Daughter Tells Story Of The Heroic Dad She Never Knew

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Marilyn McCain, of Warsaw, was born on August 2, 1944, in Springfield, Missouri during a wartime blackout. She was the first of two babies born early that morning at St. John’s Hospital during the blackout. The only light available during her delivery was provided by her doctor’s candle and her grandfather’s flashlight. Though her father was serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps at the time as a U.S. fighter pilot, he knew when he had a daughter and named her Marilyn Kay Thurman. Ten days later, her father, Lt. Gerald D. Thurman, died when his P-51 Mustang was shot down into the English Channel. Marilyn did not know until January 2019 that this tragedy was written up in the Springfield paper while she was still a baby. The article was accompanied with a photo of her wearing two of her father’s three medals as she sat next to a stuffed Easter bunny.
This sad beginning to her life was turned around two years later when Marilyn’s mother, Louise Barefield Thurman, met and married John Reser, a World War II veteran who was operating a funeral home in Warsaw. Reser adopted Marilyn, and the family later had two more daughters, Shawn Reser Miller, and Luanne Holmes. 
A 74-year old Marilyn was very surprised when she received a call from Springfield News-Leader reporter, Steve Pokin, early in January, telling her that he had been looking for her. He said that he was in possession of a “yellow and frayed” newspaper clipping from his paper, dated April 1, 1945, with a picture and article about her and her dad. He said that he wanted to write about the circumstances of her birth and death of her father, as well as the story about where the clipping had been all these years. Pokin wrote the column about her beginnings for the January 6, 2019 edition of the paper.
“Steve Pokin told me that the clipping had been sent to the News-Leader in 2016 and he found it mixed up in some other papers on his desk the day before he called,” said Marilyn. “He said the clipping had been sent by Margie Middleton in Carpenteria, California, after she found it in her mother’s belongings. Middleton didn’t know Marilyn or her family, but when she saw that the article had been published in the News-Leader, she sent it to the paper hoping that someone might want to put the heart-breaking story in their archives. She later told Marilyn that she hoped  someone at the newspaper might also locate her and give her the clipping.”
In Pokin’s article, he said that after he first saw the clipping and decided he would write about it in his Sunday column, he “embarked on the mission” of locating a grown up Baby Marilyn. He contacted her sister, Shawn Reser Miller, and was given Marilyn’s phone number. 
“I was surprised that someone had kept that article all these years when my family was unknown,” said Marilyn. “I found out that my dad trained to be a pilot at a base in Texas and a good friend and fellow trainee of his was Margie Middleton’s father. That is probably why the  family had a copy of the article about my father’s death. My father apparently had  many friends who thought a lot of him, because they got together and sent a $1,000 war bond to me after he died. I still have a photo of me holding that bond.”
After reading Steve Pokin’s column and talking to Shawn Miller and Marilyn, some facts about Marilyn’s life after WWII are as follow. Gerald D. Thurman married Louise Barefield on Feb. 1, 1942.  Both were graduates of Springfield (now called Central) High School. He worked for the Frisco Railway and she worked for KWTO and KGBX Radio. He enlisted in July 1942 and was sent to Texas for pilot training. When his plane was shot down two years later, his body was never recovered.  His service is honored by a monument at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens, north of Springfield.
Thurman and Louise had lived with her parents, Mary Pearl and Albert Barefield, and she and Baby Marilyn continued living with them during the rest of the war. Louise handled obituaries at the radio station in Springfield and that is apparently how John Reser in Warsaw came in contact with her when he sent some of his obituaries her way.
“John Reser was the only Dad I ever knew. He was stationed in the Pacific, and was a U.S. Army Captain serving in the 115th Medical Battalion. He and my mother, Louise, became an important part of this community, always caring for others in their time of need. My mother died in 1979, and John Reser died in 2004.”
Marilyn graduated from Warsaw High School in 1962, and went to Southwest Baptist University. She married Doug McCain in 1965. They lived in Lincoln, and had two sons and two daughters. Their twins, Kevin and Kerri, were delivered by the same doctor  Joseph Johnson) who delivered Marilyn. She and Doug divorced, and 23 years later remarried each other. She said they were more mature and had a wonderful marriage. After 10 years, her husband died (in 2015), and she moved back to Warsaw.
“I am eight years older than my sister Shawn, and ten years older than Luanne,” said Marilyn. “When I was little and my mother asked what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday, I would always say that I wanted a baby sister. When my mother said that there was going to be a baby brother or sister, I said that I only wanted a sister.  I was very happy when that happened.  I remember that when Shawn was born I treated like a little doll.”