My paternal grandfather was three years old in 1909 when both of his parents died of the flu.
William Marvin Myers, known as “Bill,” was born on 16 January 1906 in Perquimans County, North Carolina, the youngest child of Josephine Emma Goodwin and William Myers. Josephine passed away in March 1909 at the age of 35; his father followed in October 1909, leaving their three small children orphaned. Lucinda (Goodwin) Curtis took in her sister’s children – Percival (age 9), Nellie (age 4), and William (age 3) – and raised them with her own three children in a crowded rural farm house.
By 1920, Percival was dead of typhoid fever and sister Nellie was married. Bill completed two years of high school and worked as a farm laborer on his uncle’s farm. He moved west forty miles to Williamston in 1927, where he met Susie Lanier Keel one day at the movies. She was a farmer’s daughter herself and something sparked. Susie found herself pregnant and she and Bill married in July 1927 in the Baptist minister’s parlor. What she remembered most of the wedding was that her parents didn’t attend, probably because of the pregnancy.
Originally working as a farm laborer on his father-in-law’s farm, Bill soon began working for the W.I. Skinner & Co. Tobacco Company in a year-round capacity. He was a truck driver on the Williamston/Norfolk route and also worked as a warehouse foreman, retiring at age 57 in 1963 due to declining health. He died on 14 June 1964 of metastatic cancer.
Those are the facts. But the truth of the man is harder to find because he was a hard man to know, keeping largely private and to himself. My father doesn’t recall much affection between his parents when he was growing up, nor much affection between father and children, either.
Bill had less education than his wife and lived with her parents in a community where her family had lived for 200 years and he had few friends. He was poor all his life and quite possibly resented being tied to my grandmother in a shotgun wedding. He was a quiet man who didn’t talk much, didn’t read, didn’t play or have interest in sports, or spend time with others. In spite of the kind words of his obituary, Bill didn’t attend church often, either. He was just a quiet, boring man in a dead-end job with little to bring joy to his life – and who didn’t enjoy the children he had.
Which is really so sad. Not only do I not know him, his children didn’t, either.