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Down the Lane: A cousin named Marvin

By Sue Staton

If you have followed along with me this year, you will know that so far, 2017 has not been the best year for me. Each week has been one with bad news, and this week has been no exception.

One of my oldest cousins, Marvin, passed away from a brain aneurysm. The news of his illness and death was painful for me and my siblings. We each had our own set of memories of him and that is what I have decided to write about today.

I was thinking back to all the fun times my family spent with my cousin Marvin Prewitt Barker. There are so many, because every time you were around him, it was a good feeling.

My sister, Viola, perfectly described Marvin when she said he was a gentle spirit. That was exactly what he was.

He never wanted the limelight. You knew he was in a room because he would always ask how you were and never dwell on himself or his family.

It wasnt until his wife had an accident that required her to be in a nursing home that you ever saw worry on Marvin’s face. He daily went to see her and supported her the best way he knew.

If anyone was in the hospital or sick in the family, Marvin either came or called about them.

Marvin loved to kid people. I can remember as a child, the first time he kidded me. It was when I asked him what the P. in his name stood for. He told me Marvin Pretty Barker. I told him matter of factly it was not, and he kept telling me over and over it was and not until I asked my Aunt Bea, his mom, what his name was did I really learn. He had fun teasing me.

When I was a teenager, I kept telling Marvin I was going to come and spend the weekend with them. Of course, being a teenager, I did not want to miss a chance at a date, so I ended up about three times not going to their house when I said I would. After the third invitation, I received a letter in the mail that read, “Dear Sue, Please do not make us spend another grueling weekend with you, I do not think we can stand it. Love, Marvin.” I got the message and went the next weekend. I had to laugh, though.

I loved to go to their house, and if Marvin knew I was coming, he would bake the best banana cake with the tastiest frosting. Aunt Bea taught both her sons to cook and they could do it well. Marvin’s specialty was cakes. My two favorites were his German chocolate cake and the banana cake.

I have thought of all the things I learned to do in life because Marvin took the time to teach his cousins and always with patience, I must say. One was learning the game of croquet. Marvin loved playing croquet and he made sure we learned the right way to play. Many hours were spent enjoying croquet because of Marvin. We couldn’t wait until we had enough Top Value stamps saved up at our house to get the croquet set.

I now work a crossword puzzle daily because of Marvin. Marvin got me interested in working puzzles in T.V. Guide. From that time on, I have enjoyed doing crossword puzzles.

It was always a joy to see Marvin and his brother Ronald come down the lane to see us. They were the bright spots in our lives many times.

Though they lived close to North Middletown, I will never forget on a cold, snowy day when we were out of school we looked up and saw them coming down the lane. That was one of the best snowball fighting days I can remember us having. My sister lost a false tooth she had (due to a dental mishap) when she was hit in the mouth with a snowball that day, and we were melting snow with hot water to try to find it. Somehow or other it must have caught in her mouth and fell out because later I discovered it on my winter coat. I had either sat down on the snow and picked it up on my coat or something. We never knew. It is still a funny memory.

We had many hours of fun with Marvin. Some of those hours where when he taught us all how to play Monopoly. When I look back, I am amazed at the patience he had as we tried to catch on. He could explain things so well and never made you feel dumb when learning.

The one thing I remember the most, and several of my cousins do too, was how on Christmas Day he would lead the whole troop of the Willloughby cousins down Main Street in Mt. Sterling.

We would go to the old Trimble theatre and see a movie on Christmas Day. My grandmother had a heart condition and lived in an apartment and our parents sent us to the movies so they could get a break, and we would not be overcrowded, and we loved it.

It was like Marvin was guardian over us all to make sure we stayed in line and returned back safely to the apartment. The movie-going became a tradition for only a few years before my grandmother could no longer stay alone in her apartment. It is funny looking back now how much that impacted our lives as young kids. It was his manner of kindness and sweetness that we remember.

In fact, when I think of it, if every person in the world had Marvin’s kind spirit, the world would be full of the spirit of love.

Sue Staton is a Clark County native who grew up in the Kiddville area. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who is active in her church, First United Methodist Church, and her homemakers group, Towne and Country Homemakers.