Lexingtonians Who Served: Ruth Fullerton & Denis Fullerton

By E. Ashley Rooney


Ruth J. Fullerton (nee Porter)

Ruth Fullerton

Born in 1923, Ruth J. Porter (m. Fullerton) grew up on 39 Adams St, which was the Porter Brothers & Wilson farm with 14 greenhouses, chickens, one cow, and two plow horses.  That land now holds Fisk School and condo developments. There were six girls and one son in the family and 141 in Ruth’s graduating class. Life was quite peaceful.  And then Pearl Harbor came. Ruth Fullerton told me that when Pearl Harbor occurred, she was babysitting on Lincoln St. “All I could think is where’s Pearl Harbor?”

At age 20, she left an excellent job at John Hancock, Boston, to enlist in the Marines.  Ruth went to North Carolina for basic training, which was, she said,  ”a lot of marching around, you know, left, right, left, right.”

After basic, she was assigned to Camp Miramar in San Diego, where she was a Sergeant in the US Marine Corps. Subsequently, she managed the PX there.




Following the war, her mother wove her uniform into a hooked rug, which has become a family keepsake. After the war, Ruth returned to her position at John Hancock until she married Denis Fullerton and started planning a family in 1950. They lived on Wallis Court, Lexington.

Ruth today with her family and the rug made from her uniform.

Denis Fullerton

Denis Fullerton and Buddy Porter

Denis Fullerton, along with five other siblings, grew up in his mother’s boarding house in Depot Square above a blacksmith shop. In 1939, Denis enlisted, underage, in the National Guard, Concord Armory, with his lifelong friend William “Buddy” Porter, Ruth’s brother. They were only days away from discharge when Pearl Harbor occurred. Being members of one of the most trained units in the country, they were rolled into the Regular Army and sent to the South Pacific, to push back the Japanese offensive. They were issued three bullets each when they landed, and World War I helmets and were among the first soldiers to engage the enemy on the ground in WWII. They fought in the battle of Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and up the island chain. At one point, the battle was so fierce that Denis threw down his machine gun because it was too hot to hold.

In addition to the struggles of war, malaria, and casualties around them, Denis faced an additional threat. He was lying in a foxhole at night with his American platoon, with an enemy patrol searching the immediate area.  As they came closer, a tropical snake slid up his pant leg.  As he reached to grab the snake, it bit him on the upper inner thigh, and he could not make a sound without exposing his entire group. His wife, recounting this incident later, said that he was supposed to have his pants tucked in!

After Guadalcanal, they were sent to Fiji, where Buddy was sent home on a hospital ship to recover from malaria and hepatitis. Ultimately, he returned to Lexington and continued the family farm, Porter Bros. and Wilson, raising hothouse tomatoes and cucumbers.

Eventually, Denis was sent back to the US, where he was responsible for guarding German prisoners in Alabama. He found that the Germans were happy to be here. They were removed from the war and the Nazi regime, well-fed, and so passive that Denis didn’t worry while guarding a group of them picking those Georgia peaches. When the war was over, Denis threw his rifle into the river, returned to Lexington, where he married Ruth and became a Lexington fireman for 30 years.

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