Two years after arriving, he opened a French restaurant in Dorset, the Lafayette, which he owned and operated until 1936. He had married Olive Harwood in 1935, and their daughter, Suzanne, was born in 1936. In 1937, the couple divorced. Claude took his oath as a US citizen on September 1, 1938, in Rutland, Vermont.
He also took up painting in Vermont. In France he had had no ambition to be a painter, nor any art lessons. But over the years in Dorset, before the war, he commuted to New York City to take classes at the Art Students League and Grand Central Art School. While in New York, there were four exhibits of his work at different galleries, including a 1941 exhibit at the Vendome Art Galleries in Manhattan.
On December 27, 1941, he married Dr. Elizabeth Byrnes and moved to Wisconsin. He enlisted in the Army on September 1, 1942 in Rutland, Vermont. He stated at that time that he had four years of college, was a commercial artist and a US citizen.
He served in Company D of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, but evidence suggests he did not go to Europe with the 23rd Headquarters Troops. His granddaughter says he served in Wisconsin. His obituary and a couple of other articles say that he was in the 603rd and also worked in Army Intelligence as a Staff Sergeant.
After the war he and Elizabeth moved back to New Jersey, along with their son. Claude took a job teaching at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, and taught adult classes at Columbia High School. He also ran a private art school in Maplewood, New Jersey. Their second son, Robert John, was born in New Jersey in September, 1948. While they spent summers in Dorset, Vermont, he remained a New Jersey schoolteacher until 1954, when his wife retired from her medical work and they resettled in Dorset permanently.
Once back in Vermont, Claude did a considerable amount of painting, and spent time as a dairy farmer, a strawberry farmer (he was known as the "Dorset Strawberry King"), and an "interior and exterior decorating contractor". He also was involved in politics for some years. He and his wife both threw themselves into local organizations and causes.
He became active in town and state politics shortly after coming back to Dorset. He was elected town "lister" (related to assessment) for four years, also serving as the first VP of the Vermont Listers Association in 1959. In 1958, he ran successfully as a Republican for the state legislature.
He spent one term in the state legislature (1959-1960) where he sponsored bills to bring parimutuel horse racing to Vermont, and to liberalize the Sunday liquor laws in the state.
He lost his attempt to garner the Republican nomination for the US House of Representatives in 1960, and switched his allegiance to the Democratic party in 1961. He also ran unsuccessfully for the state senate in 1964 and 1974.
He was elected at least twice as a Justice of the Peace during the 1960s and early 1970s, and also served as a member of the Dorset School Board in the mid-70s.
He explained his involvement in politics in a 1974 article: "I've done about everything a man can do in the course of his life. . . . Life has been good to me, so I owe it to this state and country to do what I can."
In the community he had become active in the Dorset Players (a local theatrical group) when he moved to Dorset in 1929, and remained involved with that organization for decades, serving for a time as President. He was a Cub Scout den chief in 1956, and a Trustee of the Historical Society in 1977. He also served as President of the Fish and Game Club, President of the PTA, and Commander of the Dorset American Legion Post.
His wife, who had given up her medical career when they moved to Dorset, also became active in the community. She was active in the Dorset Players, the PTA, and her church, and was a school bus driver and a hockey coach. When her sons got older she took some medical refresher courses in preparation for returning to medicine, and and "Dr. Betty" became the only doctor with a medical practice in Dorset in 1961. She served as a beloved town fixture for 11 years until her retirement.
Claude died of Alzheimer's disease at the Vermont Veterans Home on March 30, 1995.
To see Dern's full bio, with sources for all the information and photos, as well as the bios of hundreds of other Ghost Army soldiers, go to our Veteran Bio page.