Family History II: Origin

Edward Leo Palmer was born on August 11th, 1938 at 617 Highland Way in Hagerstown, Maryland, to parents Leon and Eva.  He grew up there with his parents and his sister Dorotha (Dot), who was thirteen years older than he, until he moved off for college.

The Family:

In 1925, R. Leon Palmer married Eva Irene Brandenburg, forming a family that would last each of their lifetimes.

The Official Palmer-Brandenburg Wedding Photo, 1925; courtesy of Ed Palmer

“They were very devoted to each other, and they spent a lot of time in that garden out back.”

Leon and Eva in the Garden; courtesy of Ed Palmer


Leon Palmer:

Dr. Palmer’s father, Leon, was born March 10, 1897, and he had a very significant influence on his son.

“He was a neat person.  I thoroughly enjoyed him.  I felt very lucky to have him as a dad.”

“I admired a lot about him.  I thought he was very wise and gave me a lot of wise advice across the years, and I tended to listen to it.”

Leon’s character was exhibited too by the way that he cared for his family.

“My dad was sort of the one that they would come to if they needed any help.  And Aunt Edith was good at coming and saying, ‘You know, things are getting really tough with us… we could use some help.’  So Dad would loan her money, and he knew as he loaned it that it was never coming back.  It was just that kind of thing.  And he was a guy who only made, at the peak of his working career – he made, I think, five thousand dollars.  So, they saved a lot.  They gardened a lot, grew their own produce.  They had chickens and did the eggs and the chickens too, just to save money.  They were farmers by temperament.”

Much like his siblings, Leon was remarkable in his interest in learning, despite having a limited education.

“He only finished the fifth grade… but I always felt that my dad was one of the wisest people I ever met.”

“My dad was a scholar on the Civil War, but I didn’t know that until later on.  One of the families that came every year  to see the Antietam battlefield… they’d talk with Dad about the battles, and they were just very impressed by what he knew about the Civil War.  And they said it was such a shame that he didn’t have the opportunity to go to college.”

Leon Palmer, as a young man; courtesy of Ed Palmer

Here is Dr. Palmer sharing one of his favorite memories with his father:


Eva Brandenburg Palmer:

Eva Irene Brandenburg was born on September 4, 1903, and she was a beloved mother.

“I felt very lucky to have mother as a mother.”

Eva Brandenburg as a Young Child; courtesy of Ed Palmer

“She was somebody who played on words.  She was very good at doing a play on words, and I picked that up from her.  That I’ve always treasured.  She had a gift for that.”

“When she went into the nursing home, the people always liked her because she appreciated anything they did for her.  I guess she played on words with them too.”

“She had a very simple faith, and I think I gained a lot from that.  She was a bright spirited person.”

Eva Brandenburg; courtesy of Ed Palmer

Here is Dr. Palmer sharing one of his fondest times with his mother:

Dr. Palmer created a wonderful CD called “Mother’s Favorites” that includes her favorite hymns as well as various stories that he remembers of her from when he was younger.  Though the CD is not available here in its entirety, selections can be found in the Music Bank located here.


Dorotha Palmer:

Dorotha Irene Palmer, or “Dot,” was born on December 20, 1925, and died in August of 2002.  She was Ed’s sister, and was thirteen years older than he was, which certainly impacted their relationship.

“We got closer as we got older, but growing up it was pretty much like an only child.”

Baby Ed and Sister Dot, July 11, 1939: photo courtesy of Ed Palmer

Here is Dr. Palmer explaining why Dot was so unhappy at his birth:

When Dr. Palmer shared his earliest memory, Dot featured as a main character.

“I remember one time, I was in the crib, and she and her friends were downstairs.  I guess maybe I was needing a diaper change or something. [He chuckles.]  Anyway, I ended up getting down there with them.”

Around Christmastime, the siblings had different approaches to getting gifts.

I was not a person that had a lot of wants.  My parents always told me, ‘Well, you don’t really ask for anything.  You don’t really want anything.’  I was that kind of person, and my sister was a little different from that.  She’d let them know what she wanted.  She usually got it.”

Dot would go on to get her degree at Gettysburg College, an impressive feat for a woman whose family had no such education.

Ed and Dot in August of 1997; courtesy of Ed Palmer

She also had four children, and later remarried twice.  The eldest of her children, Pres, is only eight years younger than Dr. Palmer, so the two shared some experiences growing up and remain friends.

“He was eight years younger than I.  I was an uncle, age eight.”

Here is Dr. Palmer with a story about Pres:


Ed as a Child:

As the story about Dot indicated, Dr. Palmer’s birth and life was preceded by the tragic one of his brother, Billy. 

“I had a another one [sibling] named Billy who would have been five years older than I.  But my mother had polio before Billy came.  He had a lot of health problems when he was born.  My sister told me about it – I of course didn’t know about it.  He only lived four months, and  I’m pretty sure  I was a “whoops” because I think after that my mother had decided, and my dad, that they weren’t going to have any more children.  But five years later, here I came.”

“I’ll be honest about it, I was probably a pampered child.  Some of the pampering probably didn’t do me any service, but it was okay.  I was made to feel special.  I guess that was part of that … outgrowth of me coming along after that situation with Billy.”

Ed with father Leon, September 8, 1939; courtesy of Ed Palmer

Ed was born at home and lived his entire childhood in Hagerstown, Maryland, in what was called the “South End.”

“It’s on I-81 if you go North.”

“I was there the whole time until I went to college.  And that means it’s a little tough when you move away.”

“There’s something okay about it in that you have a sense of place and that place is there, but it doesn’t give you some flexibility that I think some people that have moved have had that opportunity to experience.”

The most memorable part of the house he grew up in was the backyard, which had his parents garden, but also, a bit farther on, a train track.

“It was a pretty large area of field…. and they farmed it.  They would do Silverqueen corn, which was a favorite of ours.  It was also a train track back there, and a roundhouse… so I grew up with trains.”

“I did put something on the track one time to see if I could derail it, but it didn’t work.  I’m glad it didn’t work.”


Continue to Part III

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