Alva Lester House buried his wife, Mary Lucy Besser, on February 17, 1920 with their stillborn son and next to their two babies – Arthur and Esther – in South Lawn cemetery, Coshocton County, Ohio.
With his two surviving children, Evelyn and Jarold, recuperating from the flu, and feeling as if life has dealt him a losing hand, Lester had to find a way to move forward especially when a few months later his older brother, James W. (Willie) House, died from bronchial asthma.
A little over four years later, he married Pearl Davidson on June 14, 1924. She was the daughter of Isaac Newton and Mary Davidson of Keene, Coshocton County. Born the youngest of four children on April 6, 1893, she had lived in Keene until her marriage. Immediately she became a second mother to Evelyn, age 10, and Jarold, age 8.
Even though Pearl was 31 years old at the time of the marriage, it is unknown if the couple tried to have children or if she had any pregnancy complications.
Several years later, Lester’s son, Jarold, went into the U.S. Army. He enlisted on July 19, 1940 at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio. During his duties, he was sent to Trinidad in the British West Indies, stationed at Camp Robinson in Arkansas, and also Italy. In August 1943 he married Elizabeth Johnson. When she went to visit him a few months later in Arkansas, she found him “leading an improper life and associating with other women”. Soon she had filed for divorce. It took over a year for the divorce to be finalized. There hadn’t been any children born to this union.
In December 1944, Pearl became ill, possibly having a mental breakdown. Lester took her to the doctor. Requesting that he take his wife to a hospital in Columbus, Pearl was hysterical. She threatened to end her life as well as her husband’s. Thinking that he would try to prevent any suicide attempt, Lester took the firing pin from the shotgun he owned and went to work as a janitor at the Bancroft school building on the morning of April 5, 1945. Not too long after her husband left for work, Pearl figured out how to work the shotgun and killed herself. Lester had called the doctor and then went back home where he found his wife’s body. The coroner listed her official cause of death as multiple lacerations of brain due to discharge of shotgun in head, self-inflicted.
Once again, a devastating tragedy had left Lester looking for a way to pick up the pieces of his life. He had hardly gotten his breath when his older brother, John, died on October 22, 1945 due to coronary thrombosis. He had already lost another brother, Florus, in 1941 and a half-sister, Lucina, in 1937. His oldest sister had died in childbirth in 1907. There were only a half-brother, half-sister and one sister left.
Epilogue: Jarold died in August 1980 and Evelyn died in 1985. It is my wish that my Great-uncle Lester finally found some measure of happiness in his later years. He had endured so much tragedy and loss in his lifetime that he deserved some bright spots.