I Love Cemeteries

I’ve always found old cemeteries fascinating. You never know what you’ll find there. Perhaps I inherited this interest from my mother. Gail Lee Martin spent many hours in graveyards while tracking down ancestors and looking for birth and death dates to add to the family tree.

Pause for a minute to scan the moss-covered stones and trace a finger over the engraved lettering.

longmeadow cemetery

I visited this cemetery in Longmeadow, Massachusetts some years ago.

Who was this person that lies beneath this gravestone? What was his life like and why did he die? Sometimes you find family groupings and can piece together the family’s story. Perhaps the father died in the war, leaving a young widow. Nearby is a stone for their child who died too young. Was it an accident, an epidemic or other misfortune?

child grave ky

A child’s grave in Frankfort, KY.

I’m always intrigued by the long-lived ones, octogenarians and even ones who lived into their nineties. It’s particularly striking when the stone is for someone who lived in the 1700s or the 1800s. In those days, the life span was much shorter, but you find some who were remarkably long-lived.

As a genealogist, I’m usually looking for specific ancestors as I wander through a cemetery. Still, I can’t resist checking out other people’s dead relatives while I’m there.

There’s something timeless and soothing about a sunny day of wending ones way among the marble markers that represent lives of those long gone. Here’s an old graveyard that I discovered in New Hampshire called the Perkins Hill Cemetery. You can read about the interesting graves I found there.

I’ve even stopped by a cemetery on a snowy day. This photo is from Ohio where I lived in the 1970s. The sky was threatening more snow and I couldn’t resist stopping to capture it with my camera. I wish I’d had a better camera back then.

ohio cemetery

A cemetery in winter near Chardon, Ohio.

Do you find graveyards scenic and interesting?


(all photos by Virginia Allain)

Gail’s CarePages – January 2013

CarePages is a website that family can use to keep everyone up-to-date on a loved one who is in a care situation. After Gail Lee Martin broke a hip in November, CarePages became sort of a diary with a running commentary by family and friends. The family did a lot of texting, emails, Facebook updates, and phone calls during that time as well.
I saved the CarePages messages as a record of that stressful time.

Gail’s CarePages – January 2013

Posted Jan 4, 2013 9:40pm by Karen Kolavalli – “I’d never actually seen a Bluebird before, but the birds I saw this afternoon around an evergreen there at Regent Park Rehab were obviously just that! Three pairs of them!”
bluebird pixabay

Bluebird photo courtesy of Pixabay

Posted Jan 7, 2013 1:56pm by Cynthia Ross – “Getting to see the Bluebirds had to be a special treat! I’ll watch for them the next time I’m there to visit Mom. Mom has a south facing window in her room, maybe she’ll get to see them as well. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.”

Blood Clot

Posted Jan 8, 2013 7:15pm by Karen Kolavalli – “Mom had been complaining of sharp pain in her groin, where they went in for the heart catheterization. Yesterday Regent Park’s doctor ordered an ultrasound to be sure there wasn’t a hematoma. Susan reports that the ultrasound showed a blood clot. It will be treated with bed rest and medicine.”
Posted Jan 8, 2013 10:15pm by Carol Garriott – “No wonder she was in pain!”
Posted Jan 8, 2013 10:03pm by Sandi Edgar – “She just can’t get a break it seems! Hope the meds work….hugs!”
Posted Jan 8, 2013 8:43pm by Melba Hauser – “Thanks for the update, I really appreciate them.”
Gail Martin at rehab

Gail Lee Martin at Regent Park Rehab Center after breaking her hip, having surgery, and then a heart attack.Blood Clot

Mom back at Wesley in Surgical Intensive Care Unit

Posted Jan 14, 2013 9:46pm by Karen Kolavalli – “Mom is back at Wesley in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. She woke up this morning at Regent Park with chest pains, which didn’t improve after 2 nitroglycerin pills.

They’re not able to do a heart catheterization to see what’s going on because she’s been on blood thinners for the blood clot, so they’re having to wait 2-3 days for her blood to get thicker before they can do the procedure. In the meantime, they’re using meds to keep her stabilized. They also plan to do a sonogram of her heart.

They did an EKG when she first got to Wesley. In comparing it with the one she had at the time of her other heart attack, there are changes that seem to indicate that she’s developed more blockages.

The cardiologist thinks she did probably have a heart attack this morning.”

Posted Jan 15, 2013 11:41am by Sandi Edgar – “I am so sorry to hear she is having yet more problems. I will keep her in my prayers for a complete recovery from this new problem. Hugs!”

Gail Lee McGhee Martin (Sept. 13, 1924 – Jan. 17, 2013)

Posted Jan 18, 2013 8:22pm by Karen Kolavalli – “Mom passed away last night in Wesley ICU after another heart attack. We are planning a celebration of her life for Saturday, February 2, at 11:00 a.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 430 Eunice, El Dorado, KS. Everyone is invited to join us after the service for a meal provided by the ladies of the church. Karen”
Posted Jan 19, 2013 12:30pm by Sandi Edgar – “Karen, I don’t have the words to tell you how sorry I am. My heart goes out to you and your family. Please keep in touch and call if you need to talk. Love you.”

Gail Would Be 93 Today

The reminders come up on Facebook and on a genealogy site that I belong to. September 13th is Gail Lee Martin’s birthday. She would have been 93 today. How I wish I could call her up and say, “Happy Birthday, Mom!”

Mom always liked to say she was born on Friday the 13th, but I fact-checked her claim on a calendar for 1924. It was a Saturday, but it makes a good story.

People get those Facebook reminders and don’t always stop to think or else don’t know the person well, “Happy Birthday,” they say, “and I wish you many more.” Sadly, there will be no more special cake on Gail’s birthday and she won’t blow out the candles.

We miss you.

R is for Ruth McGhee – In Sympathy

Gail Martin’s mother, Ruth McGhee died on the 25th of July in 1960 in Emporia, Kansas. It was a shock to everyone. Cards poured in to let the family know that she would be missed by everyone who knew her.

She’d had a heart attack and was in the hospital. The next month, she would have been 63 years old. Gone too soon.


Ruth McGhee sympathy cards

Some observations on the cards. Greeting card styles have changed since 1960. The cards were smaller and of lightweight paper. Some embellishment like glitter, a ribbon or flocking made a few cards stand out.

For the most part, the custom was to put just a signature, often the formal “Mr. & Mrs.” which we don’t use much now in signing a card. Usually, there was no additional note, and when there was, the expressions of sympathy sounded more formal then.

Here are the signatures on the cards. If you are from Madison, Kansas, many of these names will be familiar. Some come from further afield from family and friends in Oklahoma, Oregon, and California.

  • Russell, Dorothy & Don Andrew
  • Virgil & Bernice Armstrong – “with the deepest of sympathy for you & your family. May God be with you & comfort you at this time of great sorrow.
  • Frank J. Barker & Family
  • Mr. & Mrs. Otey Bill
  • Otho & Freida Buster
  • Frank & Inis Castoe
  • Cheerful Worker’s Class, Madison Christian Church
  • The George Cloptons
  • The Crawfords – “You have had a great loss and we have lost a dear friend.
  • Floyd & Millie Culver
  • Ralph Dobson
  • Essie Dunham
  • Mr. & Mrs. Earl Dyer
  • Tom & Ruth Edwards
  • The Engles
  • The Flemings – “Rich & I both want you to know that we are thinking of you & your family & extend our very deepest sympathy.
  • Mr. & Mrs. T.G. French
  • B.H. & Doris Gaines & family – “Our deepest sympathy to you, Clarence, in your great loss.
  • Mr. & Mrs. C.W. Galbraith
  • Mrs. Pearl Garvin
  • Anna Haas (Lamont, KS) – “with deepest understanding sympathy”
  • Lloyd & Betty Haas – “Have thought of you often in the past weeks.
  • Edna Mae & Austin Hailey (Barker)
  • Mr. & Mrs. Roy Harlan
  • Harold, Melba Lu & Janice Hauser – “God Bless you & keep you as you go on – the way Aunt Ruth would want it. With all our love.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Ray Hess
  • The James-Sill-Brown Post, No. 124, Madison, Kansas (American Legion)
  • Mr. & Mrs. Geo Jester
  • Roy & Blanche Kennedy of Wichita – “So little I can say at a time like this, so nice of you to call me. I would of come if possible. I’m thankful that Ruth and I had such a nice visit last fall at her sister’s & Ruth gave me a crocheted apron she just made. I appreciate it even more now. If you are in Wichita, come see us & if there is ever anything I can do, rest assured, I would. It’s nice you have the girls and grandchildren to help ease your burden.  Write when convenient.
  • Conley & Mrs. Kindley – “God Bless and Comfort You
  • James King & Family
  • Seth & Mildred Lindberg
  • Coy & Lois Lindsey, Paula & Brenda
  • Harley & Carmon McClure (Heston, Kansas)
  • The C.C. McCollum family
  • W.E. McGiluray
  • Bud, Rosa & Arminta McGoyne
  • Mr. & Mrs Arthur Moore
  • Norman & Bonnie Morray & Family
  • Mrs. Earl Mullen
  • Mr. & Mrs. John Ogilvie
  • Treva, Dee-Wayne, Leslie, Lynn, Louis, & Lyle Paugh
  • Irene & Hugh Palmer – “our sincere sympathy
  • Kermit & Velva Pope
  • The Fletcher Powells (more names below the photo)ruth-mcghee-card-2
  • Ernest & Lois Reynolds – “Dear Clarence, we are so sorry to hear of your loss. Our sincere sympathy.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Ray Richards, Ken & Myrna
  • Charles & Milla Ritchey
  • Mr. & Mrs. Theo Richter
  • The Robert E. Sanders
  • Mr. & Mrs. L Sauder (Beulah & Doc) – “Dear Friend, You know you have our deepest sympathy but wanted to send you a card. We appreciated cards sent us when mother passed away and liked to take them out and look at them at times.
  • Janice Schmidt
  • Mr. & Mrs. Clarence Schwab
  • Oscar & Hazel Skaggs – “Mrs. Lour just called & told us of the sad news of the death of your wife. We are happy we got to know her at Trenton last year. We are surely praying that you and your family will gain much comfort from God at this time.
  • Opal Smith of Woodward OK
  • The Snyders
  • Herb & Mabel Staten
  • Mr. & Mrs. Fred Storrer
  • Mr. & Mrs. G.O. Towns
  • Hallie Umbarger
  • The Williamsons – “We are sorry not to be able to attend the services, but Roy is still not feeling well. Our sincere sympathy to all of you.
  • Frances Yawn of Orlando FL
  • Ardale, Earleen & Girls
  • Erma & Hubert
  • Irene & Shy
  • Leslie & Lula
  • Lafe & Verna
  • Hiram & Elizabeth – “Dear Clarence, Dewey told me about your great loss. We are truly sorry to hear it. Know it must be hard to bear, but it is one thing we all have to face sooner or later. Would like to see you, but we do not get out much these hot days. May God bless you in your sorrow.
  • Leonard, Violet & family

I apologize for any misspelled names. For the most part, the handwriting was very clear and readable but I struggled with a few of them.

Obituary for Gail Lee Martin

This obituary appeared in the El Dorado Times and in the Wichita and Madison newspapers. These serve an important role in informing friends and family but also serve through the years to aid genealogists working on their family history. For those who never met Gail Lee Martin, the obituary lets them see that someone special is no longer with us.

Gail Martin -KS author

Gail Lee Martin published two books with stories from her family history, her own childhood, and her husband’s life.

Gail Lee Martin

September 13, 1924 – January 17, 2013

El Dorado lost a local author when octogenarian, Gail Lee Martin died January 17. Martin, age 88, suffered a heart attack at Wesley Medical Center.

Her memoir, My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing up in 1930s Kansas, won the 2010 Ferguson Kansas History Book Award. Other writing included a biography of her husband, Clyde Owen Martin. Both books are featured in the Kansas Oil Museum gift shop.

Earlier writings appeared in magazines such as Kanhistique, The Golden Year and Reminisce. An online search for “Gail Lee Martin” reveals an active online presence with stories posted on Our Echo and Squidoo. Martin served as webmaster for the first site encouraging other writers. She served as archivist for the Kansas Authors Club for over 10 years and presented programs at the state convention.

Martin, known for her homemade jams at the El Dorado Farmer’s Market, also won recognition over the years as a 4-H leader.

Born September 13, 1924, in Eureka, Martin is the middle child of Clarence Oliver McGhee and Ruth (Vining).

She is survived by her sister, Carol Garriott of El Dorado, five children; Owen Martin of Whitewater, Susan Leigh and Karen Kolavalli of El Dorado, Cynthia Ross of Towanda and Virginia Allain of Poinciana, Florida and grandchildren, Paul Calhoun, Robin Calhoun, Kristy (Ross) Duggan, April (Calhoun) Wickwire, Nikki (Ross) Teel, Diana (Hyle) Platt, Samantha (Hyle) Noble, and Chhaya Kolavalli. She has eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 67 years, Clyde O. Martin, her parents, her sister, Melba Harlan; a daughter, Shannon Hyle and son-in-laws, Ronald Calhoun and Larry Ross.

Family and friends can participate in a celebration of her life on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 430 Eunice, El Dorado.

A memorial has been set up with Kansas Authors Club and will be used for a book award. Writing was an important part of Gail’s life.