She was the aunt for whom my aunt was named. She was a teacher. She married late and had no children. And she died when my mother was small. That was about all I knew about my grandfather’s oldest sister, Marion Ellen Allen Lomans.
My uncle let me copy a scarred and badly tinted photo:
She looked like an Allen sister, but I was no less mystified. (Frankly, other than Aunt Julia, they were all a bit mysterious — how did I never meet Aunt Edith? Or Aunt Nita until I was an adult? Or even Uncle Buster, who lived right in Newport News?)
And then M., my mother’s first cousin, sent this picture, which charmed me to no end — Aunt Marion and her students at John Marshall School:
And then I found her obituary:
Virginian Pilot, 15 November 1942.
And so I learned a few more things: that, despite her marriage to Mr. Lomans, a World War I veteran whom she had married “recently” and whose Christian names were actually Gillespie Garland, she was still living at home at the time of her death. That she was a member of the United Order of Tents (a secretive charitable organization founded by black women in the mid-19th century) and the Good Samaritans (another?). That she taught for only six years. That Aunt Tee — that’s Edith — was unmarried and living in New York City when Marion died. That Marion died at Whittaker Memorial Hospital, an institution that her father served as a board member. That she was buried from Zion Baptist, the church that nurtured her father. Still, who was she?