Originally created 09/07/02

Looking for mourner

AIKEN - On the front porch of the red, two-room shack where Marion Edwards lived without electricity or water sits a corncob pipe.

The pipe and a nearby clay ashtray belonged to the 61-year-old man friends called "Pipe."

He died June 17 of cancer he didn't know he had and with no family to claim his body for burial.

Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend says that if no family comes forward - possibly the son, daughter, or wife friends say Mr. Edwards hadn't talked to in years - his body will be cremated. The remains will be buried along with others with a similar legacy in a cemetery off Gregg Highway.

A couple who befriended Mr. Edwards when he moved to Aiken nearly two decades ago tried to gather some burial money from others who knew him.

That couple - Mertis Washington, 37, and her fiance, Thomas Butler, 61, - found people unable to give.

A few days before he died, the couple stopped by to offer Mr. Edwards a hot meal, as they had often done before.

Because he used crutches to get out of bed, barely making it to the door, the couple drove Mr. Edwards to the hospital. Doctors there discovered prostate cancer.

Before moving to Aiken, Mr. Edwards lived near Thomson or Swainsboro, his friends said. He didn't talk much about that part of his life, only to barely mention his time on a prison chain gang.

His life in Aiken had few amenities.

Because his house had no power, Mr. Edwards often sat on his porch listening to a battery-powered radio. He would sing sometimes when the feeling was right, friends say.

He apparently loved music; the walls inside his home hold old vinyl records attached to the wall by nails.

"He didn't have much, but he took care of what he had," Ms. Washington said.

Because his house needed light, Mr. Butler gave Mr. Edwards a kerosene lamp. Mr. Butler also took clothing bound for the Salvation Army to his friend.

"You'd give him something, and he never did quit thanking you," Mr. Butler said.

Mr. Edwards didn't have a car, and rode around instead on a bicycle.

It had two metal baskets on each rear side, and teddy bears fastened to the handlebars. The baskets often held aluminum cans, which Mr. Edwards picked up off the road and sold for tobacco money, his friends say.

While he lay dying in the hospital, Mr. Edwards made sure Mr. Butler gave his bicycle to another man who needed it.

Despite his apparent lack of immediate family, "He's going to be a well-missed man," Ms. Washington said.

"He's going to be a well-missed man." - Mertis Washington, a friend of Marion Edwards

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or matthew.boedy@augustachronicle.com.


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