The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips: Otis Henry Memorial, Texarkana

World War I monument memorializes the depths of a mother’s loss

By Gerald E. McLeod, November 9, 2018, Columns

The Otis Henry Memorial in Texarkana shows the depths of a mother's love and the tragedy of war.

Born on June 22, 1894, in Denison, Texas, Corporal Otis Henry died Oct. 6, 1918, near Vincey, France, just 36 days before the end of World War I. He was 24 years old. The story might have ended on that sad note if not for his mother, Susan Tate Wilder, and her dedication to her only child.

According to the Texarkana Museum of Regional History, when Henry registered for the draft in 1917, he reported his employment at a "soda dispensary" in Shreveport, La. He was described as being "of medium height and stout with gray eyes and dark brown hair."

It must have been a terrible blow when Susie Wilder was informed of Henry's death in a gas attack. A woman of modest means, it is remarkable that she could afford to have her son's body returned from France and placed under such an elaborate memorial.

The marker was not installed until 13 years after Henry's death. In the center of the monument, Henry stands in civilian clothes, frozen in white marble. The angel on his right wears a tunic with five stars representing the five wounds of Christ. On the left, another angel holds an upside-down torch symbolizing a sudden death and a wreath signifying victory. The monument is topped with a statue of a doughboy carrying a rifle and holding a grenade.

Wilder lived out her life a few blocks from the memorial, after outliving two husbands and her son. She passed away in 1941 at age 81.

The Otis Henry Memorial is in the Rose Hill Cemetery at 100 S. Leila St., Texarkana.

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