Eisenhower's Granddaughter Revisits History At Fort Sam
September 4, 2008
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - The relative of a former president and renowned wartime general visited the house her grandfather lived in at Fort Sam Houston more than 65 years ago.
Mary Eisenhower, granddaughter of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, toured the two-story Georgian revival-style home on Artillery Post Road here Saturday.
"It means so much to me to see this house," said Mary, who was in town to attend a friend's wedding. "My grandmother and I were very close. Being here makes the stories come alive."
Her grandfather lived in the quarters with his wife Mamie in 1941 while serving as the chief of staff, 3rd Army. He was called away to the War Department and then overseas after Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan on Dec. 7, 1941.
Mary grew up on the Eisenhower family farm outside of Gettysburg, Pa., hearing stories of San Antonio from her beloved grandparents. She credits Fort Sam Houston, in part, to her existence.
The famous general first came to Fort Sam Houston in September 1915, after he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. After two weeks at Fort Sam Houston, he met Mamie Geneva Doud at a mixer. Mamie's Family was from Denver and spent the colder months at a second home in San Antonio. The couple married July 1, 1916, and had two sons: Doud Dwight, who died from scarlet fever as a child, and John Sheldon Dowd, Mary's father.
"If not for Fort Sam Houston, I doubt I'd be here," Mary said. "She (grandmother) used to talk about San Antonio with a sparkle in her eye."
As Mary toured the exterior of the home, she admired the architecture and the size of the home and remarked that her grandmother "must have loved it here."
Touring the house stirred old memories for Mary, who recalled her favorite stories of her grandfather.
"When I was 7, I had a friend who was the same age, but with a heart defect," Mary said. "At that age, I didn't know she was sick. She died."
Mary said she was sitting on the porch at the farm feeling down while her grandfather was watching his favorite TV show, "Green Acres."
"He came over, sat down next to me and put his arm around me, and asked me if I was alright," she said. "I put my head on his chest and heard his heartbeat. I remember feeling so secure."
Her grandfather had a memorable laugh, Mary said, as she remembered a time when she made him laugh "all the way from his big toe to his mouth."
"I loved to watch granddad paint at the farm," said Mary, who greatly admired her grandfather's talent as an artist. "One day he put his paintbrush down and said, 'You don't have a painting of mine. You may not want one, but take any one in the room.'
"He had one at the easel. He had just finished signing his name. It was a landscape," she said. "I told him I wanted that one. He laughed his big laugh, and said to his wife, 'Mamie, she picked the one you didn't like.' It's in my living room to this day."
Her grandfather died March 28, 1969, but his legacy lives on in his granddaughter. Mary is the chief executive officer of People to People International, an organization the general created that fosters bonds outside of the government through programs that include everything from student exchange to landmine eradication.
"Grandfather founded People to People on Sept. 11, 1956 to peaceably combat the Cold War," Mary said. "He said, 'If people will get together, so will nations.' It seems prophetic in a way; we need that now today more than ever.