Gladys May Lyman, age 90, passed away early on the morning of Monday, 27 July, 2018 at the Autumnwood Care Center on East State Route 18 in Tiffin, Ohio. She is survived by three sons and a sister. This is the story of an American life.
Gladys May LeMarechal was born to William Leon (1898-1959) and Mabel Elizabeth (1898-1964) LeMarechal in a working-class neighborhood of the British Channel seaport of Southampton. Her father, William, was a veteran of the Great War, serving in the trenches of the Western Front from 1914 to 1918. Enlisting at age 16 in the national euphoria of August 1914, William lied about his age to serve his king and country during its darkest days. As an artillery gunner, he was gassed and suffered the rest of his life from its horrific effects, leading to substance abuse and what today we would call PTSD.
It was the Second World War that transformed and directed the future life of Gladys LeMarechal. Her brothers, John and Robert, served in the British Army, fighting in Africa, Italy and Burma. Her sister older Doris met and married an American GI from Tiffin, Ohio, leaving England as a war bride in 1945.
In 1939, only days after Britain’s declaration of war against Hitler’s Germany at 11:00 A.M. on 3 September of that year, Gladys, age 11, along with a million and a half other children, was evacuated from British cities to the relative safety of the countryside. For almost a year Gladys lived and worked hard on a farm for a family that was hardly enthusiastic about having urban children foisted on them by the state. While not abusive, separation from family and living with strangers was a traumatic experience for an 11-year-old girl.
The British government had long anticipated that upon the outbreak of war urban area bombing would begin at once with hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, a good portion of them being psychological breakdowns from stress and panic. This never happened, indeed the opposite occurred.
Ten months of Phony War followed Britain’s declaration of war with not a single bomb dropped on Britain and virtually no casualties on land. The children came home from the country and families all over Britain were reunited. When the bombing of British cities began in September 1940, the children endured a life of danger and hardship with the adults, sleeping in backyard shelters and in underground train stations. There were surprisingly few psychological breakdowns and almost no one panicked. People of all ages found a strength in themselves that they could never have imagined they had.
Gladys never attended school after 1940 and past the age of 12. She would have little formal education. Her local school was closed after 1940 and turned into a temporary barracks for French evacuees who later formed the nucleus of General De Gaulle’s Free French forces. Gladys spent her teenage years living an austere existence that would be intolerable for today’s youth. Her food was strictly rationed; she rarely tasted fresh fruit, meat, eggs, or anything made with sugar. As a teenager, Gladys went to work at a Vickers factory helping to build the Mosquito light bombers that made such a nuisance of themselves striking at precision high-level targets such as radar stations, Gestapo prisons, and submarine pens.
In 1947 Gladys sailed from Southampton to live with her sister Doris in Tiffin, Ohio. Two years later she married Everett William Lyman (1914-1992), an Army World War II veteran from Tiffin. In 1952 Gladys passed the citizenship test and took the oath to become a citizen of the United States. She abandoned her British passport and chose this country as her new home as countless immigrants had before her. Gladys received no government assistance, no free health care or education, no assistance from the state in raising her children, and would have been embarrassed to ask for any. Her first job as an American was as a waitress at the Shawhan Hotel in downtown Tiffin, once one of the finest regional hotels in northwest Ohio.
Gladys was the kind of traditional immigrant who has contributed far more to the country than she ever received from the taxpayers of the United States. She voted in every election during her more than 60 years as a U.S. citizen, voting for Democrats and Republicans. She lived by the rules, paid taxes without complaint, paid all her debts on time, bought a home with a 30-year mortgage, and worked hard as a homemaker and an employee.
Gladys worked on the factory floor for the General Electric Corporation in Tiffin for almost 25 years, until the Tiffin plant was closed down and production moved to Singapore, another dubious benefit of free trade. She had many friends, attended the United Methodist Church in Tiffin for more than half a century, went religiously to PTA meetings to hear both good and bad news about her children’s performance.
Gladys May LeMarechal is survived by three of her four children, born between 1952 and 1964.: Robert of Tiffin, Raymond of Bowling Green, Ohio, and Richard of Caldwell, Idaho. Of her eight siblings, she is survived only her sister, Beryl, who lives in Calgary, Alberta. Gladys has innumerable nieces and nephews, grand and otherwise, in Britain and Canada.
Gladys led a good life, helped many people, did her best at all things, and never stopped learning despite her lack of a formal education. She will be missed by everyone who knew her, but most of all by her sons, who owe everything in life to her.
May she rest in peace and today be reunited with her son, Randolf Eugene (1964-2006), who died of cancer at the young age of 42 in 2006.
Memorial services will be 3 pm Saturday, September 29, 2018, at Faith United Methodist Church, with Rev. Marilyn Coney officiating. Burial will be in South Hampton, England.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Traunero Funeral Home and Crematory, 214 S. Monroe St., Tiffin, Ohio 44883 (419)447-3113. To leave online condolences, go to www.traunerofuneralhome.com