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At 97, last known Civil War widow is living link to history
Associated Press ^ | 4/12/03 | PHILLIP RAWLS

Posted on 02/03/2004 7:46:40 PM PST by Jaysun

ENTERPRISE, Ala. - America's last known Civil War widow never had a hoop skirt or a mansion like Tara.

Alberta Martin was a sharecropper's daughter with a young baby and no job when, in 1927, she married a man 60 years her senior. Yes, former Confederate soldier William Jasper Martin was old, but his $50-a.m.onth pension as a Civil War veteran ensured there would be food on the table and - many years later - fame.

"Miz Alberta," as everyone calls her, is 97 now and in a wheelchair. But Civil War re-enactors and history buffs take her to Sons of Confederate Veterans events from Gettysburg to St. Louis. They see that she has regular visitors at a nursing home in Enterprise and make sure that, after a lifetime in poverty, she can be comfortable in her final days as a living link to history.

Her role became even more significant when Gertrude Janeway, the last widow of a Union veteran, died in January in Tennessee at age 93.

Martin's eldest son appreciates the late-in-life recognition and comfort that has come to his mother.

"She lived a rough, rough life back in the '20s and '30s. They sharecropped and had a miserable life," said Harold Farrow, 78, of North Little Rock, Ark.

His mother was a seventh-grade dropout working in an Alabama textile mill when she met a cab driver named Howard Farrow. They stood before a preacher to get married, but never got a marriage license to make it official.

It didn't matter. Howard Farrow liked his whiskey, she recalled, and he died in a traffic accident six months after Harold was born.

Alone and living with her father, she began to notice "the old man" who walked by her house on his way to play dominoes with friends. William Jasper Martin was nearly 82 and she was barely 21. Their courting consisted of a few conversations.

"He asked my daddy if he could let him have me. My daddy told him that he didn't care if I didn't," she recalled.

On Dec. 10, 1927, Alberta and W.J. Martin were married in a ceremony at the courthouse in Andalusia in south Alabama. She wore "just a plain blue cotton dress."

Theirs was never a typical or an easy marriage.

Their wedding night was spent in her half-brother's crowded house with lots of other family. "When we went to bed, we had the baby in between us and he went to crying," she said.

Two days later, they rented their first house, starting with a stove and a table as the only furnishings.

Even in those days, people wanted to know why a young woman would marry such an old man?

Martin, who had a sense of humor when she had nothing else, usually gave a comical answer: "It's better to be an old man's darling than a young man's slave."

But for a woman as poor as Martin, the real answer was simpler: "He had $50 a month."

"Sometimes I would look out over the fields and wonder what it was like to be married to a younger man," she recalled.

For her husband, the marriage brought late-in-life joy. On Oct. 10, 1928, their son, Willie, was born, and the old man loved to go to town and carry the boy on his shoulders, proudly displaying his offspring.

They had been married nearly five years when the Civil War veteran died in 1932.

Two months later, his widow married his grandson by a previous marriage.

The marriage of Alberta and Charlie Martin caused the gossip to fly. They got kicked out of their church. People gave them funny looks.

Alberta Martin made no excuses.

"I was lonesome," she said.

They were eventually welcomed back by the church, and their marriage worked, with the couple marking their 50th anniversary before Charlie died in 1983.

Afterward, Martin lived with her son Willie, making do off her third husband's pension as a World War II veteran.

She told people she was a Civil War widow and she ought to be getting the Civil War widow's pension that Alabama still had on its law books from 1895. Her daughter-in-law even wrote then-Gov. George Wallace to explain her situation.

But when you're a poor widow with little education, it's hard to get anybody's attention in the state capital.

In 1996, Enterprise dentist Ken Chancey and other members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans took up her cause. They got state officials to approve her for a pension.

They even bought the first air conditioner for a woman who had lived her entire life in the sweltering summers of south Alabama.

These days, they bring her sacks of her favorite snack - Cheetos - and relish her recounting of the stories that W.J. Martin told her about the Civil War, about how food was in such short supply near the end of the war that he would grab whatever he could find in roadside gardens while on the march.

"He'd get a handful of peas or a watermelon or whatever he could and eat it," she said.

At 96, Martin's hearing is going and some days so is her memory.

But when her memory won't work like she wants, she can still find her sense of humor and a smile: "I'm old enough to forget, ain't I?"

One thing that's not left to Martin's fading memory is her funeral. It's already planned in great detail.

It will be a Confederate heritage ceremony, complete with Civil War re-enactors and a Confederate brass ensemble. A mule-drawn wagon will carry her casket to a cemetery near Elba where her last husband is buried, and a Confederate battle flag will cover her casket.

While others debate the appropriateness of the Confederate battle flag, Martin talks proudly of her burial plans.

"It's my flag," she says.


TOPICS: Announcements; Culture/Society; Editorial; Miscellaneous; Political Humor/Cartoons; Politics/Elections; US: Alabama; Unclassified; Your Opinion/Questions
KEYWORDS: alabama; civilwar; dixie; lastliving; living; scv; widow
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She has a website:
http://www.lastconfederatewidow.com/
I checked on her via telephone and she's still doing well. Take note that the old man sired a son who is also still alive. His Dad fought in the Civil War!!
Here's a picture of her and the Civil War: husband.

1 posted on 02/03/2004 7:46:44 PM PST by Jaysun
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To: Jaysun
WOW!
2 posted on 02/03/2004 7:50:53 PM PST by Arpege92
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To: msdrby
ping
3 posted on 02/03/2004 7:53:58 PM PST by Professional Engineer (Spirit/Opportunity~0.002acres of sovereign US territory~All Your Mars Are Belong To USA)
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To: Jaysun
Glad I took the lump-sum...inflation sure does a job on the non cola'd pension!!
4 posted on 02/03/2004 7:55:34 PM PST by CGASMIA68
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To: Jaysun
Afterward, Martin lived with her son Willie, making do off her third husband's pension as a World War II veteran.

You've got to admire her, that woman is the original surviving widow. From the Civil War to WWII....

5 posted on 02/03/2004 7:57:04 PM PST by xJones
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To: Jaysun
Oh no, another one?
6 posted on 02/03/2004 7:57:11 PM PST by Revolting cat! ("In the end, nothing explains anything!")
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To: Jaysun
bump
7 posted on 02/03/2004 7:59:20 PM PST by Lady Eileen
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To: Jaysun
Gold-digger!
8 posted on 02/03/2004 8:00:08 PM PST by vavavah
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To: Jaysun
How can you live to age 96 and be that healthy while eating Cheetos?
9 posted on 02/03/2004 8:04:28 PM PST by risk
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To: Jaysun; snippy_about_it
Amazing
10 posted on 02/03/2004 8:10:10 PM PST by SAMWolf (Elevators smell different to midgets.)
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To: SAMWolf; Jaysun
Neat.


Thanks for the ping Sam.
11 posted on 02/03/2004 8:19:33 PM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: risk
George Burns was once asked in reference to his being in his 90's yet still drinking, chasing women, and smoking cigars, "What does you doctor say about you doing this."

George Burns responded, "He's dead."
12 posted on 02/03/2004 8:24:36 PM PST by CougarGA7 (It's only funny until someone gets hurt....then it's hilarious!)
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To: risk
How can you live to age 96 and be that healthy while eating Cheetos?

My uncle is 96, he eats lots of sweets, and has dessert every day after his noon meal. More amazingly, he still has all of his own teeth. This will make you shudder, he was driving until last year, and so was my aunt, his 95 year old wife.

13 posted on 02/03/2004 8:24:55 PM PST by Lucy Lake
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To: Arpege92
Sounds like they'll stuff her and mount her on a horse the way they are going.
14 posted on 02/03/2004 8:26:27 PM PST by A CA Guy (God Bless America, God bless and keep safe our fighting men and women.)
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To: snippy_about_it; SAMWolf
That funeral would be a sight to see.
15 posted on 02/03/2004 8:26:47 PM PST by Samwise (There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.)
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To: stainlessbanner
did you see this? WOW
16 posted on 02/03/2004 8:28:27 PM PST by cyborg
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To: Jaysun
Just another Anna Nicole Smith.
17 posted on 02/03/2004 8:29:07 PM PST by beaversmom
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To: Jaysun
From this Northerner, my hat off to this last living link to our past. It's incredible when you think that her husband was part of the McKinley generation!
18 posted on 02/03/2004 8:41:48 PM PST by republicanwizard
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To: Jaysun
bump to read later
19 posted on 02/03/2004 8:42:59 PM PST by StarCMC (God protect the 969th in Iraq and their Captain, my brother...God protect them all!)
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To: Jaysun
Seems like a read a similar article on this woman once, and it mentioned an incident whereby she told her son of seeing a place "where the yankees shot your pa" (must have been a battlefield).

Great post and great pix. Thanks.
20 posted on 02/03/2004 8:47:53 PM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: Jaysun
I have had the pleasure of meeting this dear lady, who is very happy and well-cared for. She is a living reminder that ours is still a relatively new country, and that our history is about real people. Both my mother's and my wife's families are all from Coffee County, where Mrs. Martin lives. My wife's great-great grandfather (and four of his brothers) and my great-grandfather were from the same town. They enlisted in the Army at the same time, in the same Company, and the same Regiment. All saw service in the same battles, sustained wounds, and, amazingly, all survived the War. NONE were slaveholders, just poor farmers who wanted to be left alone. DEO VINDICE.
21 posted on 02/03/2004 8:52:30 PM PST by Frankster
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To: risk
How can you live to age 96 and be that healthy while eating Cheetos?

It's her snack. Not her staple! :-D But she was smart to remain acclimated to the hot summers. I only run the heat and AC in my place for guests.

22 posted on 02/03/2004 8:58:18 PM PST by BradyLS (DO NOT FEED THE BEARS!)
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To: Jaysun
"ENTERPRISE, Ala. - America's last known Civil War widow never had a hoop skirt or a mansion like Tara."

Enterprise, Alabama is the only place in the world that has a monument to an insect, the boll weevil. The boll weevil forced farmers to switch from cotton to peanuts. Some got rich off peanut farming. Cotton farmers were starving.

23 posted on 02/03/2004 9:03:28 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

The Boll Weevil Monument

24 posted on 02/03/2004 9:05:52 PM PST by blam
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To: Jaysun
My father (now 75 and doing fine) was fortunate enough to have a Great-Grandfather (my Great-great Grandfather, obviously) who lived to be a lucid 99. When my father was a young man, my Great-great Grandfather told my Dad all about going into Phildelphia with HIS father to see Lincoln's funeral train pass through. (That event in Philly is a story in itself.)

Anyways, it still boggles my mind that I can talk to a man who conversed with a witness to Lincoln's funeral train. No big deal, I guess, but it still shakes my head a bit. I mean, that was over 138 years ago. Anyways, it's better than five degrees from Kevin Bacon, or whatever.
25 posted on 02/03/2004 9:09:09 PM PST by Lancey Howard
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To: Jaysun
Fantastic read! Thanks for posting this. I thought this lady was dead already. I had read a story about her about 10 years ago.
26 posted on 02/03/2004 9:19:09 PM PST by EagleMamaMT
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To: Frankster
I have had the pleasure of meeting this dear lady, who is very happy and well-cared for.

I had that pleasure, as well, and she was holding her flag at the time. I hope to see her again someday. Mrs. Martin is honored by many in the South.

27 posted on 02/03/2004 9:19:17 PM PST by varina davis
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To: Jaysun
My great-great-grandfather was born in 1843. He went from Missouri to Utah in a covered wagon in the first great Mormon migration of 1847. My mom never knew him, but at the age of 74, he married a young widow and fathered a daughter who is still living. I met her at a family reunion. These living links to the past are fascinating.

-ccm

28 posted on 02/03/2004 9:24:47 PM PST by ccmay
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To: Jaysun
excellent post!. My wife will enjo it, and so will my mom. Looks lke I need to head to mapquest to locate Enterprise,Al.
29 posted on 02/03/2004 9:36:04 PM PST by zeugma (The Great Experiment is over.)
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To: Jaysun
I met her at Franklin, Tennessee on N.B. Forrest's birthday. She was feisty.
30 posted on 02/03/2004 9:40:38 PM PST by Arkinsaw
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To: cyborg
Living history. Awesome!
31 posted on 02/04/2004 5:01:35 AM PST by stainlessbanner
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To: grizzfan
My uncle is 96, he eats lots of sweets, and has dessert every day after his noon meal. More amazingly, he still has all of his own teeth. This will make you shudder, he was driving until last year, and so was my aunt, his 95 year old wife.

That's neat. I have a family full of those that never seem to die. I still have two Great-Grandmothers alive. My uncle Wilbur in Iowa still works on his farm, he's 95 years old. His father worked on that same farm until he died at 95 (from an infection in his broken hip that resulted from his falling off of a tractor). It amazing to talk with these people. I visit Aunt Maude on a weekly basis. She lives at home alone, dies her hair red, wears a Dallas Cowboys baseball cap, and drinks warm beer that she keeps in her pantry.
32 posted on 02/04/2004 9:51:30 AM PST by Jaysun (The reason I talk to myself is that I'm the only one whose answers I accept.)
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To: blam
Ah, I've been there. Thanks for the picture.
33 posted on 02/04/2004 9:53:17 AM PST by Jaysun (The reason I talk to myself is that I'm the only one whose answers I accept.)
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To: Lancey Howard
Anyways, it still boggles my mind that I can talk to a man who conversed with a witness to Lincoln's funeral train. No big deal, I guess, but it still shakes my head a bit. I mean, that was over 138 years ago. Anyways, it's better than five degrees from Kevin Bacon, or whatever.

I feel the same way that you do. Look at this lady's son. He's probably been called a liar for his whole life. Who would believe that a man is still alive who had a Dad that fought in the Civil War? Good God!
34 posted on 02/04/2004 9:55:47 AM PST by Jaysun (The reason I talk to myself is that I'm the only one whose answers I accept.)
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To: Jaysun
She married her husband's grandson? So her son's nephew was also his stepfather? Sounds like Bill Wyman's family.
35 posted on 02/04/2004 10:33:55 AM PST by AuH2ORepublican (Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)
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To: risk
How can you live to age 96 and be that healthy while eating Cheetos?

It's a Southern thing, you wouldn't understand ...

36 posted on 02/04/2004 7:37:38 PM PST by 11th_VA
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To: risk
Well, good genes help. My grandma was born in 1859 had my Dad at 41 in 1900. My Dad smoked since he was 10 and ate whatever he wanted all his life and had me at age 50. He lived to be 98.
37 posted on 02/04/2004 8:04:26 PM PST by abbi_normal_2
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To: abbi_normal_2
Wish I had your genes. I come from a long line of health conscious people (not exactly health nuts) who tend to die in their 60s.
38 posted on 02/05/2004 12:20:07 AM PST by BykrBayb (Temporary tagline. Applied to State of New Jersey for permanent tagline (12/24/03).)
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To: abbi_normal_2
I was at a family event this past month. Conversation drifted to a pair of sisters that each lived past 100, I think one lived to 105 and one lived to 107. Apparently the one that lived to 107 was asked why she lived 2 years longer than her sister.

Her reply?

"She smoked".
39 posted on 02/05/2004 7:26:28 AM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: Lancey Howard
History is all around us. Had a very old lady who babysat my brother,sister and myself who used to tell us about comming to California in a covered wagon.

Related to Lincoln, I've not seen the actual episode, but there was a what's my line in the 50's where someone who witnesed Lincolns assasination appeared.

40 posted on 02/05/2004 7:38:22 AM PST by Rev DMV
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To: Lancey Howard
I recently had dinner with a cousin of my father who remembers the Civil War stories he heard directly from his grandfather/my great-grandfather who was in the Union Cavalry from Chancellorsville to the end.
It was unbelievable to me, talking to someone who had talked to my favorite dead ancestor, and remembered him clearly.
41 posted on 02/05/2004 7:46:02 AM PST by EllaMinnow (If you want to send a message, call Western Union.)
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To: Jaysun
I have a copy of my great-great grandmothers "Confederate widow's benefit" She got $25 a month. She died in the late 1800s. But then she was alive during the War.

The history is fascinating.
42 posted on 02/05/2004 7:46:51 AM PST by Corin Stormhands (www.wardsmythe.com)
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To: Jaysun
Old men marrying "young" women must have been fairly common back then. My great-grandfather was born in 1814, in KY., left after "bushwackers" massacred a son and daughter.

His apparently he received a Civil War Pension, his first wife died and he married again late in life and had three more children around age of 70 +.
43 posted on 02/05/2004 8:07:02 AM PST by Just mythoughts
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To: Just mythoughts
Sorry for the incoherent sentence/ not doing too well being on phone and typing.... Should read

He apparently received a Civil War Pension ...
44 posted on 02/05/2004 8:32:07 AM PST by Just mythoughts
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To: Jaysun
This is Mrs. Martin standing in front of Fort Stedman which was attacked by 300 Confederates carrying only hatchets on the early morning of March 25, 1865. After these volunteers hacked up the siege works with the axes and hatchets, they had to use these to fight the Union soldiers in the Fort as these volunteers had no weapons except the axes and hatchets. Other Confederates followed these volunteers into the Fort and they had guns and muskets. The Confederates over ran the Union soldiers but the Union soldiers counterattacked later that day and drove the Confederates away. Mrs. Martin was sitting by her son Willie when this picture was taken. Willie's father, Private William Jasper Martin, was present during a great part of the Petersburg siege. Mrs. Martin made a remark to the Press who interviewed her at this spot. She said, "I'm glad that Willie got to come up here and finally see where his Daddy fought".

I'll be ... My G-G-Grandfather fought in this action. After participating in taking Ft Stedman he and his command were cut off and finally overwhelmed. He went through the entire war, rising from Forth Corporal to Captain, and spent the last few months of the war as a POW.

Another great-grandfather was a private, wounded at Second Manassas. I've been able to track down the location were he fell to within a few hundred feet.

History is not dead as long as there are those who will remember.

45 posted on 02/05/2004 9:01:19 AM PST by LTCJ (Gridlock '05 - the Lesser of Three Evils.)
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To: LTCJ
Most interesting posts.
46 posted on 02/05/2004 8:55:45 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: SpookBrat; Donaeus
Check out this bit of history!!
47 posted on 02/06/2004 10:02:51 PM PST by Donaeus (Another neanderthal preventing home invasions...hot lead makes cold feet.)
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To: Rev DMV
In the 50s there was a show called the True Story sponsored by Pall Mall cigarettes. On one episode, they had an old timer claiming to be Jesse James. I have posted this before, but no one else on FR has seen it, as far as I know. I guess the dna tests proved this guy wrong awhile back. Showed the body in Jesse's grave was actually Jesse. Who woulda thunk it?
48 posted on 02/06/2004 10:07:55 PM PST by breakem
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To: Jaysun
It's no picnic getting old. My dear Grandmother who turned 100 in June of 2003 just died Wednesday night. She too survived the depression etc.. Her health was failing and now she is in heaven with her husband and other loved ones. I'll miss her.
49 posted on 02/06/2004 10:08:48 PM PST by nmh (Intelligent people recognize Intelligent Design (God).)
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To: risk
My 93 year old Grandfather has been sucking welding fumes, asbestos, smoker (quit), chew tobacco (still occasional), 3 eggs 4 or 5 days a week + lots of meat, 3 fingers of Wild Turkey in the evening, and he still is kicking butt and taking names.

The 87 year old one did 32 years military (Navy and Marines) and came out of a POW camp at 86 pounds and still gets in a round of golf occasionally.

Please God... let me have a good dose of those genes!!!

50 posted on 02/06/2004 10:15:54 PM PST by Axenolith (<tag>)
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