About this blog

As the author of this blog, Karen L Garner Martin Messick, I am the daughter of an American soldier, Wilbur (Bill) C. Garner, Sr. and Women's Royal English Navy service woman (British Wren) Gwendoline Rosa Wilkins, who met and married during World War II. They lived and loved for over 50 years before Mother passed in 2000. When she did I helped Dad with every day chores when I could. One day I was helping him clear things out and I lifted a plastic bag out of the seat of Mom's piano stool, asking Dad, "Whats in this bag?" to which he replied, "Just some of Mary's old letters." Mary, his older sister, was still alive at the time, residing in an assisted living facility, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I put the letters back in the piano seat thinking he did not want me to open the letters.
When Dad passed two years later, I inherited Mary's letters.
When I began to read them, I found they were mostly letters from Dad to Mary while he was in World War II ("The War"). I could not put them down. I wished I had opened them the day I first saw them so that Dad and I could have had conversations about them, but that was not to be...so as I read through these "Letters to Mary" I began to get a glimpse into Dad's young years when he met Mom and his time as a soldier. I have researched events during World War II to enhance my understanding of what was happening in the war as each letter came to broaden my understanding of what he might have been experiencing. I knew he landed on the beaches of Normandy, France D-Day plus 1 as he recounted his memory of that day to me when he was dying from Leukemia. It was horrifying. There were also letters from a companion Mary had met while in Minneapolis, he had been deployed overseas. I have entwined them chronologically with Dad's letters as it gives a greater dimension to the war itself. I intend to editorialize as necessary to explain personal relationships and situations as the story unfolds through the "Letters to Mary." I welcome any questions, comments and feedback. As the "Greatest Generation" fades away, I felt compelled to share these letters and story in hopes of continuing the legacy they left for the world. Let us never forget the untold years and lives that were sacrificed for freedom!
If you have stumbled upon this blog I have added a blog archive at the bottom of the blog page. Continue to scroll down to access the Blog Archive. The posts are chronologically listed and to follow the story it is best to start with the first post in December 2013.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A bit of background on the family and Letter#1 to Mary dated October 3, 1930.

Souil Wade Garner and Phoebe Emma Biggs started their family in 1906 in Baltimore. Souil was a milk delivery man and Phoebe a homemaker. Mary Willis Garner was the only girl born into a family of four boys. She was born at 1004 Bloomingdale Road in Baltimore, Maryland, September 20, 1909. Souil William Garner preceeded her as the oldest child born on July 4, 1906 at the home of his maternal grandparents, 2246 Annapolis Road, Westport, Baltimore, Maryland. Joseph Randall Garner was the third child born on December 20, 1912 in Baltimore, Md. Dad, Wilbur Cecil Garner was born the fourth child on September 14, 1920 in Baltimore, Md. and Bernard Shelbourne Garner was the last child born on September 20, 1923. In the early years they all led a simple lifestyle as a family of faith trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their head. Times were not easy then as the economy of the country was fragile, recovering from World War I which ended in 1918 and headed toward The Great Depression of the 1930's.
Souil married in 1925, Mary never married, Joseph, the black sheep of the family, married in 1935, Wilbur (dad) married Elizabeth Ann Sutton, Betty, in 1941, and Bernard married in 1943.
The letters to Mary actually start with a short letter from Joseph dated October 3, 1930.
Joe never finished high school and enlisted in the Marines and was stationed in Bremerton, Washington.

He wrote from the U.S.S. Lexington
Miss Mary W. Garner
3001 Windsor Avenue
Baltimore, Md

Dear Sis,

   Just a few lines to let you know that I am still here and would like to hear from you once in a while. I know you are busy but can't you find a little time to scratch a couple lines to a fellow? I get awfully homesick and blue Sis, gosh you don't know what it means to be 3000 miles from home and know that there are very few of the fellows around you, your friends, maybe one or two real pals are about all you have in this outfit. The rest are fair weather friends, and it helps a lot to hear from some one who you know really cares about you.
   Sis, don't mention this to Mother but I feel as though I have to tell someone and I don't want her to know or worry about it. Don't you worry over it either but I left my post last Thursday a week ago while we were underway and I got caught, well, I was put on report to the Captain of the ship and I got another Deck Court martial. I have been tried and I had to plead guilty so I was sentenced to 12 days solitary confinement on bread and water with full meals every third day and a $14.00 dollar fine. The confinement had been reduced to 5 days and I am now a prisoner at large waiting to get locked up as soon as they have a room in the brig.
   Gosh Sis, I can't keep out of trouble on this darn ship. I do my darnedest to go straight but I am always in dutch.

   I hope you had a very Happy Birthday and are getting along nicely with your work.
Your loving brother,

P.S. Write real soon. Send some pictures of yourself and family.

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