In late February, Martha Shriver endured the most horrific crime in the history of Texas County that ended the lives of her husband, son and daughter-in-law as well as four others in Tyrone.
She survived and now has been named one of the 10 best grandmothers in Missouri.
The recognition came from The Magic of Marceline Development Co. (an organization based in the north-central Missouri town of Marceline). Ladies were named to the list based on essays submitted by grandchildren.
Shriver was chosen based on a piece written by Hannah Gulick, a 16-year-old junior at Spokane High School who is the daughter of Shriver’s daughter Dara Gulick.
“She told me about it,” Shriver said. “Of course, I was surprised, and I was proud of Hannah for writing it. She did a great job.”
During the latter hours of Feb. 26, Joseph Aldridge went on a shooting spree in Tyrone that concluded with the death of seven victims (three couples – Carey and Valirea Shriver, Garold and Julie Aldridge, Harold and Janell Aldridge and Martha’s husband, Darrell Shriver), and ultimately his own. Aldridge’s actions followed the passing of his mother, Alice Aldridge, who was later determined to have died of natural causes.
As the temperature was near zero and snow covered the ground on that fateful winter night, Shriver recalled she and her husband, Darrell, were in their house finishing their day and watching TV.
Then they heard a voice.
“We were lying down and watching the news,” she said. “Someone outside started hollering, ‘Help me, help me!’ I opened the door because I recognized it was Joe, and he said, ‘Help me, my mom just died.’”
A seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher for 25 years in Summersville, Shriver had Aldridge in her classes. She said had no reason to be afraid.
“I had no fear when I saw who it was,” Shriver said. “I had no clue that he had anything against us. If there was something there, I didn’t know of it.”
Shriver’s husband then came to the door.
“Darrell had to say, ‘Who is it?’ because it was dark, and Joe said, ‘It’s Joe Aldridge,’” Shriver recalled. “Darrell said, ‘What do you need me to do?’ That’s all that was said, and he just started shooting.”
Shriver said she isn’t sure if Aldridge ran out of ammunition or thought she was dead.
“He hit me twice –– once in the hand and once in the arm –– and I ran,” she said. “Then he shot me in the back and I went down. Darrell kind of went the other direction and then he went down. He had already shot a lot, and then he basically left.
“I have really bad injuries, but I was able to survive and I don’t know how.”
After Aldridge left, Shriver attempted to contact her son, Carey, who lived not far away in Tyrone. She did not know at the time that he and his wife, Valirea, had fallen victim to Aldridge’s .45 caliber pistol.
“I had no use of my legs and my left hand and my arm was shot, so I had to pull myself with my arm to get to the phone,” she said. “Of course, he didn’t answer, and I didn’t know why at the time.”
Shriver then called 911 and responders from many agencies descended upon Tyrone.
“They got there real quick,” she said.
When Aldridge paid a visit to the home of Carey and Valiera, their son, John, was asleep in his in his room on the other side of the house from his theirs. He was uninjured.
“He never woke up,” Shriver said.
Shriver now lives in Spokane with Dara and her family. The shooting left her without use of her left leg.
“I’ll never be normal again – either physically or mentally,” Shriver said. “I was active until the horrible incident, but I lost everything. I lost my whole way of life and three people who were very important to me.”
After leaving the hospital following treatment of her bullet wounds, Shriver moved into a house in Oakwood Estates east of Houston so John could finish the school year in Houston. After losing both parents in the shooting (Carey and Valirea Shriver), John, 14, now lives with relatives in Columbia, Ill., and his sister, Kayla Shriver, is a 19-year-old sophomore at Missouri State University in Springfield.
“They both seem to be doing very well,” Shriver said.
The Shriver Cabinets Co. in Tyrone was shut down after Shriver’s two son-in-laws helped finish work that was already in progress. Shriver receives care from Dara and her other daughter, Julie.
In addition to Kayla, John and Hannah, Shriver has five other grandchildren: Caleb Gulick (18, a student at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy), Joshua Gulick (14, of Spokane), Nathan Guy (12, of Forsyth), Noah Gulick (11, of Spokane) and Nick Guy (9, of Forsyth).
Shriver said her husband enjoyed having their grandchildren experience life on the farm as often as possible, and many great memories resulted.
“We had been married 46 years,” she said. “That farm was our whole life and we had spent most of our lives there and raised our kids there. We enjoyed being there, and our grandkids were all a big part of it. Darrell would always say, ‘we better get them here now, because when they get to be 16, they’ll get a car and want to do something else.’
“He made sure we had them as much as we could.”
Ladies named to the “top 10 grandmas” list receive a check for $1,250, while another $1,250 will be donated to the charity of their choice. Shriver chose Convoy of Hope of Springfield, an organization that works through churches, businesses, government agencies and other nonprofits to assist people who are “impoverished, hungry and hurting.”
The 10 women will be honored in an event in Marceline on Saturday, Sept. 26.
“What happened was the last thing I would ever have thought would happen to us,” Shriver said. “But I have wonderful family and I have wonderful siblings. We’re just trying to hold together as a family and do the best we can.”
“Darrell had to say, ‘Who is it?’ because it was dark, and Joe said, ‘It’s Joe Aldridge.’ Darrell said, ‘What do you need me to do?’ That’s all that was said, and he just started shooting.”