Mary Crismon - Her First Love Story

and tribute to two American War Heros

Mary Louise Crismon was born on August 15, 1933 in the post hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas. Her mother, Bessie Zulema (Stull) was 22 years of age.  Maryís father, Master Sergeant William Crismon, celebrated birthday 39 on that same day. What a wonderful birthday present. "Pop" gave Mary the nickname of "Baby Tito", why, we have no idea. A strong love between Mary and her Mother and Father lasts today.

 

After thirty years of service Sergeant Crismon retired from the US Army and the family moved to Texas. Today, Mary lives in San Antonio. Mary was the fourth of six children. Sister JoAnn and brothers William, Jr. and Robert Wayne are older. Brothers Frederick Hugh and David Lee are younger. All of her brothers and sister are living today. Sergeant William and Bessie Crismon are buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.

Mary Louise Crismon and John Steven Vick were high school sweethearts. Both attended the South San Antonio High School from 1948-1951. Johnny was one grade higher than Mary. Mary, obviously quite pretty and with a wonderful personality, was popular with all of her fellow classmates, both boys and girls. With Johnny it was love of Mary at first sight. He never had another real girl friend and never went on another real date.

Mary had very loving and involved parents. Plus, she had four brothers looking out for her. Johnny and one of Maryís brothers became the best of buddies. Maryís brother Bob and his girl friend Polly Brinker double dated with Johnny and Mary almost every weekend. Bob had a 1936 Dodge convertible with a rumble seat, the exclusive domain of Mary and Johnny.

Johnny and Bob worked after school and on weekends at the local lumberyard. To earn even more money for their double dates, the boys hunted for game almost every Saturday and Sunday morning. A local businessman gave them $1 for each piece of edible game they could harvest. The bounty usually consisted of rabbit, squirrel, dove, duck and quite often, nothing more than shot-up empty beer cans.

In May of 1949 their high school chemistry teacher said to John and Bob, "You guys are failing chemistry. Bob, this means you may not graduate. John, you may not be able to participate in sports next year." Holy smokes, how do they recover? "I am an officer in the Marine Reserve", the teacher said. "I think you guys are Marine material. Come to several Marine Reserve introduction meetings and I will tutor you." They attended the Marine Reserve meetings and they passed chemistry. While there was no obligation to join, the US Marines "Esprit de Corps" captured Johnnyís heart and imagination.

The Korea War began and Johnny wanted to serve his country. After high school graduation John Steven Vick joined the US Marine Corps in the summer of 1950.  He asked Bob to join also but was already in the US Army Reserve and wanted to marry Polly.

After John Vick completed Marine boot camp at Camp Pendleton, California, he immediately volunteered for overseas combat duty. Having been an outstanding athlete in high school, Johnís commanding officer talked him into playing on the Camp Pendleton basketball team. While combat duty was his burning desire, John figured why not play basketball? He was only looking at several more months before fulfilling his dream. Plus, the man was a born competitor!

After the basketball season ended John reminded the commanding officer of his combat duty promise. The Colonel told him that John was largely responsible for the first winning basketball season Pendleton had in some time. He informed John his athletic success helped increase the spirit, pride, and morale of the Corps.  John would not be going overseas just yet.

After outstanding performances in other sports, John figured his commanding officer had run out of sports. When confronted, the Colonel scheduled an audience the next day to order Johnís transfer to overseas combat duty. In a jubilant mood that evening, John joined a number of his Marine buddies at a beer garden in Oceanside.

By now, athletic PFC John Steven Vick was well known throughout Camp Pendleton by men and officers alike. At the beer hall that evening, a somewhat drunk officer out of uniform instigated an argument with John. Push came to shove and tempers flared. The belligerent Marine officer challenged John to a boxing match to take place at Camp Pendleton the next day. By next daybreak word had spread throughout the Troops. Camp Pendletonís champion heavyweight boxer (the inebriated officer) was going to fight John Vick, at that time the most renowned athlete on the base. John was not aware of the officerís boxing prowess. Johnís friends and his First Sergeant suggested perhaps he should apologize and avoid the fight? Absolutely never, said our champion, John Vick!

It was almost as if every Marine and Officer at Camp Pendleton had nothing else to do at the appointed 10:00am "Big Boxing Match!" It was reported that the large crowd favored John, as the boxing champion officer was not liked very much. But they sure liked John Vick. Fellow Marines also considered John the underdog. Little did they (or the drunken officer) know that while lettering in every sport available to him in high school, John was also a Golden Gloves Boxing Champion!

 Later that day John made sure he was on time for the afternoon meeting with his Commanding Officer, there to discuss overseas combat duty. The Colonel said, "Private Vick you have presented me with a very difficult problem. You beat the hell out of our Heavyweight Boxing Champion this morning. Guess who is now going to represent Camp Pendleton in the US Marine Corps Boxing Championships this coming fall?" Bye-bye combat duty.  John responded, "Sir, if you are going to keep me here in the States, will you grant me permission to marry my high school sweetheart?"

Maryís parents, William and Bessie, drove her to California. Mary and John were married in June 9, 1951 at the home of Popís brother, Herman and wife Toby Crismon.  For the next three months Mary and John lived in Oxnard, California just outside of Camp Pendleton. Mary most likely became pregnant the first few weeks after their marriage. Mary recently said, "I was as sick as a dog with morning sickness, except it was all day sickness. What a way to spend a honeymoon! I usually felt better by late afternoon. Every evening when John came home, he would bring a block of ice for the old fashioned icebox."

About two months after their marriage, John and Mary visited family in San Antonio for about a week. They visited Johnís father KJ, mother Dovie, and sisters Corrine and Barbara. They also visited Maryís parents and brothers Bill, Bob, Fred and Dave plus her dear sister, JoAnn. It was during this visit that John and Mary announced they were expecting a child. Maryís best friend Polly was also expecting. Both families were quite excited about the good news. Upon returning to Oxnard, Mary and John began making plans for their new family. They began a social life with other married Marine couples. When faced with the choice of combat duty and marriage to Mary, John readily accepted his new role.

After a short time John was transferred to the US Marine Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego without explanation. The couple moved into an apartment nearby. Shockingly, just three months after their marriage, Johnís outfit was sent to Korea and combat duty. On the day of his departure, John took Mary to Uncle Hermanís home in El Monte. Uncle Herman would see that Mary returned by train to her parents in Texas. Mary said, "It was a very sad day when we went to Uncle Herman's home. Too soon it was time for Johnny to take a bus back to San Diego. I watched him walk down to Garvey Avenue. As he turned when he reached the corner and waved goodbye to me, I had the feeling that I may never see him again. The next day, Uncle Herman took me to the train station. My unborn baby and I went back to San Antonio to wait for Johnnyís return home."

Three months later, PFC John Steven Vick died on the battlefield in Korea on December 8, 1951, mortally wounded by enemy fire. Mary said once she caressed Johnís face in his casket, her acceptance of his death materialized and her healing process began. PFC John Steven Vick was buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.  Johnnyís parents, KJ and Dovie never fully recovered from their tragic loss.

A widow at age 19, Mary bravely worked her way through her grieving period. Three months later, Johnnyís son was born. Mrs. Mary Louise (Crismon) Vick then began to courageously plan her and her sonís life without their beloved husband and father. Mary was definitely not the type to do nothing other than feel sorry for herself. She knew that for the sake of her son she would someday remarry. However, Johnny Vick had left a very high threshold. Mary was determined to reinvent herself a new life. Little did Mary know that her next love would last for more than fifty years.

Mary Crismon - Her Lasting Love Story

Robert Daniel Leatherwood was born in Wichita Falls, Texas on July 3, 1926. His father died six months before he was born. Shortly after his eighteenth birthday Bob joined the US Army in 1944. This tall and husky man was assigned to the paratroopers,  Later that year Bob Leatherwood was sent to Europe to fight in WWII.

PFC Robert Leatherwood was a true War Hero. He was awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart and eight other medals and commendations. For the remainder of his life he carried an enemy bullet in his chest and shrapnel in his head. However, these wounds didnít slow down this guy one bit! After being discharged from the VA Hospital in Kerrville, Texas in 1952, Bob visited a former army buddy in San Antonio. Donald Hurst, like most of Bobís friends, remained close from then on. Bob decided to relocate to San Antonio and began learning the ceramic tile trade. Little did he know he would soon meet the love of his life.

A mutual friend, Melford Turner, arranged a blind date between Mary and Bob. Since the death of John Vick this was the first and last date for Mary. Mary fondly recalls, "We went to the Club Seven Oaks, a very swanky night club in San Antonio. The popular night club singer Vic Damone and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra entertained. I was immediately struck by the handsome looks of Bob Leatherwood. I was entranced by his wit, humor and charismatic personality. By the end of this first evening I knew he was the one for me."

Mary and Bob agreed to another date the next evening. Mary invited brother Bob and Maryís best friend Polly to meet Bob Leatherwood. The next day following the meeting Mary anxiously asked what they thought of Bob Leatherwood. Brother Bob quickly replied, "I didnít like him!" Mary was emotionally crushed and asked, "Why?" Grinning, "Because his hair is too curly!" A strong bond developed between the two Bobs that lasted a lifetime. Maryís parents immediately liked Bob Leatherwood. They too knew that he was the one for their baby daughter. Mother Bessie Crismon was so pleased with Bob Leatherwood. After all that Mary had suffered through, Bob Leatherwood was all and even more than Bessie could wish for her daughter. All of Maryís brothers and sister quickly became excited about Maryís wonderful find. In his late years Pop Crismon lived with Mary and Bob more than he did with any of his other children.

Bob Leatherwood and Mary were married four months after they met. Attending their wedding was Maryís sister JoAnn, brothers Bob and Bill, Bobís sister Viva Gay, and Maryís best friend Polly. Bob Leatherwood found the preacher in the yellow pages directory! The first order of business in their new marriage was to focus on baby John. Bob Leatherwood immediately accepted the seven-month-old John, Jr. as his son. This strong bond of love and respect lasted from then on. Today, John Steven Vick, Jr. proudly goes by the name of John Vick Leatherwood, the name he took upon his adoption by Bob. This is a fitting tribute to both of Johnís Dads.  John and his wife Betty live close by in San Antonio and have two children. The youngest, Erica tragically died in an auto accident at the age of twenty. Son Brandon is active in the family business.

Bob taught brother Bob the ceramic tile trade. The Bobs joined the union and took advantage of travel opportunities available to them as they worked on large commercial tile jobs throughout the country. From 1953 until 1957 the two families lived side by side and worked in Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Washington, DC area; Newport News, Virginia and ultimately settled in Denver, Colorado. What exciting times these were! Almost every weekend included a visit to local vacation sites.   

In 1953 Mary gave birth to her second son. Traditionally, he was named Robert Daniel Leatherwood, Jr. Bobby and his wife LuLu (interestingly, actually also named "Mary Louise") live close by. Their children are Jeremy, Jordan and Crystal.  Johnny and Bobby learned the ceramic tile contracting business from their Dad. They worked in Bobís business for several years. Then, each branched off and founded separate successful ceramic tile contracting businesses.  In 1957 while in Virginia, Mary and Bob were blessed with the birth of a daughter. This was their last child. Mary and Judy are very close and mutually enjoy working on numerous art and craft projects.

In 1966 Bob and Mary moved from Denver and permanently relocated back to San Antonio. There they reestablished their tile contracting business which became quite successful. Bob and Mary worked together while successfully managing the business.  They designed and built a new home that became the gathering place for the large Crismon and Leatherwood family get-togethers. A number of family reunions have been held at or near the Leatherwood home.  The photos that follow were taken between 1970 -1990 as Bobís hair turned grey. These were very happy and pleasant years as they raised their loving family.

In 1988 Bob and Mary retired from their business. Bob had developed a heart condition that raised some caution but did not slow him down one bit. They continued to travel extensively, enjoying family, friends, church members and church work.

By 1990 all three children had married. All four families lived in San Antonio and maintained a close relationship. Grandchildren included Johnís Erica and Brandon and Bobbyís Jeremy, Jordan and Crystal.

In retirement Bob enjoyed golf, particularly with his old army buddy Donald Hurst. These were truly "golden" years for Bob and Mary. No one can ever recall hearing a cross word between these two lovebirds!

During William and Bessie Crismon Family Reunion convoys, Bob was always out in front as the "Pathfinder".

 

In early 2000 Bob Leatherwood was diagnosed to have liver cancer. This slowed him down a step or two, but in no way diminished his attitude, humor and joyful character.

After more than fifty years of a perfect marriage to Mary, Robert Daniel Leatherwood, Sr. died November 4, 2002 in the arms of his beloved Mary. All of their children were at his side. All but the last two weeks of his life were lived to the fullest.

Bob was buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.  Mary will there rest with him when her time comes to rejoin Bob.

Mary Louise Crismon experienced two successful and memorable loves. In many respects both men were quite similar. They were handsome, caring, energetic, healthy, athletic, military trained, and ambitious. She now has enough wonderful memories to last the remainder of her life. Maryís three children and numerous Grand and Great Grandchildren and brothers and sister will certainly help keep her busy.  This work is a tribute to both Mary and Bob.   They worked as a team, meeting life's highs and lows head on and always together.  They generously opened their arms, hearts, and home to all without prejudice or condition.  They exemplify the term "eternal devotion." 

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