Gladys Earwood & Clarence Thomason

©2015 Lori Cook-Folger, CG

Thomason–Earwood wedding photograph, 1945; original, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, [address for private use,] North Carolina, 2009.

Gladys Marie Earwood was born 3 November 1922 near Commerce, in Hunt County, Texas, the first child of Starling Culmon Earwood and Birdie Elizabeth White.[1] She was born into a farming family and would have four younger siblings born over the next fourteen years.[2] Gladys was a good student. Attending Columbia School in Hunt County from 3 October 1938 to 28 April 1939, for ninth grade, she received all A’s and B’s on her report card.[3]

As the family grew, she was given the choice of working in the fields picking cotton or staying behind, keeping house and cooking. She chose the latter. This may have been when she dropped out of school. She once said she never missed having children of her own because she helped so much with her younger siblings.[4]

Gladys meets Clarence

Her “love story,” as she called it, began when she was sixteen years old in about 1939. Her father and brother had gone to town (Commerce) one day and while there they met a nice young man that was working with a horse. When they got home that evening, they told Gladys that she needed to meet this nice young man.[5] Lemmett Clarence Thomason was born 13 October 1917, in Rains County, Texas, to Johnny William Thomason and Mary Bell Teeters.[6] He was twenty-one and she just sixteen, but it must have been love at first sight.

Clarence worked for A.L. Anderson in Royse City planting, cultivating, and harvesting cotton, corn, and feed crops on a 100-acre farm. He also operated a tractor, worked with a team of horses and drove a truck hauling produce to market. Their love story would be put on hold with the impending turmoil of World War II.

Clarence in World War II

Clarence was inducted into the Army on 17 June 1942 and served in Company B, 313th Engineer Battalion. After his three months of basic training, he was a jackhammer operator for thirty-one months and a cook for three months, including setting up and operating a field kitchen under combat conditions in Italy. He was awarded a Good Conduct Medal and the European–African–Middle Eastern (EAME) Campaign Medal with 5 Bronze Stars & 1 Bronze Arrowhead.[7] The Bronze stars were for his participation in the following campaigns:

  • Sicily
  • Naples-Foggia
  • Rome-Arno
  • Northern Apennines
  • Po Valley

The Bronze Arrowhead was awarded for participation in a combat amphibious landing within the EAME Theater.[8]

Clarence left the U.S. on 8 February 1943 and arrived EAME on 21 February. He was there until 11 September 1945 and arrived back in the U.S. on 28 September. He was discharged from Fort Sam Houston on 4 October.[9]

Army Engineer Battalions cleared minefields, built and repaired roads and bridges, and cleared routes of obstacles. The history of the 313th Engineer Battalion showed discrepancies with Clarence’s discharge papers. The Battalion did not leave the U.S. until October–December 1943—after Clarence’s departure in February of that year and after the Sicily Campaign of 9 July–17 August 1943.[10] If Clarence was in the 313th Battalion, how did he arrive in EAME a full eight months before and how was he awarded a bronze star for participation in the Sicily Campaign? The answer is found by clues in the mementos Clarence’s future wife, Gladys, saved from his military years: Christmas and birthday cards, and a leather “wallet.” The addresses on the envelopes show he was in Company E, 39th Engineer Combat Regiment.[11]

The historical unit data cards for the 39th Engineer Combat Regiment shed light on what happened. Company E was transferred to its overseas station, North African Theater of Operations (later designated Mediterranean Theater of Operations) in January of 1943 on the Acadia, and arrived Oran, Algeria on 21 February 1943. They were assigned to the Seventh Army.[12] In the early morning hours of 10 July 1943, Patton’s 7th Army sent several waves of soldiers in amphibious landings on a forty-mile stretch of three beaches on Sicily. The 39th landed half an hour after the Rangers to clear away beach obstacles and prepare for the arrival of cargo.[13] While Patton was leading his men in Sicily, General Eisenhower was preparing to get an American army into mainland Italy. Lt. General Mark W. Clark’s Fifth Army was given the assignment. The units of the Fifth Army were drawn largely from Seventh Army units after the Sicily Campaign, eventually reducing the Seventh to a skeleton.[14] This appears to be how Clarence participated in the Sicily Campaign before being assigned to the Fifth Army and the 313th Engineer Battalion where he remained until discharged. Clarence kept a leather wallet that he acquired stamped Oran, North Africa. Inside was a patch and membership card in the Fifth Army Association. These items corroborate the military history that was not noted on his discharge papers.[15] Gladys received a telegram on 28 September 1945 that Clarence was back in the United States.[16]

Lemmett C. Thomason photograph, c. 1942; original, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, [address for private use,] North Carolina, 2009.

Gladys and Clarence’s Life Together

After his discharge on 4 October 1945, Clarence rode a bus to Commerce and walked from there to the Earwood farm. Gladys always remembered seeing him walk up the road. He bought her rings on 9 October 1945 at Levy’s House of Perfect Diamonds, located at 2711 Lee Street, Greenville, Texas. He paid $197.94 in cash.[17] He went to Dallas where he lived with his sister, Brittie Mae, for about a month while he found a job and a one-room “efficiency.” On the morning of Monday, 12 November 1945, Gladys and Clarence drove to Paris, Texas and bought a few items to set up housekeeping, like “silverware, dishes, and a biscuit pan.” The courthouse was closed in observance of Armistice Day, and Clarence knocked on the door of the clerk who gave them a marriage license. They drove back to the Earwood farm, dressed for the wedding, and drove to the preacher’s home where they were married about 4:00 in the afternoon.[18]

They spent their first night in a motel in Greenville and had a hamburger for supper. The next morning they drove to Dallas. Clarence was working the night shift, 11 pm to 7 am, at a flourmill. He later started working for A&P Grocery Warehouse. He quit that job and they moved to Tahoka, in West Texas for a while. He worked at the gin and pulled [cotton] bolls. They moved back to Dallas and Clarence worked for A&P for the next twenty-five years. After that he worked putting in gardens and mowing peoples lawns until his health kept him from it.

Gladys and Clarence bought their first home on 30 January 1957. It was located at 7615 Lake June Road in Dallas. They assumed a loan and had a second note for the down payment. These were both paid in full on 28 November 1966.[19] It was a small home, two bedrooms and a one bath with a one-car garage and only 788 square feet.[20] Most of the back yard at this house was a vegetable garden. Clarence and Gladys canned their summer harvest together. Gladys’s early childhood training of cooking and cleaning never left her: her house was immaculate and her meals always brought compliments. The Dallas neighborhood where the couple lived for more than thirty years began to deteriorate and they felt it was time to move.[21] In July of 1991 they bought a much larger home at 8625 Wolfwood Lane in Dallas.[22] It was a three bedroom, two bath, two-car garage and 1656 square feet.[23]

Gladys and Clarence celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1995. By this time Clarence had been living with Alzheimer’s for several years. Gladys never left him and was a patient and loving caregiver. In August 2001 they were in the back yard and he told her “I am going down” as he fell to the ground. Clarence was six foot tall and Gladys was only five foot. She had to call for help. He was taken to the hospital where they said he had suffered from a small stroke. Clarence never spoke after that day. He died a few weeks later on 1 October 2001,[24] only a month before their 56th anniversary. Gladys never really got over losing him—though separated by death, her love for Clarence never died. Each week she would go to his grave and tell him “Clarence, I love you and I always will.”[25]

Gladys began to feel unsafe in her home as the neighborhood was being taken over by drug dealers and gang members. She moved in October of 2007 to Buckner Retirement Village. She was never happy after the move and didn’t even unpack most of her belongings. She was driving to the store on Thursday, 18 June 2009, about 11:00 am when she “blacked out” and drove into the corner of a house at 2357 Materhorn Drive. She was taken to Baylor Hospital where she was in intensive care. She suffered from multiple injuries including several broken ribs. A neighbor visited her and she only remembered that she had blacked out. Her niece, Lori Cook-Folger, arrived and was able to see and talk to her before she slipped into a coma. The doctors said that a young person would have had a tough recovery from the severe injuries and they were more than she could survive. She died on 24 June 2009.[26] She was laid to rest beside the love of her life in Grove Hill Memorial Park, Dallas.[27]

My Aunt Gladys was very special to me, almost like a second mother. A day rarely goes by that I do not think of her or one of the many things she taught me without ever knowing it. To me, they were always Aunt Gladys and Unkie.

 

[1] Texas Department of Health, delayed birth certificate no. 1212987 (issued 1945), Gladys Marie Earwood; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.

[2] 1940 U.S. census, Hunt County, Texas, population schedule, Precinct 6, p. 526B, ED 116-33, household 51, S.C. Wood household; citing NARA microfilm T627, roll 4072.

[3] Gladys Earwood Report Card, 1939; original, Earwood folder, Cook-Folger Collection; privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, [address for private use,] North Carolina.

[4] Gladys Marie (Earwood) Thomason to Lori Cook-Folger, notes & recordings, 1985–2009; Cook-Folger Collection, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger,

[5] Gladys Marie (Earwood) Thomason to Lori Cook-Folger, notes & recordings, 1985–2009; Cook-Folger Collection, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, [address for private use,] North Carolina.

[6] Texas Department of Health, delayed birth certificate no. 193984 (issued 1969), Lemmett Clarence Thomason; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.

[7] Lemmett C. Thomason, Separation Qualification Record and Honorable Discharge; Thomason Family Folder, Cook-Folger Collection, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, [address for private use,] Hot Springs, North Carolina.

[8] Grunt’s Military, (http://www.gruntsmilitary.com : accessed 18 February 2004), “World War II Medals.”

[9] Lemmett C. Thomason, Discharge, Cook-Folger Collection.

[10] James S. Green, Lt. Col. C.E., Military History Network (http://www.milhist.net/88/313engr.html : accessed 16 October 2015), “History-313th Engineer Combat Battalion.”

[11] Earwood, Gladys (Celeste, Texas) to Pvt. Lemmett C. Thomason, birthday card, 8 October 1942 and Thomason, Lemmett C. to Gladys Earwood, Christmas card, post dated 16 November 1944; Earwood Family Files, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger [address for private use,] Hot Springs, North Carolina. Inherited by Cook-Folger after the death of Gladys in 2009.

[12] Marion J. Chard, VI Corps Combat Engineers of WWII (http://www.6thcorpscombatengineers.com/docs/39th/Unit%20Data%20Card.pdf : accessed 5 December 2015); “Historical unit data card for the 39th from 1942 activation to 1992 deactivation.”

[13] Alfred M. Beck, Abe Bortz, et al., The Technical Services, The Corps of Engineers: The War Against Germany (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1988), p. 125–129, digital image, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 5 December 2015.

[14] Martin Blumenson, United States Army In World War II, The Mediterranean Theater of Operations: Salerno To Cassino (1969; reprint, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1993), p. 27–33, digital image, Internet Archive (http:www.archive.org : accessed 5 December 2015.

[15] Lemmett Clarence Thomason, leather wallet and contents, 1944, Cook-Folger Collection, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger [address for private use,] North Carolina. Inherited by Cook-Folger after the death of Gladys in 2009.

[16] Clarence Thomason to Gladys Earwood, telegram, Earwood Folder, Cook-Folger Collection; privately held by Lori Cook-Folger.

[17] Levy’s House of Perfect Diamonds, receipt, Earwood Folder, Cook-Folger Collection; privately held by Lori Cook-Folger. The rings are privately held by Cook-Folger.

[18] Original marriage record, L.C. Thomason-Gladys Earwood, Lamar County, Texas, license number 745 (1945); privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, [address for private use], North Carolina; returned to Thomason by Clerk’s Office, with notation “Returned and filed for record the 14 day of Nov 1945 and recorded the 15 day of Nov 1945 in Book 44 page 581.” Gladys Marie (Earwood) Thomason to Lori Cook-Folger, notes & recordings, 1985–2009; Cook-Folger Collection, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, [address for private use,] North Carolina.

[19] Warranty Deed with Vendor’s Lien, Arthur Lavell Slater to L.C. Thomason, 1957, recorded in vol. 4652:139; original deed, Earwood folder, Cook-Folger Collection; privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, North Carolina, 2009.

[20] Zillow (https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/7615-Lake-June-Rd-Dallas-TX-75217/26795458_zpid/ : accessed 20 February 2017), home details for 7615 Lake June Road, Dallas, Texas.

[21] Gladys Marie (Earwood) Thomason to Lori Cook-Folger, notes & recordings, 1985–2009; Cook-Folger Collection, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, [address for private use,] North Carolina.

[22] Warranty Deed, Billy V. Davidson to L.C. Thomason, 1991; original family copy, Earwood folder, Cook-Folger Collection; privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, North Carolina, 2009.

[23] Zillow (https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/8625-Wolfwood-Ln-Dallas-TX-75217/26800245_zpid/ : accessed 20 February 2017), home details for 8625 Wolfwood Lane, Dallas, Texas.

[24] City of Dallas, death certificate no. 02-07682, Lemmett Clarence Thomason, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Dallas, Texas.

[25] Personal knowledge of Lori Cook-Folger, North Carolina.

[26] Texas Department of State Health Services, death certificate no. 02–07682 (2001), Lemmett Clarence Thomason; Vital Statistics, Austin. Texas Department of State Health Services, death certificate no. 142-09-077505 (2009), Gladys Marie Thomason; Vital Statistics, Austin.

[27] Grove Hill Memorial Park (Dallas, Dallas County, Texas), Lemmet C. & Gladys M. Thomason marker, Prayer Section, Lot 64, space 3, photographed by Lori Cook-Folger, 4 September 2013.

Click Clarence’s signature to learn more about him

Click Gladys’s signature to learn more about her