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Twenty seven years ago today, I was at work when my boss, the owner of the printing company for which I worked, opened the door to the graphics room and told me I had a phone call.  It was early afternoon and I still had an hour or so of work yet. No one usually called me at work.  As soon as I heard my brother’s voice, I knew.  I knew because that was how I had envisioned it happening a week or so before.  It wouldn’t be my mom calling me or anyone else – it would be my brother.  The words he spoke brought forth too many polarizing emotions.  I didn’t have to wonder anymore about when it would happen.  I knew that a life lived had been to the absolute fullest.  I knew that while everyone else in the family would be falling apart, that I would draw on my inner strength and remain strong for them.  This woman we spoke of had been a constant in my life since birth – the only grandmother that I knew.  When it seemed that my life was falling apart throughout different periods, she was my champion. When I was at my absolute lowest and disappointing everyone else, she hugged me and let me know that no matter what she wouldn’t be mad at me and would love me unconditionally.  Walking into my grandparents’ apartment later that evening and seeing my grandfather all dressed up in a suit – for he had been waiting to go see his beloved wife – stabbed my heart.  My mother expressed that my grandmother had really wanted to see her newest great-granddaughter, my baby, just a little over a month old, and had never gotten to.  I broke down in grief.

Within a week the family gathered to remember this matriarch of our family.  We laughed and we cried.  Six of us – grandchildren and great-grandchildren – were pallbearers.  It was such a cold day – the day we carried the casket out of the church into the waiting hearse.  Snow covered the ground.  We traveled to the cemetery and had a final service in the chapel.  It would be several more years before I went to the gravesite.  When I did return, it would be to visit not only my grandmother and my mom’s baby sister, but also my grandfather, who wasn’t able to go on after the love of his life was gone.  He passed away a year less a day after she did.

Like me, my grandmother was a child of divorced parents.  When I was young and going through the rough patches of my parents animosity, she would always comfort me and tell me she knew what I felt.  As a young child, I used to spend weekends with my grandparents.  I was the youngest of their eight grandchildren – by fourteen years – so to say that I was spoiled by them is an understatement!  In my defense, I never asked for them to spoil me and in their defense, during the time the others were young and growing, my grandparents lived in Germany and were always traveling due to my grandfather’s military duty or for pleasure.  They missed a lot of holidays and birthdays with my siblings and cousins.

Vesta Christena Wilt was born on May 7, 1898 in Noblesville, Indiana to Joseph N. Wilt and Martha Jane Stern.  She was the oldest girl and fourth child.  Another daughter and son followed her.  Before she was 12, her parents had divorced.  Her mother married her widowed brother-in-law, Frank Clawson.  The family moved from Noblesville to Anderson, Indiana and on Easter Sunday 1916 she met the man she would spend the rest of her life with.  Vesta dated Glen Roy Johnson for several months and the two got married at Martha and Frank’s house on Christmas Eve 1916.  The following December their first child, a son named after his father, was born. As the years went by the family added their first daughter, Genevieve, and then a second daughter, Mary (my mother), and lastly baby Lois Evelyn who was born prematurely and died just a little over 2 months later.

 

My grandmother knew her own heartache. She was separated from her beloved Glen for quite awhile while he went to training for the Signal Corps and then went overseas to France during WWI.  She had been separated from her mother and two youngest siblings after Martha moved to Oregon before my mother was born.  She lost a baby and then much later watched her oldest daughter suffer from a brain tumor and ultimately succumb to another inoperable one.  She lost the father that she hadn’t seen for so long without having that estranged relationship mended.  As the years wore on, she watched her youngest daughter struggle and grieve for the end of an almost 30 year marriage.  She lost her mother and three brothers.  She sat by her husband’s hospital bedside for months as he recuperated from a blood cot on his brain that he had suffered in a fall.

Then her health began to fail.  She wasn’t a stranger to health issues – having one ailment and surgery or another throughout her adult life.  But after she broke her elbow in the early 1970s, she was never as healthy as she had been.  All too soon she was experiencing a heart attack every three months.  I was very scared about losing her – not only for myself but for what it would do to my mother. After hospital stays and a change in her diet and medication, it seemed she rallied from the heart issues (although they were still there). 

The family would gather for a surprise birthday we had for her at our house.  She was so surprised when she walked in through the garage to the dining room and most of her family.  Then there was the 60th wedding anniversary celebration at their apartment complex.  Long time friends, church friends, military friends, and the family and extended family came to honor them.  We were only missing one of my cousins and her family.

I moved away for awhile and when I returned back to my hometown, I realized just how she had aged – my grandfather too.  I knew that as the years had ticked by, time was winding down for their life among us.  My grandfather had been the one who had several health issues before I had moved away and I guess I had thought that he might be the one to go first.  Then she was hospitalized and then again several weeks later.  That visit was one she wouldn’t return home from.  I learned later that she had told the apartment manager as the EMTs were wheeling her to the ambulance to make sure her husband would be okay.  Did she know she wouldn’t come home? Did she decide that it would be okay to go if it was her time?

My grandmother – Vesta Wilt Johnson – born on May 7, 1898 – died on January 19, 1984.  My grandfather – Glen Roy Johnson – born November 21, 1898 – died on January 18, 1985.  They were the glue of the family.  There are times during holidays and celebrations, the family left an empty chair – in honor of our grandmother.  Our Beloved Nana – the woman whose “grandmother” moniker I have assumed for my own grandchildren – the woman whom I will never live up to as a grandmother – the woman who is always beside me in times of trouble – smiling and cheering me on.

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Today’s date marks the anniversary of the births of:

  • Silas Hills – 1739
  • Josiah House – 1814 (first cousin, 4 times removed)
  • John  H. Caylor – 1827 (2nd great grand uncle)
  • George K. Blazer – 1862 (first cousin, 4 times removed)
  • Florence Ethel Loveland – 1883 (fourth cousin, 1 time removed)
  • Berney Frank Rivers – 1883
  • Myron Ricker – 1907
  • Lannie O. Rhodes – 1908
  • Roger W. Gerwing – 1928
  • And 6 other people who are still living.

It is the anniversary of the death of 12 individuals:

  • James E. Davis – 1882 (2nd cousin 3 times removed)
  • Henry Goul – 1898 (3rd great grand uncle)
  • Jesse James Stern – 1935 (2nd cousin 3 times removed)
  • John W. Bushong – 1940 (4th cousin 4 times removed)
  • Joseph Napolean Wilt – 1944 (maternal great-grandfather)
  • Harry Martin Blazer – 1957 (2nd cousin 3 times removed)
  • Agnes E. Lynn – 1971
  • Harvey M. Macy – 1972
  • Jenny Elora Stephens – 1975
  • Albert Keeney – 1977 (7th cousin 1 time removed)
  • Mary Helen House – 1994 (first cousin 1 time removed)
  • Mary Arlene Amore – 1996 (2nd cousin)

Seven couples married on this date and one couple is still living.  The others are:

  • Austin Harvey and Anna Bushong, 1818 in Kentucky (wife is 3rd cousin 6 times removed)
  • Jehu Hendren and Elizabeth Combs, 1833 in Wilkes County, North Carolina
  • Earle Kinsey and Mary Shideler, 1835 in Preble County, Ohio (husband is 2nd cousin 5 times removed)
  • David B. Crawford and Elizabeth Ann Davis, 1907 in Logan, Cache County, Utah (wife is 7th cousin 1 time removed)
  • Grover Johnson and Esta Fern Rinker, 1907 in Perkinsville, Madison County, Indiana (husband is 2nd cousin 2 times removed)
  • Wilmer E. Keeney and Mabel Buell, 1914 in Manchester, Hartford County, Connecticut (husband is 6th cousin 2 times removed)

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On this day – January 8th, there are 15 people in my Family Tree who were born on this date, 6 of which who are now deceased. Those six (I won’t post the others since this is private information) are: Jacob Bushong – 1836, Sarah Ann Roudebush – 1839, Margaret M. Ruby – 1889, Earl Stern – 1896, Bernice Luella Harrison – 1907, and Harry Richardson Dean – 1912.

There are 5 individuals with a death date of January 8th: Henry Bushong Jr. – 1862, Sylvanus Neese – 1881, Gussie Werts – 1881, Frances Elizabeth Elliot – 1884, and Lloyd Blazer – 1975.

Five couples married on January 8th.

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There were several deaths that occurred within my extended and distant family in 2010.  People I knew and loved really well and others that I had never met but had been important to one of my parents.

Daniel J. Dalton
Danny was my cousin by marriage. I was not quite four when he and my first cousin married and honored me by having me serve as their flower girl.  Most of my life, Danny always made me feel as if we were blood relatives. He was so kind and gentle – that was just who he was.  Before their own child was born, he and my cousin would have me over for the weekend.  My cousin lost the love of her life, their daughter lost her devoted dad, the whole family lost a cherished family member and friend, and the grandkids lost their beloved Poppy on June 27, 2010.

Marie E. (Amore) Quirk
My Aunt Marie (whom I’ve posted about before) turned 101 on May 21.  Four months later she passed away – on September 3.  She was my dad’s older sister and the third child and second girl born to my grandparents.  Marie was born in Roscoe, Coshocton County, Ohio and after high school she went to the Salvation Army College in New York.  Marie married and had a daughter.  Many years later she married again.  Her entire life was devoted to her family, the Salvation Army and the Lord.  As a child, I always looked forward to seeing Aunt Marie – whether it was at a reunion, a visit to our house, or when we visited her in Philadelphia.  She entertained the little ones with puppet shows.  The last time I saw her, I was about 10 but as an adult when I began my journey into family history, she was the first person I re-connected with and who sent me quite a bit of information.  For a short time she would call and talk to me or use her computer class to email me.  I truly treasured such a special woman. 

Norma I. (Henderson) Shackelford
Norma was my cousin by marriage.  She married my first cousin’s son.  I hadn’t seen her since I was about 7 or 8 but when my cousin (her husband) and I began corresponding about 10 years ago, he would always keep me in the loop as to what she was up to.  After my Aunt Marie passed away, I was doing a google search for their address and ran across Norma’s obituary.  I was very saddened to hear of her death.

Evelyn Joan (Korns) Amore
Joan was the wife of my first cousin once removed.  I only knew her through email correspondence.  She passed away on December 27 and left behind five children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Loretta Jean (Jennings) Ruble
She was my 2nd cousin once removed and someone I had never met. She was born in Coshocton. She married her husband, Dale, in Kentucky in 1947 and died on May 18.

May they all be remembered by their closest friends, family members and loved ones.

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Last fall while I was looking at and for headstone photos and entries on Find A Grave, I decided to put in a request for photos of my great-grandparents’ graves in Pendleton, Indiana. A very kind lady answered my request immediately. Not only did she take photos of the graves of Melissa (Goul) and Frank Blazer but several of Melissa Goul’s family members. She also went to the library and dug up some information to send to me.

A Pendleton newspaper account from October 1873 mentioned that my 2nd g-grandfather, John Blazer (father of the Franklin Blazer from above), died on August 27, 1873 being between 69 and 70 years old. Remarks by family members that were overheard by John’s brother, Samuel Blazer, caused him to approach the coroner, G.W. Maynard, with his suspicions that John was poisoned. The newspaper did not reveal the first name of the Blazer who Samuel accused. That accusation led the coroner to request an exhumation of John’s remains. After which the contents of the stomach were sent away for testing. At some point later, another Pendleton newspaper account mentioned that no poison had been found. The officials did have a problem though – who was going to pay the $350 for the doctor’s bill?

Analysis: The information giving the name of Samuel as the brother of John Blazer was one more piece of corroboration that I had been researching the “correct” Blazer family.

Another Pendleton newspaper article dated September 25, 1903 reported that Franklin’s brother, George Blazer, committed suicide by ingesting poison.  (Note: the article has misspelled the surname as “Blazier” – however, even my maternal grandfather, whose mother’s maiden name was Blazer, often spelled her relatives’ names with an “i”.)  This article gave several pertinent pieces of information:

  • George’s residence: 610 West 12th Street in Pendleton, Indiana.
  • Past occupation: Drayman.
  • Character: he had taken to drinking “hard” and become despondent.
  • He was married and had “several” children.

Apparently, as reported, George had purchased 10 cents’ worth of carbolic acid from a drug store after he had gone to the meat market for steaks.  It was also mentioned that he had threatened suicide a number of times due to his despondency.  On the day of the suicide, he and his son had an argument while his wife went to cook the steaks.  It was during the disagreement that he took out the bottle and “threw the acid down his throat before he could be prevented.”  The dr. was called right away but George could not be saved.

Documented information about George:

  • George is 5 years old, living in his parents’ household (John and Mary Ann Blazer) in the 1850 US Census.  They are residing in Fall Creek, Madison County, Indiana.  The record shows that George attended school within the year.
  • In the 1860 US Census he is found at age 14 living in his parents’ household (John and Mary A. Blazer) in Fall Creek Twp, Madison County, Indiana and had been in school within the past year.
  • The 1870 US Census shows G.W. Blazer living in Anderson Twp, Madison County, Indiana.  He is age 26, a Farmer, lists a value of real estate as $1200 but nothing for personal estate, born in Indiana, and a male citizen age 21 years or over.  Living in the household are wife Amanda, daughters E.J. and M.M., son J.W., and three other people (M. Judd, A.M. Judd, and Jas Webb).
  • Two headstones in Grovelawn Cemetery in Madison County, Indiana list sons of G.W. and Amanda Blazer.  One is for John W. Blazer who died on December 24, 1874 age 4 years, 10 months, 6 days.  The other is for James Albert Blazer who died on June 3, 1876.
  • The family is still residing in Anderson, Madison County, Indiana for the 1880 US Census.  George W. Blazer is 35 and married.  His listed occupation is Teamster.  Also in the household is wife, Amanda, daughters Estella and Margaret, and a boarder, William Caton. 
  • In the 1900 US Census, George Blazer continues to reside in Anderson, Madison County, Indiana.  He is 55 years old and lists his birth as Sep 1844 in Indiana.  He has been married 37 years.  His occupation is Day Laborer but he has been unemployed for 2 months.  His wife Amanda lists her birth as March 1845, age 55, mother of 4 with only one surviving.  Also in their household is their grandson, Willie, age 15 born June 1884 in Indiana.  He is also a day laborer but had been unemployed for 3 months.
  • His headstone is located in Grovelawn Cemetery in Pendleton, Madison County, Indiana.

A Pendleton newspaper (handwritten on the copy was 7-30-97) lists the account of the suicide of John Blazer.  He was the oldest son of Franklin and Melissa, born on September 17, 1859.  He married Sarah Manis on January 2, 1897 in Madison County, Indiana.  The newspaper account states that his wife sent a telegram from Knighstown, Indiana – where they resided – to a family named “Lawson” that “Johnny shot and killed himself” that morning.  The short article concludes with the information that he was “well known.  He was an erratic fellow” and had “considerable trouble in court.”

Documented evidence for John Blazer:

  • He was listed in the 1870 US Census living in his mother’s household (who was a widow by then), in Fall Creek Township, Madison County, Indiana at age 11.  He was listed as born in Indiana.
  • At age 21 he is still living in Melissa’s household in the 1880 US Census in Stony Creek Township, Madison County, Indiana with his birth listed as Indiana.  His occupation is a farmer.
  • The index to the Marriage Record of Madison County for the years 1880-1920 lists the marriage of John F. Blazier (notice the “i” in the surname again) to Sarah E. Manis as January 2, 1897 on page 352 of book 6.
  • His headstone is located in Grovelawn Cemetery in Pendleton, Madison County, Indiana.

Observation: John and Sarah were married not quite 7 months when he committed suicide.  No children were born of this union.

It is very sad that two members of this family chose to end their lives rather than face whatever caused them such turmoil and despair and a third member was thought to have been poisoned by another family member.  I often wonder what circumstances surrounded this branch of the Blazer family that created such suspicions and desperation.

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(Continued from The Box)

After I had opened the box, unwrapped the tissue paper to find my mom’s baby sister’s bonnet and removed the tissue paper, I saw a calendar at the bottom of the box.

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Carefully I lifted out the Calendar from 1927 and slowly flipped the pages.  When I found the month of June, there were notes on the page in my grandmother’s handwriting.

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June 9: Baby born – 10 a.m. hospital – 3# 4 – Lois Evelyn

June 13: 2#s 5

June 16: I came home – left baby

June 25: Fabitis

Week of June 26: Baby gaining back

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July 9: 3-4 1/2

July 15: I came home

July 16: Baby home – 3# 6

July 23: 3# 12 1/2

July 30: Same

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August 1: 3# 12 1/2 oz

August 6: 4 – 3

August 13:  4 – 7

August 20: 4 – 12 1/2

August 27: 4 – 7

August 30: 4 – 5

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September 3: 4 – 7

September 10: 4 – 8

September 12: cow’s milk

September 15: 4 – 13

September 17: 4 – 7

September 19: 4 – 5

September 22: SMA, 4 – 4

September 28: Back to hospital at 9 pm

September 30: Died at 5 pm

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October 2: We buried our dear baby 3 months, 3 weeks

October 18: At Hospital

October 20:  Operated for appendicitis & perineal op

October 22: Real ill

Lois_Evelyn_Johnson_1985155_1393

Lois Evelyn Johnson’s Death Certificate

Birth: June 9, 1927
Death: Sept 30, 1927 at Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio
Normal residence was in Fairfield (now part of Fairborn), Greene County, Ohio
Female, White, Single
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio
Age at Death: 3 months, 4 days (this is incorrect just based on dates)
Father: Glenn (spelling incorrect) Johnson, born Anderson, Indiana
Mother: Vesta Wilt, born Noblesville, Indiana
Informant: Glen R. Johnson, Fairfield, Ohio
Death occurred at 6 pm
Cause of Death: 7 mo. premature birth; summer diarrhea, malnutrition
Place of Burial: Fairfield Cemetery, Oct 3rd 1927

It appears – based on calendar notes – that my grandmother was very vigilant about checking Lois’ weight and even changing what type of nutrition she was receiving.  Lois probably started out being breast-fed and then when she failed to gain enough, was switched to cow’s milk.  She did appear to gain some weight but then started to taper off again.  My grandmother then switched her to SMA Formula but that didn’t seem to help.  I believe the X’s at certain dates of Lois’ life probably indicated either the beginning of diarrhea or a dr. appointment. 

Talking to my mom a year ago, I discovered that Lois had been able to go home from the hospital.  I was always under the impression that she had to remain there.  Mom had told me that her baby sister had been put next to a heat source in order to keep her body temperature up. 

Lois Evelyn didn’t remain at Fairfield Cemetery.  Years later a family had lost their children in a fire (or some other calamity) and a call went out through the community for burial plots or money to help bury the children.  My grandparents gave up their plots and decided to remove their baby daughter to the cemetery they had chosen would be their final resting place.  Mom had told me several times the gruesome tale of how my grandmother had wanted to see her baby daughter one more time after she was disinterred and asked that her casket be opened.  Apparently she was pretty well preserved until the air touched her remains.  Lois was then interred – permanently – at Glen Haven Memorial Gardens in New Carlisle, Ohio.  Almost 40 years after she died, her parents joined her in eternal rest (in 1984 and 1985).  Now, though unfortunate, most of the family is together – lying close together in a very peaceful setting: Lois’ oldest brother and her next to oldest sister (my mother).  My aunt, the oldest daughter, is buried several miles away in the community’s Catholic cemetery.

Medical technology has come such a long way since 1927.  If Lois Evelyn had been born within the last 10-15 years, she would probably be well cared for and received the right nutrition.  Her gastric distress was probably due to her prematurity and she may have been placed on a feeding tube or receive IV nutrients. 

My grandmother spoke of Lois Evelyn often.  She never stopped mourning her last born child.  She had shown me one picture of the little one lying on a blanket.  I’ve not seen that photo again.  The picture I do have, I will not post.  It is her final picture – in her casket at her funeral.  A banner reading “Our Baby” is draped above her on the lid.  She was very, very tiny.  And for all these years, she’s been an angel.

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Rest in Peace, Lois Evelyn

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I had intended to write a series of posts on Wading Into the Unknown (Death, Dying and the Legal System) – however, I’m changing my focus a little bit. Much of what I had thought about writing was too personal.  Therefore, I’ll dispense with that and give some things that I’ve learned as I dealt with my mother’s health crisis, death and all that stuff that comes afterwards.

  1. Make sure your loved one (parent, in-laws, grandparents, spouse) has a LEGAL will.  Not a form book they have filled out.  Not something they’ve written.  Not something they’ve videotaped.  They need to see an attorney and have one drawn up!  And if you haven’t done this yet – let your fingers do the walking TODAY!
  2. Do NOT under any circumstances make the beneficiaries of your life insurance policies – your estate!  This complicates things like you would not believe!  Make sure your loved one has listed their spouse, surviving children or grandchildren, just SOMEONE!
  3. And if you really want to make sure your loved one’s estate (or your’s) stays out of probate – make sure all property (real estate, property, cars, etc.) is Transferred On Death.  Bank accounts should be Paid On Death.  If not – the whole world can find out how much you (or your loved one) was worth at death.  Probate records are open to the public.
  4. Have your loved one make a list of items in their home along with who they are to go to.  Do not under any circumstances write something like “if they don’t want it, sell it.”  (If you do #1 this will not happen – however, if you don’t want Brother A to get the antique toy truck and you want it to go to your grandson – you better put it in writing.)
  5. And for this – I’m talking directly to you – start cleaning out all that “stuff” you’ve been keeping.  Do you use it?  Have you used it recently (like the last 6 months – 1 year)?  Does it still have a use?  Does anyone want it?  Each time something comes in – something must go out.
  6. Keep items that go together – together!  It is very frustrating to clean out one room and either trash an object or send to charity only to find several days later in another room a part that went with Object #1! 
  7. If you do #1 – have an attorney draw up a legal will – make sure that you (or your loved one) makes it clear who the executor (or executrix – if it’s a woman) is and that they do not have to post a bond.
  8. Review and update your will as situations change – you sell your home, you add or subtract insurance policies, etc.
  9. Keep ALL important documents – insurance policy numbers, safe deposit box information, bank account information in a safe location – at least all in one location – along with where the actual policies are. Do not put one thing here, the other in a another closet, etc.  Make it very clear if a policy is still in force or if that annuity is still active.
  10. Ask – or write down – final wishes.  Just because you’ve mentioned it (or heard it from loved ones) in passing, doesn’t mean it will be remembered or executed.  Where exactly will the final resting place be? 

Yes, these are difficult things to do or talk about.  Some people are afraid if they bring it up to their parents, it will appear as if they are greedy or fishing for how much money or possessions they will receive.  Alleviate that concern by letting your loved one know that you don’t need to know that information – just that it’s done.  Explain the ramifications if these items above aren’t taken care of.

  1. The estate will go to Probate
  2. The person who they expect to execute the estate probably will not be appointed unless they happen to live right there. (Some states will not allow an out-of-state resident to execute the estate).
  3. All tangible and intangible possessions and property will be appraised and sold in order to pay off debts, the attorney, the administrator, and then dispersed to the family – the way the law of the state requires.
  4. Arguments can ensue over who should get the china, the linens, the silver, or even that dusty old statue that has sat on top of the buffet forever.

I hope some of these suggestions have helped – or at least begin a conversation.

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