Published: 24 January 2023
By Patrick A. Lundquist
via the American Legion Department of California web site
What drives people to join the military? Patriotism? Poverty? Fear? Honor? Glory? Citizenship? The draft? Love?
The reasons are many and, in many cases, more than one reason applies.
This is the true story of Marguerite Martin and Felix Lovera, two young lovers who served in the United States Army in France during World War I.
To begin at the beginning, Marguerite’s father, Augustine Martin, was a Frenchman who worked as an engineer on France’s ill-fated attempt to build the Panama Canal. He fell ill with yellow fever and was sent up to San Francisco to recuperate. During his recovery he met and fell in love with another French immigrant, Rosalie Souquiere. Rather than return to Panama, he chose to stay and marry. They had a son and six daughters. His growing family felt secure because Augustine came from a family of means that provided the support of a trust fund. Then tragedy struck, they lost their son to disease.
Perhaps due to the loss of her son, Rosalie suffered a mental breakdown and was committed to an asylum where she would spend the rest of her life. In those times it was considered improper for a man to raise daughters alone, so Augustine’s daughters were placed in a Catholic orphanage south of San Francisco, where they grew up together.
Something Augustine had managed to forget or ignore for years was a betrothal (promise in marriage) when he was just 10 years old. A threat came from his family in France that unless he returned to fulfil the betrothal, he would be cut from the Trust. Rather than make his own way in the World, Augustine pulled up stakes, deserted the remnants of his torn American family and returned to France. He was to die at the early age of 48.
Out of all of this, the only physical proof Marguerite had of her past were some old photos and a silver baby spoon engraved with an “M” that her sisters kept hidden from the nuns all those years.
Felix Anthony Lovera was born on May 17, 1890 in Caraglio, Northern Italy. He grew up in a castle. You would think growing up in a castle would be fortuitous, romantic, a place of honor, a place of nobility, but that was hardly the case. His family had fallen on hard times. Their castle was damp, drafty and cold with rats running about. His father had enough money together to send Felix’s older brothers to college but by the time Felix was old enough the well had run dry. Through a family friend, his father was able to pull some strings and get him a job as Cabin Boy on a steamship. So, in 1907, at the age of 17, Felix set sail as a Merchant Marine where he moved up to working as a baker. When their ship docked in San Francisco, Felix seized the opportunity to jump ship and set off to seek employment in the New World. He quickly landed a job at a bakery as a bread delivery boy then worked his way up again to baker.
Read the entire article on the CALEGION web site here:
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