The fi­nal Civil War pen­sion — $73.13 — passes into his­tory

N.C. woman dies at 90; dad fought for North and South

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - LIVING - BY IRA SHAPIRA The Wash­ing­ton Post

The check ar­rived ev­ery month: $73.13. Irene Triplett, who lived in a North Carolina nurs­ing home, rarely talked about the source of the money.

In fact, she was the fi­nal Amer­i­can to re­ceive a pen­sion from the Civil War — $877.56 a year from the Depart­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs.

The jaw-drop­ping fact that some­one in the year 2020 was still earn­ing a Civil War pen­sion was the re­sult of two fac­tors.

First, Triplett suf­fered cog­ni­tive im­pair­ments, qual­i­fy­ing her for the life­long pen­sion as a help­less adult child of a vet­eran.

Se­cond, her father, Mose Triplett, who had served as a pri­vate in the Con­fed­er­ate army be­fore de­fect­ing to the Union, was on his se­cond mar­riage when she was born in 1930. He was a few weeks shy of turn­ing 84.

On May 31, Irene Triplett died at Ac­cordius Health, a long-term care fa­cil­ity in Wilkes­boro, N.C., at age 90. A rel­a­tive said she broke her hip a few days ear­lier and died of com­pli­ca­tions. She never mar­ried, and her only brother died in 1996.

Triplett’s story is a pow­er­ful re­minder that the Civil War wasn’t all that long ago, said Columbia Univer­sity his­to­rian Stephanie McCurry.

“Just like the Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments is­sue, which is blow­ing up right now, I think this is a re­minder of the long reach of slav­ery, se­ces­sion and the Civil War,” she said.

“It re­minds you of the bat­tle over slav­ery and its le­git­i­macy in the United States.”

Many more wid­ows and chil­dren of other long-ago sol­diers are still alive. Ac­cord­ing to the VA, there are 33 sur­viv­ing spouses and 18 chil­dren re­ceiv­ing pen­sion ben­e­fits re­lated to the 1898 Span­ish-Amer­i­can War.

Triplett’s sta­tus as a

Civil War pen­sioner be­gan gain­ing at­ten­tion in 2011, when the Wilkes Ge­nealog­i­cal So­ci­ety in Wilkes County, N.C., dis­played her pho­to­graph on its quar­terly pub­li­ca­tion and fea­tured her in a story. The ar­ti­cle noted she was one of only two peo­ple in the coun­try still re­ceiv­ing a Civil War pen­sion.

One of the piece’s re­searchers, Jerry Or­ton of Syra­cuse, N.Y., a mem­ber of the Sons of Union Veter­ans of the Civil War, first dis­cov­ered that Triplett was earn­ing the ben­e­fit at some point in the late 1980s, af­ter he had em­barked on a re­search project on sur­viv­ing wid­ows and chil­dren of Civil War sol­diers. He had got­ten her name from the Veter­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Even­tu­ally, he trav­eled to North Carolina and in­ter­viewed her.

“Irene could not re­call much of her child­hood and has no rec­ol­lec­tion of

Mose,” the ge­nealog­i­cal so­ci­ety’s ar­ti­cle said. “She has vir­tu­ally no mem­o­ries of fun, presents, friends, neigh­bors or such as they lived so iso­lated, and she had to work on the farm each day where they pri­mar­ily raised chicken[s] and kept some hogs and cows as well.”

In 2013, an As­so­ci­ated Press story re­ported that more than $40 bil­lion a year was be­ing spent to com­pen­sate veter­ans and sur­vivors from the Span­ish-Amer­i­can War, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Viet­nam War, the Iraq war and the Afghanista­n war.

The AP added this juicy nugget: “The Civil War

shift course. He came to golf later in life, but he said he and Davis — a re­tired Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity pro­fes­sor of health and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion — “never met a sport we didn’t like.”

Once the quar­an­tine took ef­fect, Fuller signed up for video golf lessons in hopes of im­prov­ing his swing. Prac­tice-swing­ing in his apart­ment was fine, but af­ter a while, he de­ter­mined that “I need a ball to go some­where.”

So he went out­side to knock some of the plas­tic golf balls around, first ask­ing the WC landscapin­g crew if it would be

OK. Not a prob­lem, he was told.

One thing led to an­other, which led to ask­ing

“I’ve been told we’re good en­ter­tain­ment,” said Bob Davis (left, with Sam Fuller). A round takes less than an hour, and Davis fre­quently de­signs a new course lay­out.

per­mis­sion to set up a course.

And here they are. Once or twice a week, de­pend­ing on the weather, a group of no more than 10 play — they ad­here to rules pro­hibit­ing large gath­er­ings — all the while keep­ing the proper dis­tance be­tween

one an­other. Other res­i­dents watch from nearby walk­ways or the com­fort of rock­ing chairs.

“I’ve been told we’re good en­ter­tain­ment,” said Davis, who de­signs a new course lay­out ev­ery round, just to keep things in­ter­est­ing. The long­est holes are maybe 25 yards in length. The golfers play a round in less than an hour.

The wild card, of course, is the wind. The al­most weight­less balls seem to fly for­ever if play­ers are hit­ting with the wind at their backs. Against the wind, though, play­ers can take a mighty swing and the ball goes up and drops straight down.

In the scheme of things, it re­ally doesn’t mat­ter. The group doesn’t keep score — and their weekly Bel­mont out­ings be­fore all of this were sim­i­larly laid-back.

“The idea is just to have fun,” said Davis, adding with a laugh: “All of us fig­ure this is go­ing to ruin our golf games com­pletely. But we still play. What else are you go­ing to do?”

AC­CORDIUS HEALTH OF NORTH CAROLINA

Irene Triplett is shown in 2018 at a long-term care fa­cil­ity in North Carolina. She was born in 1930 to a father who was nearly 84 at the time.

BOB BROWN/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

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