Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ruthie's World War II Diaries~
A wife's devotion to the man she loves

After I finished writing my first ever blog and mustered up the strength to push the PUBLISH POST button, I did what every novice writer does. I prayed aloud that I had spell-checked the document before it hit cyberspace. Of course I went back to check it, not once, not twice, but three times, and made any necessary changes. I wanted my genealogy blog to be memorable, sentimental, informative, but most of all, error free.

Everyone who knows me learns about my passion for genealogy. I am a master of making a genealogical connection with almost any other topic. However, no one really thought I would take the giant leap into the World Wide Web. My husband enjoys my stories, my children tolerate them but have yet to truly appreciate them, and mostly they just rolls their eyes when the topic comes up for conversation outside the sanctity of our home. This blog was created for the purpose of sharing, and I fully intend to do just that.

I spread the new URL to family and friends over the course of the next few days. My father was one of the first to actually look at the blog and comment. The little boy in the first picture, now almost 70 years old, replied, "Nice site. But you know the Martin side has an interesting story to tell, too. Don't forget about the Martin side."

I was not surprised by this comment. I was actually prepared for it. Little did my father know that I had already begun to plan the second, third, and fourth postings on this blog. And yes, his mother's war diaries were going up next. You see, my dad is a very proud man. He is proud of his children and all of our accomplishments in life, his grandchildren, his sister, niece and nephew, too. But most of all, my dad is proud of his parents. They were both remarkable people.

There is truly not enough space on one blog to adequately express the joy surrounding Howard Garrison "Abe" Martin and his beautiful wife, Mary Ruth Osborne. I felt their love as a child, visiting my grandparents on their mountaintop home in Wheeling, West Virginia. Two of my earliest memories, ever, involve my paternal grandparents. In the first, my family is watching the dog, Sabre, chase airplanes around the yard. The dog would actually keep his eyes high in the sky and would run full-speed around a yard that contained many trees and outbuildings. The dog was crazy, but we all loved him. The next dog, Marty, was a great companion, but not quite as crazy as Sabre.

The other special memory I have of my grandparents was watching my grandmother make pancakes. She poured the batter in a special way that resembled whatever animal I wished it to be. The stories that we would then tell around the large dining room table were centered on which appendage of what animals my brother and I would feast on first.

My grandmother was only 68 when she passed away in 1980. Grandpa lived another 20 years, but devoted his life to his Ruthie.

One of the most powerful pieces of evidence of this love affair was the diary Ruth kept while Abe went away to the Army. It begins, "We're in the Army Now. 1941 March 29 Sat-Abe left today for Ft. Knox, Ky to report to First Armored Div. for active duty. Due there tomorrow. Stayed overnight in Charleston with Grace. I'll not join him until later or until arrangements can be made to move. Few days later-Abe wired to say he is being sent to Pine Camp, N.Y. with the 4th Armored Div. (24th Engrs.)"

The diary continues in my grandmother's hand to explain her life as a single mother of Gary (born Oct. 1938), moving to California, the birth of daughter Katharine Belle (Kitty) in 1943, and her longing for every word, any word, from Abe. While reading the opening pages it is hard not to anticipate the words entered on December 7, 1941. When the reader finally arrives there, my grandmother simply writes, "Pearl Harbor-how can we ever forget it!"

My dad did an amazing job of preserving his mother's diary in a bound volume, adding pictures of himself posing with each of his parents as a young boy. Probably the most memorable feature of this collection are the pages of letters that my grandfather wrote to my father during the war. It is so interesting to read the parallel accounts; my grandmother's fears of the reality of the war and the stories my grandfather recounted to make sense (and light?) of the situation for his young son. As it turns out, my grandfather was also a wonderful artist, drawing pictures with almost every letter. To make the situation even better, my grandfather, Major H.G. Martin, was the base censor. He read every letter that left the base, but may have made allowances for his own correspondence.

Abe returned to his family on 22 Jul 1945. "This is the big day! Abe walked in about seven-thirty this evening, surprising us almost to death. Gary was thrilled to see him as was I-but Kit is still a bit puzzled. It's wonderful having him home again. He left the Phillipines June 28."

There is so much more to tell about the lives of Howard Garrison (Abe) Martin and his wife, Ruth. My father and I are always searching for information on the life and death of Turner Dunnington Martin (my ggg-grandfather) who seemed to disappear off the face of the earth sometime around 1870 in Monongalia County, (now) West Virginia. Other members of the Martin family have served honorably in the various wars, and learning more about this service is equally important. On Ruth's side, her Osborne ancestors kept their family history a little more guarded, and it is my personal mission to unravel the mystery of her father's (George Clinton Osborne) early life in Smyth County, Virginia.

Dad, you are so very right. The Martins do have great stories to tell and I hope you understand I am very proud of them, too. Using this blog as a vehicle to publish and preserve these stories has been a dream of mine for a long time. Please continue to comment.

1 comment:

Becky said...

I enjoyed reading about this wonderful family treasure you have! To have the letters and drawings to complement the diary makes it an even more special treasure. I found your blog through the Genealogy Blog Finder and have spent the past hour reading all of your posts. Well done, and looking forward to reading more in the future.