Would you like to honor your Mother?
By Sylvia Davis
We are looking for stories to run in the May Edition of the West Texas Tribune. Here is a story we ran in 2015. Mrs. Byars has passed on but still lives in the hearts of many friends and relatives. If you know a mother worthy of recognition, please contact us at westtexastribune.com.
“A Tribute to Martha Lucille Byars” by her daughter, Sylvia Davis (April 14, 2015)
Is it important for each of us to have a major goal for our life? Is it important to follow a direction that will culminate in the achievement of this one major goal? Martha Lucille Byars has earnestly done just this through ups and downs, good and bad. Throughout all the numerous, difficult, and, sometimes, overwhelming challenges, she has stayed the course and followed her desire to be faithful to her Lord Jesus always remembering He has a plan for her life and will lead her all the way home.
Martha Lucille Byars was the 3rd child of 6 children born May 12, 1923 to Arthur W. Clark and Gwendolyn Merle Clark. Her Dad being a Santa Fe railroad man was in Clovis, New Mexico then, before moving to Abilene, Texas to be a builder of homes. Two houses are on Hickory Street still and one on Belmont Blvd. Her Mother lived in Merkel and Anson growing up and was a schoolteacher of Latin later. She probably was the one who influenced Lucille to love reading and to learn about everything possible. Merle Clark influenced all her children to love Jesus and be faithful in attendance at worship services. Lucille began to walk extremely early at 7 months old. This was noticed when she was pulling her chunky older brother, Buddy in his wagon. Now that Mom is nearing 92 she often has weakness in her legs. I recently told her, “Mom, remember you’ve been walking and running for 91 years and 5 months and your legs are tired!” Mom remembers being a very “happy” child. She went to church services a lot and said, “it was the happiest time in my life when I was in worship.” Dr. J. P. Gipson put Mom and one sister on his running board & drove them with his family to worship in the basement of Highland Church of Christ. Mom said, “They always found a way to get to worship.” Lucille was baptized when she was 14 and has been faithful for 78 years.
Merle saw something special in Lucille and had a teacher give her lessons in “expression”. Mom remembers reciting poems; the first one was “Peach Pies”. In payment Merle gave the teacher a cake after each lesson. (Grandmother was a fantastic cook!) Lucille remembers going to a funeral in Anson riding in a Model T and giggling all the way.
In 1941, Lucille, her sister Norma and their school friend went to the West Texas Fair. They met 3 young servicemen, previously known by the friend and the guys offered to take them home. They accepted. Another day the young men wanted to take the 3 girls on a picnic. It rained so hard that they had the picnic in the car at Abilene State Park. This began the “dating” of Lucille & Freddie (Verle Wayne Byars). Merle Clark had a rule of the house that no daughters could date unless the young man came to the house first and ate so she could get to know him. Freddie came often! He was stationed at Camp Barkley on South Hwy. 277. He was an Oklahoma boy who had been orphaned by 14 years of age and was thoroughly enjoying this Abilene family of 5 daughters, 1 son and a Mom and a Dad. After 7 months of dating, Freddie asked Lucille to marry him. (Lucille never had a mother or father-in-law, but loved and visited Mrs. Shepherd, the neighbor who raised Dad after his parents died.) Freddie had been saving his money to buy his dream car “a Packard”, but he bought Lucille’s rings. On April 24, 1942 Lucille told her Mom that she & Freddie would be married the next day before he shipped out of Camp Barkley for his next training. Grandmother Clark said, “Wow, so grateful that I cleaned house yesterday.” Flowers were brought over from the neighbor and all Lucille’s sisters were in attendance. Her Dad was working in Puerto Rico and her brother Buddy was captured early in 1942 by the Japanese where he remained until the war was over. Dad was brought to the house in an army jeep. Paul Southern came over from teaching at Abilene Christian College and performed the ceremony. The jeep driver honked and Dad had to leave immediately! Mom and a friend went to a movie. Lucille’s graduation from Abilene High (Lincoln location at that time) was near and because her grades were high exempting her from finals, the principal let her leave to join Freddie. She road a train filled with army boys and joined Dad in Massachusetts. After a short time Dad resigned from the US Army Corp and joined the US Army Air Force. His training took him to Roswell, N.M. Mom returned to Abilene and worked at Camp Barkley at Post Exchange #16. Later she joined Dad in Carlsbad. Son Dennis Michael (Denny) was born there in 1944 and daughter Sylvia Karen (Kay) was born in Abilene when WW II was ending in 1945.
After the war, Freddie enrolled in Hardin Simmons University despite being told that he would not be able to enroll because of his deafness due to being a bombardier during the war. He also worked at the Abilene Reporter News at night walking from HSU to the downtown newspaper office. Lucille kept the home fires burning & balanced their very, very tight budget. After graduation Freddie began a 22½ year career as a senior accountant for the numerous newspapers of the Harte-Hanks Corp. traveling all over the state of Texas. Mom stayed home with the 2 children, but took a few jobs thru the years-Timex Watch Factory, Feather Printing, and church secretary for the Baker Heights church of Christ for 9½ years. She did voluntary work at the very first Christian Service Center on South 2nd & Oak St., many Vacation Bible schools, Cherokee Children’s Home and a Baker Heights Saturday School Bible class. Lucille had seen a very tragic car accident as a child and she did not drive. When Freddie traveled during the early years, Mom always found a way to worship services either by taxi, bus, or friends volunteering. When she was 45 years old Freddie secretly drove her to and from the night driving training course at Abilene High School. This changed her life so much and she drove her Mother on errands the last years of her life and was able to be independent after her two children married and left home. In her days before she drove, Dr. J. P. Gipson gave her some visitation cards. Mom said, “no, I don’t think I can do this.” He said, “Yes, you can do this.” Freddie drove her to each house waiting in the car while she went inside and invited many to worship services. Dad was always a kind, caring man and willingly did this for quite some time. He often took Lucille and 2 children, and an older lady, Miss Flatt, to services. He would drive all of us to services and return 2 hours later and take everyone home.
Years later, Freddie did obey the gospel and became a Christian when he was 53 years old. He had watched his lovely wife be faithful as they both struggled thru many illnesses, job changes, down sizing to smaller homes, and an unjust trial in courts of Abilene, all the while seeing how she stood by his side and never blamed God for any difficulties. Both of them were forgiving and loving people and have never held any grudges against anyone or anything that happened to them. They just watched as God worked his wonderful providence in their lives. It is true what the Bible says in I Peter 3:1, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” Lucille and Fred spent the remainder of almost 62 years of marriage in service to their Lord. Freddie died March 15, 2003 of complications due to diabetes. For years Mom was the best caregiver Dad could have ever had. Lucille was almost 80 then and said bravely, “I was a whole person when I married Freddie and I am still a whole person, so I will be alright.”
Lucille has always been a physically active person even now going into her 90’s. She washes her car and waxes it once a year, enjoys painting outside doors and trim, does lawn chores, except mowing, keeps her home inside and outside in good repair, including laying floor tiles. She sends encouragement cards daily and makes numerous phone calls. Reading (even while struggling with macular degeneration) and enjoying beautiful music are 2 of her favorite things. She has also enjoyed special pets (dogs and cats). Living on a small farm she encounters some unwelcome critters, but takes care of them handily with her stack of bricks. Many a rattlesnake has been killed or wounded by Lucille as she “has very good aim throwing as many as 20 bricks.”
Lucille mentioned the following things were joyful remembrances: having grandson Damon Byars live with her and Freddie for 4½ years until he married; having all her sister’s husbands become Christians and her brother, too; loving 2 children, 4 grand children, 11 great-grand children, wonderful son-in-law Hank Davis, talented daughter-in-law Barbara Byars and all family members, nieces and nephews and one living sister Pat Cooper and sister-in-law Wanda Clark; enjoying friends, some who are 10, 20, or 25 years younger and a few older than she is. Whenever Lucille is present in a room, everyone is at ease and the conversation is easy and full of humor.
As I think back on my Mother’s remarkable life, I owe my spiritual life to her. She always saw to it that my brother and I had every opportunity to attend services and learn about our Savior. Often when I was a teenager I would plead with her to let me go for a weekend with my friends out of town. She always said, “No, we need to worship as a family.” At present I am privileged to receive blessings by being with her often shopping for groceries, etc. and worshiping side by side many times during the week, if her health allows her to attend. Lucille commented recently, “that old age is not for sissies!” She has numerous challenges each day and night as she approaches her 92nd birthday on May 12th. Denny, who is retired in Dallas, and I here in Abilene will be blessed by her as long as our good Lord allows this wonderful Mother to be present in our lives.
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