22 Sep 1941 – Hot
“… Around three Mr. Culbertson came, said I had a long distance call. It was Edward. Nelson had called him and told him C.L. died today. Earl hasn’t come in yet, and I don’t know what do to. Poor boy, he had just got ready to live, it is terrible. And his poor kids will never know what a Daddy means. Marcia must be completely bewildered. Edward is taking Mamma and Joe down.” – from Bea Bryan Denham’s journal, first cousin of C.L.
My grandfather died suddenly at the age of thirty-six from a cerebral hemorrhage, leaving behind his wife Marcia, and two young daughters, Anna Claire (my mother) and Carol Lee.
C.L. — that’s what he called himself. He insisted his name was not Cicero Louis, which was his father’s name. But most people just called him “Foots” because his feet were so big. Born in 1905, the son of a doctor, he grew up in a rural town in north Louisiana called Winnsboro. C.L. grew to be a handsome, gentle fellow — tall and lean. He was a lover of poetry and he was a strong athlete who played catcher on his baseball team in high school. He graduated from Winnsboro High in 1922.
He attended Louisiana College in central Louisiana so that he wouldn’t be too far from his widowed mother. He later transferred to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge to continue his studies.
That’s where he met Marcia.
Marcia Broome was a spunky, petite young lady, born in Mississippi, but reared in south Louisiana. She was everything that C.L. wasn’t, but that’s what made their relationship so endearing and so much fun.
As she wrote in one of her letters to him while he was at a summer camp with the Reserved Officers Training Corps, she loved him “just lots and lots.” In her college annual, the 1925 LSU Gumbo, he wrote in French, “I love you, I adore you, Could you want more? – Foots” He was such a romantic!
Then on November 28, 1928 they were married. He was 23 and she was 21. But neither of his parents would see him married. His father died when C.L. was 14 and his mother died when he was 21.
At the beginning of their new life together Marcia and C.L. bought a house with some land near Ryan Airport north of Baton Rouge. He went to work for the Standard Oil Company (now Exxon) in Baton Rouge and she taught Home Economics at Baker High School. It would be six years into their marriage before their first daughter Anna Claire was born. Three years later Carol Lee would be born into the family.
C.L worked hard on their home place. He farmed the back acreage with a plow and mule that Anna Claire loved to ride. But he found plenty of time to have fun with his girls. He was a good daddy. Life was good, but the world was not.
Events on the world stage were becoming more and more unsettling. Hitler was making his push for world domination more quickly than anyone could have imagined and Japan was wreaking havoc in the Pacific. With each passing year the United States was becoming the only oasis of peace in the world.
Taking advantage of this peace while it lasted, the Guices decided to take a vacation in the Smokey Mountains in May of 1941. A young family friend came along to help take care of the girls so C.L. and Marcia could enjoy some of their vacation time together as a couple. They enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the girls even got to play in a mountain stream. They were making wonderful memories as a family — memories that would have to last Marcia and the girls a lifetime. It would be less than four months later when the whole family was home for the day that C.L. came in with an awful headache. He laid down on a bed, but shortly there after, died of a brain hemorrhage.
More from Bea Denham’s journal two days after his death…
24 Sep 1941 - Rain, Gulf storm
“The last days have been a kind of nightmare of long grey roads stretching toward something I didn’t want to reach, yet which I found myself frantically trying to get to. The pity of young death, of young families torn and the aching hurt is always more than I can bear if I’m not personally concerned, and C.L. is the nearest to a brother I ever had. Poor Marcia, she loved him to the exclusion of any other interest, and the little girls are too young to realize what it means to them. Though children suffer far more keenly than grown ups realize, as Anna Claire, “Why couldn’t God let my Daddy live to be an old man like Uncle Joe?” Their hearts will ache many a time for him.”
For my grandmother, Marcia, I have always considered her such a strong and astute woman — handling this crisis with two young children in the midst of one of the greatest crises the world had known. The United States would be entering the world war by December. Goods would soon be rationed. Her house and land had to be managed. She would find someone to rent part of her house so she would not be alone. My grandmother later sold the house and land that C.L. and she bought together, having it divided into lots for a subdivision…a hard but necessary decision.
Two years after the death of C.L., Marcia married W.T. Arnold, the kind grocer who owned the store where she traded and who had been giving her extra ration stamps to help take care of her two little girls. W.T. and Marcia had one daughter together named Marcia Jane.
For my mother Anna Claire, as full as her life was, her heart never stopped aching for her daddy.