A portrait of World War I soldier James Marlie Foutch from DeKalb County will soon be on display at the Smithville City Hall.
The painting was presented to Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss during the Foutch family reunion held Sunday at city hall, donated by Dan Foutch of Knoxville, a nephew of Marlie Foutch.
Private Foutch, a member of Company E, 117th Infantry, 30th Division of the United States Army, died with honor in the service of his country in October, 1918 at the age of 23 after being wounded in action during a battle near Bellicourt, France. He is buried in the Somme American Cemetery in Bony, France.
Foutch was born in 1895 in the Holmes Creek community of DeKalb County, now covered by Center Hill Lake.
After being called to serve his country in 1917, Foutch went to Camp Sevier at Greenville South Carolina for his training. “His Division was made up of young men from Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina. They named themselves “Old Hickory” because of the three states’ connections with Andrew Jackson. Marlie left the United States on May 19, 1917 and arrived in Europe on May 23, 1917,” said Billie Foutch Breedlove, Marlie’s niece and author of the book “Foutch Footprints Across the United States of America”.
After his death, Private Foutch was first buried in a churchyard cemetery near Bony, France. His body was later disinterred and buried on June 4, 1919 in a temporary cemetery established by the American Graves Registration Service. After World War I, Foutch’s remains were moved to his final resting place in the Somme American Cemetery in Bony, France.
According to Breedlove, the painting of Private Foutch was produced years after his death. “The painting was done after his death and after World War I. Its a painting done from a small picture of him. At the time, the government had painters to produce these portraits of fallen soldiers for families who wanted to purchase them. My grandmother paid for that painting and it was done sometime in the latter part of the 1920’s. When I was a little girl, I thought it (portrait) was my daddy because it looked so much like him. She (grandmother) kept this painting setting on the floor across the corner in her parlor, she said.
Although she never met him, Breedlove said she visited her uncle’s gravesite during a trip to France in 1997. “I was always taught about him and it was a desire of mine as I got older to go to France and visit his grave. As far as I know, I am the only family member who has ever been there and visited the grave. It was really a wonderful experience for me to do that,” said Breedlove.
Dan Foutch, the owner of the portrait, said his desire was for the painting to be hung in DeKalb County for the public and family members to enjoy and is thankful to Mayor Poss for allowing it to be placed on public display at City Hall.