Wednesday, July 15, 2015


 I have heard it said that your parents are a product of their parents in how they treat their children, so I wanted to take a minute to talk about my grandparents.
 On my Mother's side, I was named for her father.  Her brother thought I was named for him, since they both share the same first name.  My name is Walter Merrill Durst.  The Merrill name comes from her family name.  My grandfather was named Walter Merrill.  He was a judge.  My grandmother was named Lilla Jones Merrill.  She was first a school teacher, and later became a housewife.  My grandfather was married once before, but his first wife died.  A story that my Mother told me that my grandmother was the first teacher in Alabama to teach both black and white kids.  She would teach the white kids in the morning, and the black kids in the afternoon.  The KKK found out about this and shot out the windows of their home.  My grandfather, being the county judge, found out who did it and put them in jail.  I don't know if that story is true, but I do know that my grandfather was in the Klan for a while, and he taught his children to treat everyone equally.  So, that is how I was taught.  My grandmother was named Mother of the Year in Alabama one year.  They raised some very successful children.  My Uncle Pelham was a high school football coach and later an Alabama Supreme Court Justice.  My Uncle Walter was a very prominent attorney in Alabama.  My Uncle Carl was also an attorney in Alabama, and later District Attorney.  My Uncle Fred worked in higher education in Alabama.  My Aunt Clyde married a Baptist minister and they moved to Florida, where he headed the Baptist Convention there.  She wrote several books.  My grandfather died in 1958.  I didn't know him that well, except everyone called him "Judge" and he was very strict.  My grandmother died in 1969.  She was the strongest person of faith I ever knew.  Her death hit my Mother very hard, as they were very much alike.  My Mother went down to Alabama after her death and spent about a month closing up her house.  My grandmother died very peacefully.  She had gotten up that morning; fixed breakfast; and gotten dressed.  She sat down on the bed to put on her shoes for the day; leaned back; and died.  I wish I could go like that.
 On my father's side, I never knew my grandfather.  He died in 1924, when my father was 13.  There have been conflicting stories on how he died, but the general thought was that he had a brain tumor.  He owned the first car dealership in Greenwood, SC.  My grandmother raised four boys.  She also taught school.  Their family was well to do in Greenwood, owning the bank and a lot of the real estate.  My Uncle Jim lived in Greenwood and was an avid collector.  I guess I get that trait from him.  He started The Museum there.  My Uncle Bill moved to Atlanta and was in business there.  He became very wealthy.  My Uncle George became a doctor and moved to Charleston/Sullivan's Island.  He became rather famous in the medical community.  My grandmother died in 1986 at 105.  Everyone called her "remarkable".  I guess she was, but when she would come for a visit, she would stay in my room, because I had two beds.  She would douse herself with baby powder.  I blame her for my breathing problems.  She was very hard to get to know and extremely strong.  She had to be, having the raise her boys and put them through school.  One summer, I went to her house for a week.  She made me tomato jello.  I know some think it was tomato aspic, but it was jello.  It was very gross.  I dislike tomatoes today because of that.  Also, she had a driveway made of cracked coal.  One day, I fell and cut up my knee.  The coal got in the cut.  My father tried to get it out, but it was too painful.  I still have coal in my knee.  On my grandmother's 100th birthday, we had a party for her at her house.  She got many phone calls that day.  She would always answer the phone with "All Right" instead of "Hello".  One call came from Strom Thurmond.  She was related to him through his mother.  They talked for a few minutes, and then she hung up.  Then, she turned to one of her sons and asked him who that was.  "That was the Senator, Mother" was the response.  She wasn't impressed.  He was just another one of the callers.  Nothing really impressed her much, but she did love her four boys.
 So, my Mother taught us justice, and my father taught us a work ethic.  We carry that with us today.

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