Nowhere is there any indication that long-ago Texas Wesleyan football star Monroe McCarty was a student of Marcus Aurelius’ meditations, though he could have fooled some.
The last of the so-called good emperors of ancient Rome is credited with something as good as Corinthians: “Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”
It might be one abstract way to explain the life of McCarty, abandoned by his widowed mother at 12 and shipped to Fort Worth to live with his aunt, though he ultimately bounced around three families in the Polytechnic neighborhood — all of whom came to love him as their own. Among them was the family of Hall Splawn Jr., the youngest of four and the only boy.
And McCarty loved Splawn with all of his heart.
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As America began its third year of world war in 1944, Splawn was drafted into the Army and sent to Europe. He asked his best friend McCarty, now a Navyman based in New Orleans, to care for his family if anything happened to him. Splawn did not come back. He was killed in action in November 1944 in France.
Having suffered the tragedy of abandonment as a child, McCarty was now faced with the heartbreak of his lost best friend, dead in the fields of Alsace.
But in those years of suffering, seeds of happiness were planted and they bloomed through making good on his promise to his best friend.
Almost two years after Splawn’s death, McCarty married Splawn’s widow in February 1946 and loved Splawn’s daughter, Susan Radde, as his own. Together the couple had a daughter, Marsha Hilcher.
McCarty is “daddy” to both sisters, though he never adopted Radde, who was only 2 when Splawn was killed.
“He asked Daddy to look after mother and me if anything happened,” said Radde, Splawn’s biological daughter, who paused before adding, “and he did. He loved me as much as he loved Marsha. There was never any difference. We were never half-sisters.
“He never adopted me. He loved me, but I was his best friend’s daughter and he wasn’t going to take that away.”
The story of McCarty, who died in 2000, and Splawn is one of many as it relates to the war’s effect on the campus of Texas Wesleyan.
You’ve been just like a brother to me and I appreciate everything you’ve done for me more than I can express.
Monroe McCarty, writing to Hall Splawn Jr. in the Wesleyan yearbook
The football team disbanded in 1942, weeks after Pearl Harbor, as boys left for the service and resources became more scarce as the material demands of the war effort increased.
McCarty and Splawn were part of the first Wesleyan team in 1935. After both graduated from Poly they went to Weatherford Junior College in 1934 to play football. The two came back home when Wesleyan started a football program by doing some old-fashioned cattle rustling of sorts. Wesleyan convinced the Weatherford team, coach and all, to come to Rosedale to play as the newly minted Rams.
Stability at Wesleyan
Texas Wesleyan represented McCarty’s first taste of stability after drifting throughout his entire formative years, though the group of friends formed, which included McCarty and Splawn, were thick as thieves. It seems it was through these friends — friends of fate — that McCarty learned that it was OK to be loyal, to love, and to trust.
Before the wretchedness of war, there was innocence, even in youthful mischief, such as when the boys would “borrow” the milk off a neighbor’s porch, unbeknownst to Splawn’s mother, who would make them ice cream.
“He and mother developed this relationship because both were heartbroken,” Hilcher said of McCarty’s courtship of Splawn’s widow. “Mother had a bout with pneumonia the winter Hall was killed. She had a very tough time getting over his death.
“Monroe was a breath of fresh air for her, was as close as she could be to Hall with Monroe in her life. The two of them found solace in grief with one another. Both were broken-hearted. Dad had lost his best friend, mother her husband.”
Radde recalled a story when as a toddler shortly after Splawn’s death, she ran up to McCarty, who was getting off the city bus: “All of the east side of Fort Worth knew our story. One of the teachers at Poly High School for some reason was on our street. Daddy was getting off the bus and I’m flying down the street. [The teacher remembered] ‘When he picked you up, I knew you were going to be OK. He loved you.’ ”
Love, it is said, rejoices in the truth. Bears all things, endures all things.
Love never fails, as two former Texas Wesleyan friends remind us this Christmas.
Before the two split after college, McCarty wrote a message to Splawn in the Wesleyan yearbook. McCarty was going off to the town of Winters to coach and teach.
There is not any use of me writing in this book because you know exactly what I think about you. For the last four years we have lived in the same place, slept in the same bed, and were always together. But now I’ve got to go, and when you got to go you’ve got to go.
When you, Jack, and Glenn go out, just play like I am along because you know if I were here I’d be right with you.
Jr., you’ve been just like a brother to me and I appreciate everything you’ve done for me more than I can express.
All this may sound silly, but it’s just the way I feel; in two more hours I’ll be gone and not knowing when, if ever, I will get back so be good and always think of me as your best and nearest friend and hope I’ll always be.
I love you, Jr.
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