“Forgive us.” Two simple words so easily said, but often so hard to give. As I pondered Tucker’s final request, I wondered how quickly those who loved Tucker were able to forgive and move on? Could Nena’s parents ever forgive them for the pain they had brought them and could Nena’s children ever forgive Tucker for the mother that he took from them?
Although I began with the ending as I shared this story (see part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE), my initial discovery of Tucker and Nena Frances’ tragic deaths actually started with the discovery of their death certificates. I knew that some of my Gurganus folks had gone to Texas, so one day I went through the Texas Death Certificates, looking for members of my Gurganus family. I was excited to see that there were several Gurganus folks listed.
First, I came across Nena Frances Gurganus’ death certificate.
When I read “Gun shot wounds,” I literally felt my stomach drop. I also noticed that the informant was her sister from Oklahoma, although her parents were both living close by. Initially confused, I wondered if maybe there had been some sort of a hunting accident? But then I came to the next death certificate, which just happened to be her husband’s.
Husband and wife had died on the exact same day, one of a gunshot wound and the other by suicide. Although I had no additional details at this point, I certainly had my suspicions. Hoping that I could learn more, I turned to newspapers.
The details of the story were consistently reported in various papers. As I shared in the previous post, the camp operator found the couple lying on the bed and both had been shot to death.
Although most articles reported essentially the same details, several newspapers offered a few additional facts, helping me understand some of the preceding events.
Fort Worth, Oct 4, (AP) –The bodies of a man and woman, found shot to death in Weatherford, Texas, tourist cabin, today had been identified as Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Gurganus, missing since the husband was released here on $2,500 bond September 18.
Gurganus was released by Justice of the Peace Marvin Beaty after making bond after filing of a fugitive warrant. He was wanted in Lake Charles, La. on forgery charges.”
An article in The Valley Morning Star in Harlingen, Texas, published on 5 October 1937 provided the following information:
VERDICTS OF MURDER, SUICIDE RETURNED
Weatherford, Tex.–Coroner W. R. Hawkins Monday returned a verdict of murder and suicide in the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Gurganus found shot Sunday in a tourist camp here.
Gurganus was under a charge of forgery at Lake Charles, La., and faced trial under the habitual criminal act. The couple, which had been at the camp since last Thursday had been previously residing in Fort Worth. The bodies were buried at Athens, Tex., Monday where relatives of Gurganus live.
While some descendants indicate that family lore says Tucker went to the tourist camp alone and that Nena went to visit him, most newspapers imply that the couple had gone there together.
What happened between Thursday when they arrived at the camp and Sunday when Tucker shot Nena and then took his own life? Had ending their lives been part of the original plan when they checked into the camp or did something happen between Thursday and Sunday that fueled the desperation?
There was one additional haunting detail reported in many of the newspaper accounts. A note written in pencil was left in on the table beside the couple. It said simply:
“Forgive us. Bury us together.”
Were these really the final words expressed by both Tucker and Nena? Do they reflect remorse for their final act or remorse for their previous choices that led them to that point? Or are they the words of a desperate husband, unable to face his future as a “habitual criminal,” or even possibly the words of a husband unwilling to allow his wife to leave him?
We will never know what was in their minds and hearts in those final minutes, but we do know their request was delivered to heavy hearts. Whether they were forgiven by those who loved them or not, the request was honored and they were both buried in Bethel Cemetery in Parker County, Texas.
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved