family, Lieutenant Colonel USA Retired Joseph Washington Betit (age 92), died peacefully in Juneau, Alaska, on January 27, 2016. Joseph was born in Whitingham, Vermont, on February 22, 1923, to Joseph T. and Maisie (Busby) Betit. The doctor's sleigh overturned several times during a Nor'easter while in transit to the birth. Joe's early life in Whitingham was spent assisting his father with various family businesses including logging, sugaring, farming, and the lumber mill. Joseph met the love of his life, Technical Sergeant Ethel Mae Letourneau, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Ethel resigned her post with the Women's Army Corps, and they were married in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 5, 1946. For 54 years while Joseph was in the service and in State and Federal employment, they lived and raised their seven children in Japan, Canada, Panama-Canal Zone, Arlington, Virginia, Montpelier, Vermont, Juneau, Alaska, and elsewhere in the United States. Joseph's military career began in 1943 when he joined the United States Army during World War II and served in the 87th Infantry Division. He began his training as an infantry private on May 13, 1943, at Camp Wheeler, GA. He was promoted through enlisted grades to technical sergeant and was platoon sergeant of the Third Platoon, C Co., 1st Ba., 345 Infantry Regiment, 87th Division. Serving with his unit, he saw World War II action in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany, including the Battle of the Bulge. After the war with Germany ended, he attended Officer Candidate School at Fontainebleau, France, and received his commission as second lieutenant on July 7, 1945. Joseph was mustered out in May 1946, and transferred to the Infantry Officers Reserve Corps. In November of that year, he enlisted as a staff sergeant with the regular army and reported to active duty as a second lieutenant, U.S. Army Reserve on November, 5, 1947. Joseph became a first lieutenant on August 30, 1945. He served as Assistant Inspector General in Eighth Army Headquarters in the Far East Command (Japan and Korea) from September 1949 to September 1952. He then served a year at First Army Headquarters, Governor's Island, N.Y., as Assistant Chief, Officer's Branch, Adjutant General's Section. His promotion to captain came on January 26, 1953, and he was assigned to the Pentagon from September, 1955, to September 1958, where he accepted a commission to the regular Army. He was Personnel Staff Officer, Intelligence and Security Officer, and Adjutant of the U.S. Army Arctic test center at Fort Churchill, Canada, from June, 1959, through June, 1961. As a major he was again assigned to the Pentagon and then as Adjutant General at Ft. Devens, Mass. Joseph and family moved to the Panama Canal Zone where he oversaw a large U.S. Government printing installation and eliminated illegal activities. In addition to numerous service medals he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with First Oak Leaf cluster, Legion of Merit (Panama Canal Zone), Army Commendation Medal with first Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Combat Infantryman's badge. In 2003 The Vermont House passed NO. R-72, House Concurrent Resolution Honoring Former Commissioner of Social Welfare Joseph W. Betit on his 80th Birthday (H.C.R.40). Joseph had always wanted to see Alaska, and to that end he retired from the U.S. Army in 1968 and moved to Juneau. In 1969 Alaska's Governor Keith Miller appointed Joseph as Commissioner of Health and Welfare. Joseph, Ethel and family lived in Juneau until he was asked by Vermont's Governor Deane Davis to return to his native state as Commissioner of Social Welfare. The family lived in Montpelier, Vermont, until 1974, when they moved to Arlington, Virginia, where Joseph worked as a consultant for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In 1978 Joseph and family returned to Juneau where he worked for the Alaska Department of Health, Education and Welfare as Director of Finance and Administration, and Assistant Commissioner prior to his retiring in 1988. Joseph loved his family and his country. He enjoyed the outdoors, fishing, hunting, hiking, and boating. Joseph was also a poet and many retirees from the U.S. Army, States of Alaska and Vermont, and the Federal Government were honored with his prose as they left public service. Joseph was pre-deceased by Ethel on February 10, 2000. He is survived by one sister, Cora Campbell of Barre, VT; his sons and daughters: Joseph and his wife Amy (Snyder), Pungoteague, VA, Rod and his wife Ellen (Lupro) of St. George, UT and Gig Harbor, WA, Christina Betit-Deakins and her husband Raymond Deakins of Washington, VA, Suzanne Betit of Salt Lake City, UT, Raphael Betit and his wife Ana (Orihuela Silva) of Juneau, AK, Michele Betit of Woodbury, VT, Marlene Betit and her husband Kenneth Lorden, Jr., East Montpelier, VT; and their eleven grandchildren; 14 great grandchildren, many nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his brothers and sisters Mae Clough, Maisie Dockum, Raphael Betit, John Betit, Charlie Betit and Roy Betit. The family wishes to thank Joseph's very special caregiving team for the exceptional, compassionate care that he received including Hans Snyder with Sunny Days Home Care, Melanie Weed and Kayann Stone with Hospice & Home Care of Juneau, and Dr. Than of Family Practice. Funeral services will be held in Juneau, Alaska, at St. Paul's Catholic Church at 5:00 PM on Monday, February 1, 2016. A reception will follow in the church hall. Internment will follow on Tuesday at the Shrine of St. Therese. A summer memorial will be held in Vermont in mid-July. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Hospice & Home Care of Juneau or St. Paul's Catholic Church.
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Published in The Juneau Empire from Jan. 29 to Feb. 28, 2016
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