Helen Viola Jackson, the last remaining widow of a civil war soldier, died on December 16 at a nursing home in Marshfield, Missouri at the age of 101, reported Associated Press. 

As a 17-year-old schoolgirl, Jackson married 93-year-old James Bolin, who had fought for the Union in the border state of Missouri.

One of ten children, Jackson grew up in the tiny south-western Missouri town of Niangua, near Marshfield, while a widowed Bolin, who had served as a private in the 14th Missouri Cavalry during the civil war seven decades earlier, lived nearby. 

Jackson was volunteered by her father to stop by Bolin’s home each day to provide care and help with chores and to pay back the kindness, Bolin offered to marry her. This would allow her to receive his soldier’s pension following his death. 

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They secretly got married on 4 September 1936, at his home and throughout their three years of marriage there was no intimacy and she never lived with him. She did not collect the pension out of respect for Bolin, nor did she tell anyone about the marriage until the last three years of her life, when she told it to her pastor and longtime friend Nicholas Inman.

According to Inman, for the last few years of her life,  Jackson embraced the recognition, which included a spot on the Missouri Walk of Fame, as well as countless cards and letters from well-wishers.

He said, “It was sort of a healing process for Helen: that something she thought would be kind of a scarlet letter would be celebrated in her later years.”

Jackson, after decades of avoiding her past, has a Facebook page dedicated to her, and talked to schoolchildren about her life.