Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - My Grandmother's Loss (Part 3 -The Final Chapter)

For the past few weeks, I've been posting a series of stories about my maternal grandmother, Mary Thomas.  Basically, these posts were instigated by the mixture of feelings I experienced after receiving a set of newspaper articles about my maternal ancestors from a kind stranger in the genealogy blogosphere.  (This is such a wonderful community to be a part of.  Thanks so much again to genealogist, Hollis Gentry, who blessed me with these articles!)
This is the final post - the third of three. These posts have given my readers (and me) a kind of "right there" look at the losses my grandmother experienced throughout the course of her life.  In the first post, I wrote of the sudden, and tragic loss of her first husband, James Allen Walker.  A couple of weeks later, I posted about the abandonment of my own grandfather, Daniel Webster Hill.  Today, I'd like to share what I know about my grandmother's third marriage, to a man all three of her children refer to as "the love of Momma's life."

Finale - Charlie Thomas
It is with a conflicted heart that I write about my grandmother's third, and final marriage.  My mother and her siblings are still living, and they know much more about the details of Charlie Thomas' life (with and before my grandmother) than I do.  For reasons which I am just recently becoming aware of, much of his story has remained untold, and though my mother, aunt, and uncle know it, they are not ready to reveal it all to me just yet.
What I do know, and can write, is that at some point very soon after being abandoned by her second husband, my grandmother, and married Charlie Thomas, a man who was 16 years her senior.  My guess is that they must have already known each other from church, since one of the articles I received mentioned that Charlie's family belonged to Jerusalem; the same church which my grandmother was a member of, and where my uncle had won the baby contest several years before.  (See Part 2) I've heard that Charlie "swept Mary off her feet".  (I'm guessing that he and the whole church had probably witnessed her suffering after my grandfather left, and perhaps even before so.  He probably stepped right in!)  
 Charlie Thomas, with his daughter (my aunt), Jane.
I don't have the exact date of their marriage (yet), but in 1940, my grandmother gave birth to her third child, Jane Gwendolyn Thomas.  Charlie had won my grandmother's heart, and she was happier than she'd ever been.  My mother tells me that Charlie Thomas loved and cared for Howell and her as if they were his own, and that he was "the only father" she has ever known.  She says that he didn't treat them any differently than he did his own flesh and blood daughter, Jane.  My uncle agrees with all of my mother's comments.
The only other thing I know (that I can share) about Charlie Thomas is that he worked on the railroad. As I was growing up, I would occasionally ask about my grandfather, but I was only told that he "worked on the railroad."  I realize now, that since Charlie Thomas was the only father my mother ever knew, that the answer I was being given referred to him, and not to my actual grandfather, Daniel Hill.  However, knowing all that I know now, about the devastating death of my grandmother's first husband, Allen, I can only imagine how very stressful it must have been for her to say goodbye to Charlie each day as he left for work.  She had to have had incredible faith!
 Charlie, Mary, and the three children (along with Mary's mother, Manerva) were living "happily ever after" when, sometime early in 1950, Charlie began to suffer from some kind of heath problems.  According to this article, Charlie is "improving" in April, 1950.

But, in August, 1950, my grandmother's third husband, Charlie Thomas, suffered a heart attack and died right in their Norfolk home.

 For Mary Davis Walker Hill Thomas, the third time had indeed been "the charm".  However, at 52 years old, having lost 3 husbands, and being left to finish raising 3 children, she must have also decided that with "three strikes, you're out".  Mary lived out her remaining 34 years as a widow, harboring a lifetime of painful losses, but choosing to count her blessings and bask in the reflection of a decade of beautiful memories made with the love of her life, Charlie Thomas.
As you can see, Mary never forgot her dear, Charlie.  Here, she memorializes him nine and eleven years, respectively, after his death.  I had seen the 1959 article taped inside the cover of her bible, but had never seen the 1961 piece.  However, now that I have, I realize that she had them both in there, for there is a faded outline exactly the size and shape of the column on the same page as the other one.

This ends the trilogy, "My Grandmother's Loss".  Writing this out has been helpful to me, and has helped me to put into words a "story" that needs to be shared with my daughters, and the rest of Mary Thomas' grandchildren. To those who've followed along, I thank you.



  1. At last, a happy ending until Charlie's death. I'm hoping for a Part 4, if your mother and her siblings open up (keep after them). Thanks Renate for a nice series.

  2. I enjoyed reading the series Renate and thanks for sharing. What's good is that Grand was able to love again.

  3. I'm glad that she had that time with Charlie and you shared her story with us.

  4. A wonderful series - so much sadness, yet some well-deserved happiness, too. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  5. What a great series on your grandmother. I really enjoyed it. You tell it very well.

  6. I enjoyed reading this series of posts, Renate. I can feel the emotion in you as you thought about her life more deeply. Amazing how our view of people can change the more we know about their life circumstances.

  7. Barbara, Vicky, Dionne, Greta, Kathy, and Robyn - thank you all so much for your comments and for your readership! This was my first time doing a "series", so it's great to know that people were actually reading and keeping up with it. Writing these posts has been an emotional experience, but one which has helped to look more deeply into my Grandma Thomas' life than ever before. I appreciate all of you so much. Thanks, again!


  8. Renate, congratulations on a well written, interesting series on your Grandmother. Your emotions are so understandable and came across so genuine. What a wonderful gift of the newspaper clippings to give you a window into her life. Well done.

  9. How special are the loving memories shared for future generations. I enjoyed all the parts of your grandmother's Loss stories. She indeed must have been a strong faith based lady. thanks for sharing.