African American Soldiers 1 pilots in dress uniforms Mule Rearing African American Officers gas masks Riveters The pilots doughboys with mules

Marguerite and Norman McCreary - A World War I Love Story

By Caitlin Hamon
Staff Writer

The great William Shakespeare wrote "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks / But bears it out even to the edge of doom" (Sonnet 116.)

Poem 600Original manuscript of the poem "A Widow’s Wish" by Marguerite McCreary, written in memory of her husband Norman McCreary, who died in battle in 1918. (Click for larger image.)This was especially true for war Widow Marguerite McCreary. She tragically lost her husband to combat, but continued to love and grieve for him long after he had died.

Eric McCreary Nager, her great-nephew of Marguerite, and retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Army Reserve, discovered several poems written by her for her beloved. Upon further research, Eric also found newspaper stories about his Great Uncle's war service. Eric graciously provided us with these precious materials, along with his story:

Q: Tell us about how you learned about your Aunt and discovered her writings.

I was working on the WW1 project last year as a military historian for the Army Reserve, and just retired at the end of last year after 28 years.

In the Great War, my Great Uncle Norman McCreary was called to duty and killed very early on in the action. Norman died about exactly a year after they were married and he shipped out before then, so they only had a few months together. His widow, my Great Aunt Marguerite, wrote those poems as a way to cope with her grief. I am told she was in mourning for the rest of her life. I never met her, but my cousins, William McCreary and Beverly Pennington, shared her story with me.

I had heard of the poems and my cousins each produced a copy at my request. Then Beverly sent me the newspaper clippings. I wanted to obtain a photo of Marguerite, so my cousin steered me to Geneva College where they (my Aunt and Uncle) both graduated. The staff were able to locate an old yearbook in addition to more information on Aunt Marguerite. The photo of her is courtesy of the school.

Q: What is the most significant part of this material, to you personally?

What is meaningful to me as a historian is these primary sources tie me to family members I never met. The photos are meaningful as a connection to these relatives. The paper article about the circumstances of his service and bravery stand out. The Garden and Cross poems are special because they author still bends her will to God's despite her deep sorrow. It's touching that my great aunt's faith did comfort her in her time of need. I'm also proud to have continued the tradition of military service in my family.

Caitlin Hamon  is a volunteer with the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.

 McCreary Marguerite E. Steele Class of 1914Geneva College yearbook entries for Marguerite E. Steele (above) and Norman J. McCreary, Class of 1914.

 McCreary Norman J. Class of 1914

 Newspaper headlineNorman McCreary's death in France made headlines in the local newspaper in 1918.

A Widow’s Wish

By Marguerite McCreary

My lover’s asleep on the bank of the Marne
So hallowed that ground where he’s safe from all harm
That footsteps are lighter and voices are low
And breezes blow soft o’er the crosses that grow.

In sorrow so silent my tearless eyes burn
For him who marched out in the morning I yearn
But safe on that hillside ‘mid beauty and charm
My lover sleeps on, on the banks of the Marne.

He’ll never be awakened by cannons loud roar
And shrapnel and shot will disturb him no more.
He’ll never respond to the bugle’s clear call.
He’s answered to “Taps” and has given his all.

Thou Lilies of France proudly over him wave
Guard that kingliest sleeper that lies with the brave.
Flow gently o River thou silvery stream
Watch over his slumber, disturb not his dream.

Sleep on peaceful dreamer thy warfare is o’er
Sleep sweetly o Dreamer thou’lt battle no more.
But quietness, peacefulness, stillness for thee
In thy resting place yonder far over the sea.

The Master’s Garden

By Marguerite McCreary

The Master came to the garden
To pluck the fairest rose.
He passed thru the paths in the garden
The fairest flower he chose.

There low hung the head of the blossoms
That grew within that wall,
For the Master had passed and had taken
The fairest flower of all.

But the Master had use for that flower
So perfect, fragrant, rare
To bloom in his own fairest mansion
And live forever there.

The Cross

By Marguerite McCreary

Let me go to the land
Where the gray crosses stand
To the land that is over the sea
Hail that still silent band
On that far distant strand
There’s a cross that is waiting for me.

And that cross that is mine
Will be always a shrine
And it’s there I shall learn thru my loss
That my will must entwine
With the Master’s divine
In the lesson that’s taught by the cross.

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