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.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bernard Shelbourne Garner after "The War"

Often in the "Letters to Mary" that Bill wrote when he was overseas in "The War" he mentioned Bernard and Jane. Bernard was his youngest brother and the last of the five children of Phoebe Emma Biggs Garner and Souil Wade Garner. Though he was of age when "The War" broke out, he was born on 20 September 1923, Bernard never served in "The War" due to medical issues. Bernard had been physically challenged since childhood by a leg which he almost lost at the the age of 15 months. He was just starting to walk well when he fell to the floor one day and cried. His mother picked him up, consoled him, and set him on his feet again - but once more he fell to the floor. His mother then noticed that he felt feverish and summoned the family doctor, Dr. Walter Grempler. After examining Bernard, he immediately called in for consultation a surgeon, Dr. Johnson. Bernard's illness was diagnosed as streptococcus infection of his right knee, which required immediate surgery if his leg, and possibly his life, were to be saved. He was rushed to Union Memorial Hospital for care and was hospitalized many weeks by this illness. They were able to save the leg, but he never had full use of it.

He graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic School and after trying several lines of work, he finally embarked on his own business of interior decorating, specializing in custom made draperies.
He married Margaret Jane Durding, the only child of Benjamin Francis Durding and his wife, Anna Legg.
Left to right: Bernard Shelbourne Garner Jr, Jane Durding Garner, Bernard Shelbourne Garner Sr, Patricia Lee Garner.
Bernard and Jane produced two children, Bernard Shelbourne Garner, Jr born 13 January 1943 and Patricia Lee Garner born 13 May 1950. Bernard and Jane raised their children to adulthood and then divorced.

Bernard remarried and his second wife Vivian R. Garner predeceased him.

Bernard, in his later years, lived with his daughter, Patricia, until he became ill and passed away on March 23, 2011 at the age of 87.  He was laid to rest in the Garner family burial plot, next to his brother Souil William Garner, Druid Ridge Cemetery, Baltimore, Md. He was the last of the five children born to Souil Wade Garner and Phoebe Emma Biggs Garner, to pass away, and so with the passing of Bernard, ended the "Greatest Generation" of the Garner family.
Mary Willis Garner, Souil William Garner, Bernard Shelbourne Garner, and Wilbur Cecil Garner
(Joseph Randolph Garner Absent)

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