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To Mrs. Thomas B. Coles
August 20, 1927 Washington, D.C.
My dear Aunt Lottie:
Lily wants me to tell you all how very much she appreciates the many letters you have encouraged her with. She really deeply appreciates your kindness, you, Mrs. Knapp and Charlotte for being so kind and thoughtful.1
She stayed in the hospital five days and had all the necessary tests. Unfortunately the basal metabolism test showed a reading of seventy six, which is about as high as it well could be. She did not rest at all well in the hospital and ate very little, growing extremely weak. I brought her home in an endeavour to build her up to a point where they would dare operate, and the joy of her new house, the peace and quiet did a great deal for her. She gained nine pounds and when I took her out to the hospital for another metabolism test the count had gone down to twenty six, which is a great improvement. Consequently, they feel that she is in as good a condition for an operation as she probably will be.
Tomorrow, Sunday, I take her back again and they plan to operate Monday or Tuesday. Of course, it will be three or four weeks before she can be expected to show any material improvement, but after that she should be much better.
At present she is so weak that she is unable to sit up by her own effort, and she suffers from an increasing suffocation due to the pressure of the swollen thryoid gland on her wind pipe. She also suffers from paroxisms of coughing for the same reason. All this, we hope will be eliminated by the operation.
Lily has a great deal of courage about the matter, weak as she is. Of course she realizes that without the operation she would never improve and would probably grow steadily worse.
Colonel Keller, who will operate, is considered one of the most skillful in the United States.2 He has had for some years a standing offer of fifty thousand a year from the Mayos if he will resign from the Army and join their staff. Fortunately for us he has so far chosen to remain in the Army. While Lily was at the the [sic] Walter Reed he had twenty similar cases awaiting his attention. So he is in practice for this particular operation. The scar will be very small and so located that it can easily be hidden by beads. I am very glad of this, for the idea of a disfiguring scar would be a hard blow to Lily.
I will telegraph you how she comes through the ordeal for I know you all will be very anxious to hear.
Since coming down here I have bought a very convenient radio set, The Traveler. It is merely a leather box, the lid of which has the antennae hidden in it. There is no attachment to anything outside the box, and you can move it about from room to room. Lily finds it a great diversion.
Our house seems very lovely to us. Down stairs it has a seven foot wide hall, which widens at the back to twelve feet. The living room and dining room are connected by double slidding doors and a river porch opens off the dining room, which is partially enclosed and entirely screened. It looks over Potomac Park and is a delightful place for meals and reading. There is a small library or den on the first floor, with a lavatory.
The second floor has a rectangular hall about twelve feet wide and fifteen feet long. On one side are two nice bed rooms, connecting, and the rear opens on an enclosed sleeping porch which extends the width of the house. A bath room opens off the front bed room of these two. Across the hall are two more bed rooms, but rather small, the rear opening on the sleeping porch. There is a second bath room reached from the hall, and the door leading to the back steps, also a linen closet.
The third floor has three servant bed rooms and a bath.
Outside, in front there is a brick porch with dividing steps, a part of the porch forming the top landing. A wrought iron railing with brass trimmings encloses the porch. The porch is roofed, with four large white pillars reaching up to the cornice, and a small ornamental balcony off the stair landing with a wrought iron railing. There are flower beds and flowering bushes all around the house. The flowers are very lovely, and in addition they deliver large bunches of cut flowers twice a week from the green house and its gardens. Altogether, it is the pleasantest house we have had in the Army. Our little house at Fort Mason, San Francisco was more charmingly located, but was very small.3 Here we have a golf course in front of the house and tennis courts close by.
I rather ran of[f] the paper on the last page, but I know you will forgive my erractic typing.
The car runs along smoothly. I had it gone over in the Packard plant, having run it 2400 miles, and they made it purr and eliminated all the small rattles. The noise I was worrying about in one wheel or tire and had the man at Scottsville looking at,4 develops into a well known defect of a certain issue of Goodyear tires. The trouble is in the tire and cannot be removed, but does no harm.
The War College course opens on September 1st, thereafter I will not have my entire day to devote to Lily, but she will be in the hospital until the middle of September at the earliest and when I bring her back I hope she will be so much better that she will not require the constant attention she now does.
This has developed into a long rambling letter, but I wanted you all to know how much Lily appreciated the kindness you have shown her by writing so frequently. She is keenly interested in the changes in your house, so please tell her all about the progress you are making.
With love from both of us,
Document Copy Text Source: Research File, Family Folder, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Author-typed letter signed.
1. Charlotte was Mrs. Coles’s daughter. The editor has been unable to identify Mrs. Knapp.
2. Lieutenant Colonel William L. Keller had been an army surgeon since entering the service, following his graduation from the Medical College of Virginia in 1899.
3. When Marshall was Major General J. Franklin Bell’s aide in 1916-17, both men lived at Fort Mason, although the Western Department headquarters was at the Presidio.
4. Scottsville, Virginia, was a small town near the Coles’s “Woodville” house in Albemarle County.
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 310-312.