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MORE VIOLA PETTUS 
Mr. Fain, as Glenn Justice reminds us, more needs to be done on the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 in the Big Bend region of Texas. At present, Dr. Paul Wright at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, may be the best resource for obtaining new information. Wright's research into birth and death records in the Big Bend region, taken largely from U. S. Manuscript Census data, reveals much.

As co-author of the recent (2006) book, Cemeteries and Funerary Practices in the Big Bend of Texas, 1850 to the Present, I admit that there is no "definitive work" on the subject, nor is there likely ever to be one; nonetheless, I believe mine and Dr. Gerald G. Raun's book comes a closer than anything to date.

While preparing to draft the text of Cemeteries I advertised in area newspapers for information as well as for people to come forward with information. A few did, but not so many as we would have liked; accordingly nothing was learned about Ben and Viola Pettus; other members of the Pettus family were not only mentioned but their deaths recorded, graves photographed and so forth. Additionally, I interviewed individuals in Marathon about the flu epidemic and other matters and the Ben Pettus's were never mentioned. I suspect those few months in the autumn of 1918 were such a horrid period in life that once it passed, most folk didn't wish to talk about it, or even to remember; after all, families were giving up their dead to passing wagoners for mass burial without funerary honors being rendered. Why? It was much safer to stay indoors. Under the circumstances it was not shameful to do so, either. Yet, in glancing back it may seem a sort of familial betrayal, i. e., something to be put behind.

Cemeteries and Funerary Practices in the Big Bend of Texas, 1850 to the Present does contain a story of self sacrifice in order to fulfill one's duty in caring for the sick. That is the story of Dr. Roy R. Longino, the city health officer and sole physician in Fort Stockton at the time (see pps. 62-3).

Has I known about the "influenza quarantine tent city" south of Marathon and Mrs. Viola Pettus's charitable nursing of the sick at great risk to herself it certainly would have been in the book. What a story! But nobody came forward with it. Que sera.

Glenn Willeford
Chihuahua City, Mexico

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