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And, of course, it didn’t

It wasn’t the right match, they said.

He wasn’t the right boy for her.

He didn’t come from a good enough family.

He wasn’t smart enough.

Good-looking enough.

He wouldn’t provide well for her and any family they might have.

It just wouldn’t work out.

It wouldn’t last.

Her mother in particular was opposed to the whole idea. She didn’t worry, because he was too young to get married there in Oklahoma, that October of 1916, without parental consent — and his father was long out of the picture and his mother was dead.

She didn’t count on them running away to Texas where he would lie about his age and they would get married anyway.


Perhaps she continued to think it.

He wasn’t the right boy for her.

It just wouldn’t work out.

It wouldn’t last.

And, of course, it didn’t.

The marriage that began on the 19th of October 1916, in Wichita County, Texas, between my grandfather Clay Rex Cottrell and my grandmother Opal Robertson1 did come to an end.

On the 21st of September 1970, about a month short of their 54th anniversary. On the day when my grandfather breathed his last breath.2

The day my grandmother — who had by then buried both of her parents and two of her babies — wrote in her journal: “This day was the Darkest Day of my life.”3 A year later, on a note card, she added: “This Day — one year ago — my world came to an end. A face that I had beheld for twenty thousand days was taken from my sight forever-more and the voice I knew for 54 years was forever stilled.”4

Nope, that marriage didn’t last, did it?

Happy anniversary to my grandparents, a little early this year.


  1. Wichita County, Texas, Marriage Book 5:388, Clay Rex Cottrell and Opal Robertson (1916), marriage license and return; County Clerk’s Office, Wichita Falls.
  2. Virginia Department of Health, Certificate of Death, state file no. 70-026729, Clay Rex Cottrell (1970); Division of Vital Records, Richmond.
  3. Opal (Robertson) Cottrell, daily journal entry, 20 September 1970; digital image in possession of granddaughter Paula K. Williams, Virginia.
  4. Opal (Robertson) Cottrell, handwritten note dated Sept 21 – 1971; original in possession of granddaughter Paula K. Williams, Virginia.
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