Sunday, July 2, 2017

Five Years Later, It's Twins Again – and Mourning Again

In May 1915, Sarah Eva Howe Salyers of Carrollton, Kentucky, was the busy mother of three children: 8-year-old Bob and 5-year-old twins Jim and Mary Alice. Her husband William Levi Salyers was busy, too, most likely working with his father at the local C.D. Salyers Tin and Stove store.

The Salyers household was about to get even busier. Sarah was due to deliver their next child at any time. In 1915 she had no way of knowing if the child would be a boy or a girl. Did she know she was carrying twins? I'm not sure if physicians of that day could tell if a mother was carrying more than one child, but I suspect a stethoscope would surely detect multiple heartbeats. Even without an official diagnosis, Sarah may have suspected twins based on her previous pregnancy.

On May 14, Sarah gave birth to twin boys. The first-born twin was healthy. They named him David Hillis Salyers II, after his father's grandfather.

The second twin was stillborn. They named him John Howe Salyers, after his mother's grandfather. On the day he was born, John was buried near his ancestors in the IOOF Cemetery in Carrollton.

David H. Salyers II, circa 1936
Sarah and Will had to celebrate a birth and mourn a death at the same time. I can't imagine that wrenching struggle between sadness and joy.

David was what is known today as a "twinless twin." Psychologists tell us that a surviving twin feels a sense of loss throughout life. I wish he was still here to talk with me about that.

David was the baby of the family and was, I'm told, spoiled by his sister and teased by his brothers. Like many Howe and Salyers relatives, he loved reading, singing, acting, and playing the piano. He never had a piano lesson, but he was a natural – he just sat down and played.

He went to school with his neighbors and cousins in Carrollton until his family moved to Richmond
in 1927, when David was 12. After a few years, they moved to Lexington, where he graduated from Henry Clay High School (1933) and the University of Kentucky (1937).

In July 1942, David joined the U.S. Army. He served first as a clerk typist, then in ordinance, then –
when his commanding officer discovered he could play a portable field organ – as a chaplain's assistant. During his 29 months as a soldier, he traveled throughout central Europe. He wrote many letters home, including one describing what he saw when he helped liberate the prisoners at one of Hitler's death camps. (Maybe those letters will be blog posts someday.)
David H. Salyers II, circa 1943

Before he went off to war, he married his Arkansas-born sweetheart, Eurelia Maehew Kennedy. Mae settled in Louisville, where David had been living in an apartment with his mother. While he was away, their son (my future husband) was born. A daughter was born a few years later but died shortly after birth.

In the late 1940s, David and Mae bought a big Victorian house in what was to become fashionable Old Louisville. It wasn't so fashionable then, just affordable. They became active in neighborhood restoration and were major forces in saving the historic area from decay and demolition. They were leaders in many civic organizations and projects, including the Kentucky Derby Festival, Shakespeare in Central Park, St. James Court Art Show, and others. Following the footsteps of David's Howe ancestors, they were also were active in the United Methodist Church. They lived in Old Louisville until they died.

David worked at the Kentucky Department of Revenue's downtown Louisville office for many years. He was an outgoing man who had the gift of gab, and he enjoyed nothing more than engaging people – friends or strangers – in conversation.

On 25 September 1981, he lost a 10-year fight against a kidney disorder. Honoring his wishes, his wife donated his body to the University of Louisville medical school. In death, as in life, David helped others.

David with wife Mae and son David III, Christmas 1945
David H. Salyers II, early 1916

David H. Salyers II in 1958, visiting the Carrollton, Kentucky house where he was born in 1915. This was the home of his parents, William Levi and Sarah Eva Howe Salyers.
David H. Salyers II, enjoying time at the piano, circa 1960. He never learned to read music but could play any song he heard, frequently entertaining others at church events, family gatherings, and parties. He also was known for his baritone voice and was a soloist in college, performing in Broadway musicals and operas. Keeping a promise to his mother, he sang Ave Maria at her funeral in 1955.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading this story.