A Sister's Love
February 17, 2014
The Martin family of Opelika, Alabama was growing and prospering in 1926. The patriarch, Barnett Martin (known everywhere as “Dad”), and his wife Mollie had 7 living children, the oldest of whom were grown and married. One day in June, 46-year-old Mollie suddenly collapsed and died of a brain aneurysm. Left behind at the home to grieve Mollie's loss were Barnett, daughter Merle (16), and sons Bennett (14), James (12), Leonard (10), and William (8), all of whom still desperately needed mothering.
In the years that followed, Merle put her own life on hold while she made a home for the boys. She, along with her father, made sure they were all properly raised and educated. Merle was a fun-loving, caring girl who was loved and admired by all who knew her. She sacrificed her own life and happiness to make sure the Martin boys had what they needed, and they adored her for it.
Time passed and World War II began. All the Martin boys joined up, and one by one, each of them were sent to far flung places. Merle by then was a companion for her father. Then, Arthur Stanford Thomas, an Army Air Force sergeant, came into her life. They fell in love and married in 1942 and were off to Texas and other duty stations. None of the boys were in the States for the wedding, but one letter that William wrote to Merle on the eve of her wedding from his post in England survives.
Just wanted to write you a note and tell you how much I appreciated all the things you have done for me. I know you have sacrificed a lot of your pleasure in the past years, making a home and being a mother to all of us. Thank God we did have someone like you with us. No telling what would have happened to us if we hadn’t.
It won’t be like home with you not being there anymore. I am sure you are not making a mistake in getting married, though, and as for Thomas I don’t think you could have chosen a better fellow in the world. Wish I could see you again before you leave…
Merle, if there is ever anything I can do for you, don’t fail to call on me. Hoping that your marriage will be a happy and successful one.
William was my father, and to the end of his days, he spoke lovingly about Merle. This letter was found among his things after his death, and I treasure it. Sadly, Merle’s story did not have a happy ending. In 1946, after four short years of marriage, Merle, Stan, her father, and a few other family members were out for a day of fishing. A blood clot broke loose and went to her lungs, and she died before they could get her to a hospital. She was 35. William was on board the Queen Mary traveling home after the war when he got the news. He was heartbroken. The Martins honored their sister by passing down her story. Merle was not blessed with longevity, but hers was a life well-lived and well-remembered.
Midwest Genealogy Center