The Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, better know as the GI Bill of Rights, was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. The bill provided benefits to GI’s after active duty during WWII. Among the benefits were tuition and living expenses to attend college, vocational or high school education, low cost mortgages, and business loans for budding entrepreneurs.
But the GI Bill was not the only investment in human capital coming out of WWII; during the war, military commanders quickly realized the need to train servicemen to maintain and repair increasingly complex equipment and weapons used in the execution of the war. Modules that could be swapped out were not yet in use and knowledge of complex circuitry was essential to keep the machinery of war running.
When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, a young man named Matthew Fairweather was working at Western Electric assembling telephones. He immediately enlisted in the Navy. Recognizing his work experience, the Navy trained him to be an electrician. He was assigned to work on and repair the gyrocompass (a navigational device that enabled a ship to stay on course) of the famous USS Iowa (BB-61) and saw combat in both the Pacific and Atlantic Theaters. The ship, now a museum in Los Angeles, hosted President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he sailed to the Tehran Conference for a secret meeting with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin.
After serving for ten years, Matthew moved to New Paltz, raised a family and worked as an electrician, eventually starting his own business, Fairweather Electric, in New Paltz in 1956. He operated the business for forty years, with one of his sons following him into the field.
Upon Matthew’s death in 2009, his grandson, Gardiner resident Gavin Craddock, grew curious about his grandfather’s life and career. (Gavin is the son of Melissa Fairweather, well known to many of us in Gardiner for her work at the library.) “My grandfather passed away and I didn’t know what he had done for a living, so I thought I’d check it out,” Gavin explained. The older man’s work so intrigued Gavin that he decided to learn the business. He worked with his uncle for five years before striking out on his own, founding New Paltz Electric in 2013.
Though he is only in his mid-20s, Gavin’s business is already flourishing. He provides a wide range of electrical services for commercial jobs, residential new construction and renovations, installations of standby and portable generators as well as air conditioning and refrigeration services. “I get to choose my own schedule, provide a service people need, I’m never bored and I work with and for a broad range of people,“ Gavin offered.
And, as the newly elected President of the New Paltz Rotary, Gavin enthusiastically participates in service to his community. He describes a number of Rotary initiatives that excite him, including a program that provides food-filled backpacks filled for needy children discreetly identified by their school’s social workers; a Fishing Derby at the college pond the Saturday before Father’s Day; high school scholarships and, more broadly, a worldwide relief program known as Shelter Box, which recently provided relief supplies to victims of the Nepal earthquake.
The benefits of the training received during WWII have reached far beyond the lives of the servicemen who fought in the 1940’s. Gavin Craddock and New Paltz Electric continue the legacy of service started by his grandfather.
You can reach Gavin at New Paltz Electric by calling 845-332-0088 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.