Forrest W. Faight, a former Army sergeant major and decorated World War I veteran, died Thursday, the Armistice Day holiday (now Veterans Day) marking that war’s end 86 years ago. He was 106.
Faight died of natural causes of aging in the Stockton home he had occupied for 76 years.
Faight was the last survivor of the more than 50 Californians who have been awarded the National Order of the French Legion of Honor since 1998, said Robert W. Johnson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who tracks World War I veterans.
The French government began locating surviving Allied veterans six years ago and bestowing the awards in observance of the 80th anniversary of the Nov. 11, 1918, signing of the Armistice. The award is the highest honor France grants its own citizens and foreign nationals.
Faight received his personal “Chevalier” designation on Jan. 24, 2001, at the Karl Ross American Legion Post in Stockton, where he was a charter member.
The Stockton native joined the California National Guard in 1917, and the next year was called to active duty and sent to France. He served with Battery C, 143rd Artillery of the 40th Armored Division in the American Expeditionary Force, and was stationed in the Bordeaux area. He maintained equipment for an artillery gun crew.
Mustered out in 1919, Faight was unable to find work as a civilian and soon reenlisted. He served in the Army Tank Corps in Baltimore and rose to the rank of battalion sergeant major.
Returning to Stockton after his second Army stint, Faight had better luck with employers -- working first as a bookkeeper for an automobile dealer and then landing his career job with what is now the U.S. Postal Service.
The former soldier started as a mail carrier in 1924 for a salary of 61 cents an hour -- or as he liked to joke, “a penny a minute.” He retired in 1961 after many years in a supervisory position and went right back to work for another decade at the Stockton Postal Credit Union.
Asked by Johnson his secret to longevity, Faight replied thoughtfully: “Take it easy, be calm, and don’t get excited and lose your head. Be fair.” He didn’t mention his daily 4 p.m. libation of scotch and water, which he relished until the end of his life.
Mentally sharp, the centenarian was a trivia buff who delighted in reciting the complete list of U.S. presidents or the capitals of all 50 states.
Faight was married to the former Georgette Ledger from 1923 until her death in 1982. He is survived by their two daughters, Maxine DuLac of Stockton and Carol J. Harbert of Riverbank, Calif.; three grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.