By Tim Marsh.
My sister and I knew only one grandparent.
Born in 1879, our paternal grandmother died at age 94 in 1973 when I was 25 years old and my sister was 28.
Our maternal grandparents, U.S. immigrants from Sweden, died in the late 1930s (he) and early 1940s (she), before my sister and I were born in 1944 and 1948, respectively.
Our paternal grandfather, John Joseph Marsh, an immigrant from Ireland and husband of the grandmother we knew, died in 1918 of the Spanish influenza at age 49 in Bellingham, where our father was born in 1907.
On June 3, 1918, the Bellingham Herald reporting on our grandfather’s death said, “John J. Marsh (was) one of Bellingham’s most genial citizens and for nearly twenty-five years employed in the fire department of this city, half of that time as its chief…”
That was when fire engines were horse drawn.
Although we did not know our Irish Catholic grandfather John, he’s never far from our minds.
My sister’s first name is Mayo, for County Mayo in Ireland where our grandfather was born and where he and other family members lived before coming to America. My middle name, John, honors him.
According to HistoryLink.com, on October 3, 1918, the worldwide Spanish influenza epidemic arrived in Seattle. It was part of the influenza pandemic which engulfed the world. Grandfather John died June 1, 1918, of that influenza.
A story in a March 2020 edition of the Wall Street Journal said, “… more American soldiers died from influenza during World War I than from battle wounds, in a pandemic that killed upward of 50 million people world-wide.”
That brings us to today. My sister and I are among those reading about coronavirus and its impact on the world. We never thought there would be anything to seemingly rival what killed our grandfather and so many others.
This is a worrisome time. We pray for the coronavirus calamity to end.
- Writer Timothy John Marsh (Lakes High Class of 1966) and his sister, Mayo Emily Marsh (Clover Park High Class of 1962) live in western Oregon cities. They remember receiving polio vaccine by shots and on sugar cubes while students in Clover Park School district schools.
- Their father, Dr. Robert E. Marsh, was chief dental officer of American Lake VA Hospital. Their mother, Marjorie Marsh, was an artist and seamstress. After Dr. Marsh retired in 1970, their parents moved from Lakewood to western Oregon.