At 15 minutes after noon on May 14, 1967 my great uncle Marion Raymond Polka died of complications from Hodgkins Disease in Houston’s M.D. Anderson Hospital at the relatively young age of 55. I was 14 years old at the time but I still remember the intense hurt of losing my favorite uncle. Uncle Marion was born on a cotton farm on the outskirts of New Waverly, Texas, the youngest child in a large Polish family. He moved to a smaller farm on Fairgrounds Road in Marlin with his parents at the age of 9. After the death of his father Albert, he moved to Houston in 1925 with his mother. Marion served his country in the US Army during World War II and he spent most of his life as an interior house painter who specialized in mixing custom colors for an affluent clientele. He was a life long bachelor who spent all of his free time hunting, fishing or just roaming around in the woods.
In 1967, while he was dying, uncle Marion painted this picture of what looks to be a monk standing in prayer. The painting is very dark and gloomy as would be expected since Marion was on his death bed. Marion lived out the last year or so of his life at his sister Sophie’s house and this painting hung on her wall in her living room until shortly after her death in 1995. Sophie’s daughter Betty Joyce gave the painting to my wife as a gift for her helping at the estate sale she had at her mothers home.
When we got the painting, the light colored crucifix or cross with the corpus of Jesus on it was not visible on the painting, the whole thing was just varying shades of brown. We hung the painting on the wall in our home in Hockley and over several months time the crucifix slowly appeared until it was clearly visible and much lighter then the rest of the photo.
In addition to his fishing and hunting skills, Uncle Marion was a part of the legendary alligator and rattlesnake clearing crew at the Chocolate Bayou fishing camp. He was also very knowledgeable about the history and life of the various American Indian tribes in Texas and he spent a lot of time hunting for arrowheads and other artifacts. Before he died, he made arrangements for me to have his primary collection of over 200 arrowheads which included many small bird points, all mounted in a wooden frame that he had made. I have other mementos from Uncle Marion’s life but the arrowheads are special to me. I look at that collection every day and think about all of the good times I had with my Uncle Marion.