Margaret & Roy Jewett

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By Lennart Holmquist

Margaret Jewett was a daughter of Johan Alfred and Hedvig Rinell.

Margaret Rinell (June 5, 1898 - April 25, 1959) married LeRoy Jewett (March 27, 1894 - November 4, 1976).

Margaret was born in China of Swedish baptist missionaries from Sweden. She attended boarding school in Chefoo, China as did her brothers and sisters.

For photos of Margaret and her family in in their home town in Kiaohsien, China see her sister Edith's photo album:

Edith Rinell Family & Friends in China, circa 1916 and following years

Roy was born in Manchester, New Hampshire.

He attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Electrical Engineering for three years.

On March 22, 1913 when Roy was eighteen years old he received his ham radio license.

Peking, China

From 1919 to 1921 Roy was assistant electrical engineer at the Peking Union Medical College and Hospital which was under construction in Peking (Beijing) China. From 1921 to 1922 he was Chief Electrical Engineer and Superintendent of Electrical Construction at the same place.

From 1922 to 1929 Roy created and maintained an electrical and mechanical engineering company under his own name in Peking. His work included 'design, layout, specifications, supervision, installation', and 'power plants; inside and outside distribution, aerial and underground of utility lighting and industrial; switchboards; water systems; heating systems plumbing systems; gas plants; electrical installations, all types'

See LeRoy Jewett Resume.

During his time in China, Roy picked up some Mandarin Chinese language. He also spoke some French.

Roy and Margaret met in China where Margaret and was nurse and Roy one of her patients.

For Margaret's family in China see the book in progress Foreign Devils.

They married in Tokyo, Japan. Later they moved to the United States.

Arizona and California, USA

From 1930 to 1935 Roy operated construction projects in Arizona and California, USA. And, from 1936 to April 1938 was an Electrical Engineer and Superintendent of Construction for Gamewell Company of Sacramento, California where he did construction and installation of a $250,000 fire alarm and police signal system which included design, layout, specifications and materials.

From April 1938 to April 1939 he was an electrical engineer and supervisor of electrical construction at the Golden Gate International Exposition, which included electrical design, layout and specifications, on Treasure Island in San Francisco. Rinell family oral tradition said he was in charge all electrical construction at the Exposition those his resume does not clearly state that. Considering his previous work experience he apparently had the skills.

Canton Island

In May of 1939 Roy was bound for Canton Island. He crossed the equator for the first time on May 15 and was given a certificate to commemorate the event. We do not know if Margaret went to Canton Island with Roy.

From September 1939 to February 1940 Roy was the Electrical Superintendent for Pan American Airways on Canton Island. Apparently, this is the Canton (Kanton) Island, which is the largest, northernmost, island of the Phoenix Islands, in the Republic of Kiribati. Canton Island is located in the South Pacific Ocean roughly halfway between Hawaii and Fiji.


By 1940 Roy and Margaret were in Hawaii.

After one or two residences they moved into a new, spacious and beautifully furnished house with a superb 'commanding' view. At the edge of the property was the ocean with a '300 foot pier, a sailboat, two rowboats, good fishing, good swimming for those who can desist from playing footie with the crawling sea life at the ocean's bottom, bananas and papayas galore, a nice lily pond and garden, a ping pong table, an excellent grill on one of the porches, and a fireplace indoors.'

They lucked out in finding the place. The landlady simply liked the looks of them, cutting the rent in half to meet their price. During their year or so at this 'rich man's Paradise' they put on parties, enjoyed informal grilled steak dinners with friends, and entertained Roy's friends who one would guess were friends from work.

Though trained as a nurse, it does not appear Margaret was practicing nursing at the time. Perhaps she could not because of licensing requirements. To pass her time she took classes in the art of Chinese cooking from Mrs. Sia who had been a neighbor in Peking, practiced the art of Japanese flower arrangement, tried out block printing, and volunteered at the Red Cross. Their life and daily routine changed dramatically, however, on December 7, 1941. From their home that Sunday morning they could see planes in the sky above. The experience is best told by Margaret.58

The planes seen cavorting through the skies seemed to us to be in the throes of a magnificent 'mock' battle, and when smoke walled up; marking "What and effective smoke screen, eh what?" Then gradually the horrible truth began to dawn on us that the vibration of exploding bombs which rattle the windows of our house and the rat-tat-tat of machine guns was REAL. WAR? IMPOSIBLE! Slowly I began to feel that nervous sinking sensation settling in the pit of my stomach.

In the thick of all this, a young bride of 20, and my nearest neighbor (whose sailor-husband had just answered the emergency call to duty) came to our home. She was obviously disturbed and on the verge of tears. That sort of brought me to for a moment as I put forth my most-composed-front to pooh-pooh the dangers involved; why the Japs didn't have a ghost of a chance; wasn't this the Gibraltar-of-the-Pacific . . . said I boastfully. Then something stopped me DEAD and deflated me like a blowout in a tire RAT-TAT-TAT distinctly on OUR ROOF over the bedrooms - and YE GODS Roy upstairs open porch taking in the aerial show! Somehow or other I steered my shaking knees up the stairs - and guess what? There he stood - unharmed - still gaping through his binoculars at the enemy's planes! My relief immediately turned to anger as I rather incoherently shouted to him to stop being smart, acting as a target for the enemy. All this didn't make sense to him at all as the motors of the planes overhead had completely drowned out the noise of the machine gun firing. But when he viewed the evidence of shingles he was pretty happy that their aim fell wide of the mark. And don't think I wasn't!

Upon collecting ourselves after the first scare, we immediately donned our clothes and reported to the nearest base. I was assigned to the main dressing room. It was pretty awful! During the next three days and nights we remained at the post[,] sleeping at one of the officer's homes and filling our days with much work. The blacked-out nights were squeamish beyond description; if someone saw a star shinning unusually bright it was suggested that it might be a flare; if a sentry outside your window discharge his gun in a state of nerves, you would imagine he was blasting a landing party of Japs into eternity; or if you happened to be tuned into the police calls or a Mainland radios station, you were convinced by morning the Japanese parachutists and troops would have complete control of the Island! Were we jittery!

Marshall Law was declared after which everything fell into a regular if not a dull pattern. Lights were doused from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. No one was permitted on the streets at night except for the defense workers going to or from work and home. No street lights were lit. If one gave a dinner party one must also be prepared to put up the guests for the night. Therefore, practically no one entertained. Dancing at hotels and night clubs stopped. Movie theaters opened at 10:00 AM and closed at 5:00 PM. No liquor was on sale, not even a glass of beer. Gasoline was rationed though there was no shortage. Cars remained in the garages, and most everyone took a bus or walked. Food was plentiful and not rationed though some tried to profiteer on some items of food. Margaret mentioned the some places were asking the exorbitant price of 25 cents for two pounds of Irish potatoes. Profiteering was curbed by pegging prices on some foods. Gas masks were distributed to everyone. "They are horrible things," Margaret writes, "I do hope we won't ever have to use them." Shortly the government was to provide to everyone, so Margaret heard, helmets. Not only were people worried about attack from the outside, but also from within. Of the total Oahu island population of 423,000, about 158,000 were Japanese and about 37,000 of these alien Japanese. [Check figures]. "A nice little army in itself," Margaret writes, and no doubt many others thought the same. Japanese radio programs were taken off the air.

After nearly two months since the Japanese attack the army and navy remained very much on the alert, which Margaret felt she should not write further about. Many had built air raid shelters though Roy and Margaret had not. Many of their friends had returned to the mainland, and many others were planning to do so. If the Japanese were to attack Hawaii again, it was best to be elsewhere. Federal projects were running seven days a week. Most people it seemed were working on a defense job including women and older people. Roy was overwhelmed with work, supervising three jobs, which was a big strain on him. Margaret was no longer needed for her nursing skills, but was on the Reserve List should any emergency arise. Though life now had its inconveniences it was not all bad, however. "Life has become very simple and unpretentious for us all. The change is definitely GOOD for us." Margaret was actually content to stay where they were. "As for me," Margaret writes, "I am perfectly happy here, come what may."

Public schools were opening again after seven weeks vacation.

       Letter to Friends, January 31, 1942

Roy was busy. He was Electrical Superintendent for Contractors at Pacific Naval Air Bases on Oahu, Honolulu, Hawaii from February 1940 to April 1942. His responsibilities included design, specifications, layout and material estimates. He was also Superintendent of Electrical Construction on three Naval Air Stations in Hawaii, namely Kaneohe, Barbers Point and Ewa Mooring Mast.

Port Heuneme, California

In 1942 they moved to California. From May 1942 to September 1944 Roy was the Electrical and Mechanical Superintendent for Contractors, Pacific Naval Bases, at U.S. Naval Base at Port Heuneme, California. His duties included design, specifications, maintenance, testing and inspection of electrical material and equipment.


In 1944 the moved to Washington state where Roy was Superintendent of Electrical and Mechanical Testing and Inspection for Contractors, Pacific Naval Air Bases, U.S. Naval Base, Tacoma, Washington. His responsibilities included design, specifications, testing and inspection of material and equipment.

It was about Margaret and Roy's time in Hawaii, California or Washington that Edith wrote about her sister and brother-in-law 'during WWII Margaret worked in an emergency clinic attached to several firms which transshipped war materials to the Pacific Theatre. Her husband, an electrical engineer was in charge of the electrical department of the same concern.' See biographical notes.

Mojave Desert, California

Years later Roy and Margaret moved out into California's Mojave desert where they owned and operated a lamp shop named The Desert Lampmaker along a narrow two lane desert highway outside of the town Yucca Valley.

       Practical Beauty from Desert Waste

Roy often drove his four wheel drive truck out into the desert picking up old gnarled pieces of desert wood, cactus and desert vegetation and throw them onto the bed of his truck. Usually traveling off the roads he sometimes had to use a wench and steel cable attached to the front of his truck to get himself and his truck out of sand traps or other desert hindrances. He would bring his findings back to his workshop at The Desert Lampmaker where he sandblasted the wood to reveal its beautiful grain. Margaret who had the artistic eye used the wood and desert vegetation to create lamps, coffee table center pieces, and wall hangings. The delicious smell of desert wood hung in the dry air of the store and workshop, the smell being generated from the saw dust of Roy's woods saws, grinders, and sand blasters. When Roy was at work one could hear the whine of the saw, and the blast of high pressure air from his air tanks and hoses.

Margaret died unexpectedly in 1959 and is buried in the desert cemetery of 29 Palms Public Cemetery.Row 1, Lot 4, Grave 3

       Wife of "Desert Lampmaker" Dies

Edith wrote this about her sister:

In the last 10 years of M[argart]'s life she lived in a desert community nursing occasionally when the need arose. She joined in community activities, was president of the Women's Club and won prizes for flower arranging at shows sponsored by the Garden Club. She was [a] lively, spirited person, kind and generous and much loved in Yucca Valley. On her death in April 25th, 1959 her friends contributed toward a memorial in her honour for the local hosp[ital]. She was buried in Twenty Nine Palms.

Roy was deeply saddened by Margaret's death. Not being the artist he sold The Desert Lampmaker workshop, store and business and became a prospector for precious metals, uranium, and semi-precious stones in the desert. He built a flat-roofed cement block house among the rocks and course sands of the desert, and a few feet away from his cement house a lapidary shop containing diamond saws, grinders and polishers. His shop smelled of rock dust, oil used to cool down the diamond saws, and the sweet smell of Roy's cigars that often sat lit or unlit between his lips under his thick bushy mustache. At his workbench he took the cut and polished stones of agate, turquoise and other semi-precious stones and made rings, broaches and bolo ties. He lived several years more or less alone in this fashion though he did have occasional visits of other desert dwellers of the animal or human kind or relatives of Rinell descent who also lived in southern California with their families - previous displaced Swedes whose birthplace and home had originally been China.

Ventura, California

As he grew older, Roy moved more and more into dementia.

When family members visited him at his home in the desert one year he was complaining bitterly about the camera crew on location at his house who was disturbing his desert tranquility. No camera crew was present or ever had been. Family members convinced him to move out to Ventura, California where he would have more company, and where he could be looked after more or less. He lived in a trailer court for a few years after which he moved into a retirement home, more or less out of necessity. The last months of his life he spent in a bed, an old, gnarled sun-darkened body on crisp white sheets, a large silver and turquoise stone ring on his finger. He didn't eat much toward the end except for bananas, which he loved. He died in that bed, November 4, 1976. His ring was stolen from his finger sometime before or after his death. It wasn't among his personal effects when the family came to visit Roy one last time.

Roy was buried in the grave next to Margaret at the 29 Palms Public Cemetery in California. Row 1, Lot 4, Grave 4

Roy and Margaret had no children.

       Jewett Family Documents

See also biographical notes, written apparently by Edith Rinell, of her father Johan Alfred Rinell, her sister Margaret Rinell and herself, Edith Rinell, written in the 3rd person.

If you have comments, questions or more information on Margaret and Roy Jewett or need a user name and password contact Lennart (the great-grandnephew of Margaret and Roy) at


web page updated:


Johansson & Descendants

   Johan & Hedvig's Family

      Doris Rinell Branch

      Roy Rinell Branch

      Alice Rinell Branch

      John Egron Rinell Branch

      Margareta Rinell Branch

      John Eric Rinell Branch

      William Rinell Branch

Foreign Devils: A Swedish Family in China 1894 to 1951


Descendants of Magnus Petri
  Ersson Family
    Jansson Family

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