William Wheeler Bassford M.D., A.A.F.P., 88
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CROMWELL, Conn. -- William Wheeler Bassford M.D., A.A.F.P., 88, of Cromwell, Conn., formerly of Northfield, Conn., passed away peacefully on Feb. 19, 2014, at Middlesex Hospital. He was the beloved husband of Frances Zito Mathis Bassford.
Dr. Bassford was born on March 9, 1925, in Watertown, Conn., to the late Zelda Wheeler and Harold Elmore Bassford.
He is survived by his loving wife, Frances; three children, son Jonathan P. Bassford of Wellington, Nev., son Andrew Bassford and wife Jean of Portland, and daughter Zelda WB Alibozek and husband Frederick Alibozek of Peterborough, N.H., all from a previous marriage; two stepsons, Jeffery Wheeler and wife Susan of Sheffield, Mass., and Attorney David J. Mathis of Wethersfield, Conn., and two stepdaughters, Candace Voytershark and her husband Frank Voytershark of Roxbury, Conn., and Heidi Wheeler Gould and husband John Gould of St. Thomas, Virgin Island. He also leaves his wonderful grandchildren whom he loved dearly: Wanda Martins, Andrew Alibozek, Emily and Katherine Bassford; and step grandchildren, Mary and Hope Mathis, Elliott Hoben and Jesse Alibozek. In addition he leaves his sister, Dorothy Ann Norwash of Southbury, Conn. He was predeceased by his first wife, Wanda Cylkowski Wheeler Bassford; and brother, Paige Bassford and his wife Cellie of Norwalk, Conn. He also leaves many nieces and nephews.
Dr. Bassford graduated from Watertown High School, June of 1943. He was active in sports and as a teenager was involved with the Boy Scouts, Watertown Auxiliary Fire Department, and was a Civil Defense Airplane Spotter. He entered the U.S. Army in July 1943, was trained as an Infantryman and was active in all four of the major battles of Europe with the 104th Infantry Regiment, (26th Yankee Division), and was active in front-line combat in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Czechoslovakia.
On March 9, 1944, he was transferred to the 2nd Cavalry (Mechanized) As cadre, he was to train as Infantry, 124 U.S. Army prisoners convicted of selling railroad cars of American supplies on the black market. Shortly after the European War ended the 2nd Cavalry was directed by General Patton to go behind the Russian lines and remove the world-famed Lippizan horses from Russian control. This was successfully accomplished by the 2nd Cavalry.
He earned the Expert Infantry Badge, the Combat Infantry Badge, Four Battle Stars of the European Campaign, (Northern France, Rhineland, Saarland, Ardennes-Bulge, (Battle of the Bulge) Germany), and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Fourrager, the Belgian Croix-de-Guerre, the World War II Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Army Occupation Medal, and the American Campaign Medal. In 1979 he was also awarded the Bronze Star for heroism, and a Commendation from the Connecticut National Guard as a Minute Man, for a combat action accomplished in 1944.
His military service was very arduous and unpleasant. His rise to platoon sergeant was spurred by tragedy as he was the only member of his platoon not wounded or killed in action. In November of 1944 his platoon was pinned down by enemy fire in a field in eastern France. With several of his companions injured or killed, and with the mortars unable to reach the German machine guns,
William Wheeler Bassford M.D.
Dr. Bassford volunteered to drag a satchel of anti-tank grenades to a nearby hill. He tossed the grenades into the machine gun nest, and freed his platoon and company to move on. For this he was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroism. With his passing we have lost a true American hero.
After the war, he entered Tufts University (1946) and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree (Biology and Chemistry). He then entered Tufts Medical School and graduated in 1954 with a Doctor of Medicine Degree. He was an Intern and Resident in Internal Medicine at Waterbury Hospital until he retired in 1991. He was a member of the American Academy of family practice since 1974 and the CT State Medical Society since 1956. He practiced medicine in Watertown from 1956 to 1991. He was the physician for the Waterbury Extended Care Facility from 1965 until 1988, and was medical Director at the Taft School from 1967 until 1991.
For many years he volunteered his service for the Watertown Visiting Nurses Association and their Well Baby Clinic. Medical Consultant for the CT State Welfare Department at Waterbury and Torrington offices, he was also the Physician for the Watertown Police Department. He was charter member of the Watertown Rotary Club, and was awarded their Paul Harris Fellowship. Bill was longtime member of the Watertown Foundation, member of its Board of Trustees, member of the Republican Town Committee of Litchfield for 20 years, long time member of the Watertown Oakville Veterans of Foreign Wars, member of the Yankee Division Veterans Association, a member of the Cavalry Association, member of the Upper Guernsey Town Pipe Band, and a member of the First Congregational Church of Watertown. He was a dedicated and respected general practitioner, and was devoted to his patients.
He enjoyed working on his 1790s home, the J Turner Inn, in Northfield, driving his farm tractor, cutting and splitting firewood, making homemade maple syrup, horseback riding, chess, tennis, swimming, and classical music, but most of all, he loved his books and was an avid reader. Giving books to his children and grandchildren was one of the greatest joys of his life. He also loved his family, friends and neighbors, for they meant the world to him.
Dr. Bassford's family wishes to thank the doctors and nurses who attended him during his several illnesses and in his final days.
All services for Dr. Bassford will be held on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Calling hours will be held that morning from 10-11:30 a.m. at Hickcox Funeral Home, 195 Main St., Watertown. Burial with military honors will follow in Evergreen Cemetery, North Street, Watertown, and then a memorial service celebrating his life at 12:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 40 DeForest St., Watertown, with the Rev. Dr. William J. Zito officiating. For additional information or to leave an online message of condolence, please visit www.hickcoxfuneralhome.com.
In lieu of flowers, memorial
contributions may be made to:
First Congregational Church
40 DeForest St.
Watertown, Connecticut 06795 Watertown United
305 Main St.
Watertown, Connecticut 06795
or CT Rivers Council
Boy Scouts of America
60 Darlin St.
East Hartford, Connecticut 06108
Hickcox Funeral Home Inc
195 Main St Watertown, CT 06795
Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Feb. 23, 2014