Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The “Disappearance” of Miriam Reed

Guest Post By Henry Singer, Jr.


Miriam Thelma Reed,
High School Graduation, 1936
While researching my mother’s side of my family, I located a reference called South Carolina Garrick Family Roots  (Miller/Watson 1995) which detailed much of my mother’s maternal ancestry. However, when it came to my mother herself, she had “disappeared” from the family history. She was correctly identified as the daughter of Marcus Fred and Annie Garrick Reed of Savannah, Georgia, but she was listed as having married someone named "Signer" and left the area.

Miriam did indeed marry and leave Savannah and that is the subject of this narrative. Miriam married Henry Lewis Singer (not Signer) of Avon, Washington on June 20, 1946. How a man who had never been further east than Butte, Montana met a woman who had never been further west than Raleigh, North Carolina can be explained, like many stories of that era, by World War II. The story also involved an unlikely twist of fate that brought the two together.

The story actually began sometime in 1942 when a young Georgia man named Fred Reed (Miriam’s younger brother) burst into a barracks at Fort Lewis, Washington with some other Southern recruits and in a good-natured, yet boisterous, way announced that the Rebels had arrived.

Henry, at the time, had been napping on his cot and did not take kindly to being awakened. Apparently, words were exchanged between Henry and Fred, though there is no indication that they came to blows. The two were separated and the incident was over, but not the connection between the two men.

Sometime later the two men got together and apologized to each other and in an unlikely scenario went on to become close friends. Fred was an outgoing young man, while Henry, about ten years older, was a quiet and reserved man. The two men enjoyed “horsing” around together, but their real bond may have been that they both valued a man of his word and were closely tied to their respective families. The war eventually led them to Europe with the 203rd General Hospital where they were part of the motor pool. As part of the Normandy Campaign they saw their share of warfare, before finishing the war serving at a military hospital in Paris.

Henry Singer (left)
Belgium, 1945
At some point, Fred Reed had arranged for his sister, Miriam, to write to this GI friend of his from Washington. This probably started while the unit was stationed at Fort Lewis and continued until the end of the war. Unfortunately, no record of this correspondence has ever been found. There is only a picture of Henry, sent to Miriam after the war’s end. The photo was taken in Belgium in 1945 as the troops awaited transport back to the United States.

While none of their correspondence has ever been found, a relationship obviously developed. Henry was discharged from the Army at Fort Lewis in December of 1945.

Wedding Day, 1946
Savannah, Georgia
By June, he had driven across the country to meet and marry Miriam. It is believed that he made the trip twice, no easy feat in the time before interstate highways. One trip to meet Miriam, a return home to announce his intentions, followed by a return to Savannah with his sister Dee, at which time Henry and Miriam were married.

For the first four years of their marriage Henry and Miriam alternated between living in Washington and Georgia. Weather conditions often limited Henry’s work as a house mover during the winter, so they would relocate to Georgia, often staying with Miriam’s parents on Victory Drive in Savannah while Henry found work around town.

On January 7, 1948 their first child, Henry, Jr., was born. The arrival of a child made seasonal relocations less feasible. In 1950, Henry, Miriam, and Henry, Jr., returned to Washington to live permanently. With the construction of the Interstate Highway system and growing local communities Henry found steady work in the house moving trade. He continued in that employ until injury forced his retirement at the age of 60.

Henry and family settled in the town of Mount Vernon, the economic hub of the fertile Skagit Valley. Though it was the largest town in the area, the population of 8,000 was a far cry from bustling Savannah. For Miriam, the gray, cloudy days, cool temperatures and rural environment were a challenge. She dreamed of the day that the family would be able to return to Georgia. However, with the birth of two more children, daughters Anne Elizabeth (1953) and June (1957), her life in Mount Vernon became ever more permanent.

By the time Miriam returned for visits to Savannah in the 1960s and 1970s, the South she knew had changed. Though she loved her memories of Savannah throughout her life, she realized that with her family and friends, she was now more closely tied to Washington than Georgia.

Henry and Miriam delighted in their roles as parents and eventually grandparents. They faced all of life’s challenges with their children and grandchildren at the forefront of their thoughts. Henry passed away in November, 1980. Miriam continued to live in their home until her passing in April, 1999. During the intervening years Miriam, though missing Henry, remained active, nurturing grandchildren and sharing time with family.

Henry and Miriam are buried side by side in the IOOF Cemetery in Mount Vernon, Washington. The relationship that began in 1942 never wavered. Henry and Miriam shared life’s joys and sorrows together, inseparable in their affection for each other and for their family.
Miriam Reed Singer
Mount Vernon, Washington, 1996



Henry and Marlene Singer
Henry Singer is a 4-great grandson of Samuel and Mary Clark Reed.  Born in Savannah, GA, he grew up in Washington State.  He and his wife Marlene taught elementary school for 30+ years and are currently enjoying retirement in Tucson, AZ.  

His lineage:  Samuel Reed and Mary Clark > Hugh Reed and Jane McSpeddon > James Reed and Anne Tyler > James A. Reed and Gertrude Easterling > Marcus Reed and Annie Garrick > Miriam Reed and Henry Singer > Henry Singer, Jr.

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