A member of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits~~~~
As I say in my Find a Grave profile,
"There is a story under every stone".
While photographing graves for Find A Grave or genealogy research, I have come across many interesting stories about the people buried under those tombstones. In this blog I will share some of the most interesting of these stories with you. Why? So these people will not be forgotten.
~~~~~Jim Craig - Evanston, Illinois USA - Contact me at: email@example.com
Francis Malone was born January 17, 1760 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Malones were originally from County Westmeath in Ireland and one of Francis' ancestors was The Right Honorable Anthony Malone, Member of Parliament from Baronston in Ireland and Chancellor of the Exchequer. The first Malone to emigrate was Francis' grandfather Edmund who came to the Colonies in the early 1700s. Francis was 16 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia and he volunteered for the Pennsylvania Militia in April of 1777. Because of his youth and familiarity with the area, Captain William Morrow assigned Francis to spy on the Indians, who were allies of the British in the Revolutionary War. Francis would sneak into the woods, and after finding the Indian encampments would report the information back to his commanding officers.
In 1788 Francis married Elizabeth Rogers, and about 1800 Francis and his family went west, eventually locating in Helt Township, Vermillion County, Indiana. Francis farmed the rich Indiana soil, and he and Elizabeth raised four children: Rebecca, William, Samuel and Martha. In 1833 Francis was granted a US Government pension in recognition of his service in the War of Independence. He died in Helt Township in 1841 at the age of 81.
It was known that Francis was buried in the Helts Prairie Cemetery in Hillsdale, Indiana, but over time the exact location of his grave, along with any grave marker, was lost. In 2004, the William Henry Harrison Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution in recognition of his service made arrangements to have a new marker made for Francis Malone, and had it installed next to the flagpole in the Helts Prairie Cemetery. I am especially proud of the contribution that Francis Malone made to the founding of our nation, because he was my 4th Great-Grandfather. May Francis Malone, and all of our patriots, rest in peace.
Group picture after the memorial dedication and memorial service in Vermillion County.
This sad story takes us all the way to Hollywood, California:
OUR LOVE BABY - VIRGINIA RICHDALE KERRIGAN
For years I have been fascinated by the life and career of silent film star Rudolph Valentino. In my studies about Valentino I would occasionally come across the story that Valentino used to go to the Hollywood Cemetery to leave flowers at the crypt of a little girl he knew who had died tragically. Further research showed that this little girl was Virginia Richdale Kerrigan, the daughter of William W. Kerrigan. Kerrigan was the general manager of Universal Studios and the twin brother of silent film star J.W. Kerrigan.
Early in his career Valentino made movies at Universal and became captivated by the charming little girl who used to spend time at "Daddy's Studio". Valentino loved children and one of his greatest regrets was that both of his marriages were childless. Over time, Valentino became very close to little Virginia, and even as he became famous he still found time to take his little friend for rides in his fancy cars through the Hollywood Hills.
On the day after Christmas, 1924 Virginia and her family attended a party at a neighbor's house at 2006 Ivar Avenue in Hollywood. It was chilly that day, as it can sometimes get in Hollywood in late December. To take the chill out of the air, someone lit an open gas heater. Virginia had received a new dress for Christmas and was modelling it for the partygoers. Shortly before noon, as she laughed and twirled around the room, her dress came in contact with the gas heater and caught fire. The flames spread rapidly to the upper part of her clothing and to her hair. Before anyone could extinguish the flames, Virginia was badly burned around the arms, body and head. An ambulance was called and rushed Virginia to the nearest hospital, which was Stadfield Hospital on Sunset Boulevard. Virginia's burns were too severe, and shortly afterward she was transferred to the Hollywood Community Hospital. Virginia fought valiantly, but the burns were too much for her little body, and she died on Saturday night, December 27, 1924.
The funeral services were held at the home of Virginia's famous uncle, J. Warren Kerrigan. From there her body was taken to the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery (now Hollywood Forever Cemetery) on Santa Monica Boulevard. Virginia was laid to rest in crypt 1399.
Virginia's family relates that Rudolph Valentino was devistated by the death of his little friend Virginia, and would often visit and leave flowers at her crypt at Hollywood Memorial.
As fate would have it, less than two years later Rudolph Valentino was himself interred in the Cathedral Mausoleum, in crypt 1205, after his tragic death in New York on August 23rd, 1926. Valentino rests just two aisles over from his little pal Virginia.
Let us stop and say a prayer for Virginia and her family this Christmas - they are not forgotten.
Children are often buried in a separate part of the cemetery away from the adults. Childrens' burial sections have to be the saddest part of any cemetery, as you stroll along and see so many dear lives snuffed out by disease or accident. On another of my photo request trips to Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park I found myself in the children's section of Gate 55 - First Roumanian Congregation. First I saw the grave of Jeanette Schwartz, a beautiful little girl who died in 1924 of lymphosarcoma - just shy of her 10th birthday. A sad story - but compounded by the fact that her brother Marvin was buried in the next row. He died in 1932 at the age of 7 of meningitis. There was so much sadness in that family that Jeanette and Marvin's parents composed a poem about it - and put the poem on the back of Marvin's tombstone. Here is their poem:
“When that dreadful sorrow
Befell our heart
We did not think that we could live
From dear Jeanette apart.
God sent an angel
To fill the empty space
It was darling Marvin
That took her place.
Like a beautiful star
He lit up our way
But to our great sorrow
He was not here to stay.
Just like his sister
He went so quick
And in our hearts
He left a leak.
MOTHER AND DAD”
May the souls of Marvin and Jeanette, and their grieving parents, rest in peace.
It is never a good sign when you see a tombstone where more than one person shares the same date of death. You can be sure that something bad must have happened. So when I saw the tombstone of Joseph and Sarah Dorf and noticed that they both died the same day - February 12, 1928 - I knew that I would find a sad story there - and that was exactly what I found:
BRIDE TRIES TO SAVE MATE AT FIRE; BOTH DIE
Flames sweeping through a home in which a Valentine party had been held only a few hours previously early yesterday took the lives of a newly married couple, the bride perishing in a vain attempt to rescue her husband. They were Joseph Dorf, 28 years old, and his wife, Sarah, 28, of 4747 Grace Street.
With several friends and relatives the Dorfs had attended the party in the bungalow of Raymond Burke, 6078 Newburg Avenue, Norwood Park. The party lasted until 1 o’clock when it was decided it would be too late for the guests to return home. Dorf and his wife were given a room on the second floor.
Soon after all had retired other members of the household were awakened by the screams of Mrs. Dorf as she fled down the stairs. Burke ran to the room and found it a mass of flames.
Then, despite the efforts of others to hold her back, Mrs. Dorf rushed back into the wall of fire. Her body was found beside that of her husband, whom she tried to save.
Police believe that Dorf fell asleep with a lighted cigarette in his hand, which fell and ignited the bed clothing.
Chicago Daily Tribune – February 13, 1928
The graves of Joseph and Sarah Dorf, together in death as they were in life, can be found at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Gate 109 - Ostrower #1. May they rest in peace.
At the front part of Gate 16 (Anshe Knesses Israel #2) at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery sits an impressive monument. The bottom of the monument carries a cryptic inscription: "At thy height thou hast fallen a victim". What happened to Eli Daiches, the rabbi's son? The answer can be found in the New York Times:
AD FIRM HEAD SLAIN AS HE SITS IN AUTO
Eli Daiches Is Riddled by Machine-Gun Bullets as He Leaves Chicago Hotel.
SAW SLAYERS APPROACH
His Skull Was Fractured and Arms Were Broken in Attack in His Office a Year Ago
Eli Daches, 45 years old, president of the Thomas M. Bowers Advertising Agency, was shot to death this morning by machine-gun assassins who fired a dozen bullets into him as he was riding in his automobile, driven by a chauffeur, a half block from the Sherry Hotel, where he lived. No motive was established for the slaying.
Police were trying to connect the murder with an assault of Mr. Daiches in his Loop advertising office on the evening of Jan. 24, 1933. At that time he said he was waiting for his wife, who at present is in Palestine. Mr. Daiches had been attended recently by a nurse, Miss Lucille Osburn. She and her fiancé, C.J. Cronin, 30-years old, a salesman whose home is in Wichita, Kan., had breakfast with Mr. Daiches this morning in his hotel apartment, Mr. Cronin being here on a visit.
The chauffeur told police that Mr. Daiches had seen his slayers approach and apparently recognized them, whereupon he screamed, "Oh my God!" The next instant he said the blast came from the machine-gun in the other car.
Police showed great interest in the beating of Mr. Daiches a year ago. At that time he was taken to the Passavant hospital in a critical condition. Both his arms had been broken and he had suffered twenty-four lacerations and four skull fractures. Three blood transfusions were performed to save his life.
Mr. Daiches told police after the attack that a man he believed to be a narcotic addict gained entrance to his office at 6 o' clock in the evening and announced he was a robber. Then the intruder forced Mr. Daiches to stretch out on the floor, after which he struck him on the head several times with a revolver and jumped on the prostrate body. Police believe that the motive for the attack was personal.
Mr. Daiches appearance was altered as a result of his wounds. He was reported to have been drinking heavily recently. He frequently was seen in night clubs, but police were unable to find that he had any particular woman companion. His business associates reported that no difficulties had been experienced.
Mr. Daiches was born in East Prussia, the son of a rabbi. He was educated in England, came to Chicago in 1910 and studied law. He became vice president of the advertising agency some time later and in 1923 became its president. One of its recently acquired accounts was that of the Royal Distilling Company, but police found there was no difficulty attributable to the acquisition of this account.
Mrs. Daiches, who is prominent socially and in club life, is interested in the Zionist and Palestine movements, the police were told. She is the former Belle Turner of Chicago. Her trip was in connection with those interests. She was believed to be somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea yesterday. She was greatly interested in Jewish art and was planning to bring back some old country art objects.
The New York Times – March 4, 1934
Narcotics, robbery, beatings, alcohol - life in the fast lane can lead to sudden death. May the soul of Eli Daiches, the rabbi's son, rest in peace.
Some cemetery mysteries will have to remain mysteries. Take the case of Sam Gitelson. I was in Rosemont Park Cemetery (now called Zion Gardens) in Chicago the other day fulfilling a Find a Grave photo request. At one point I looked down and saw the gravestone of Samuel (Sam) Gitelson. Sam died on August 20, 1941 and his stone says "Erected By His Friends". I figured that Sam must have been alone in the world when he died, and that his friends chipped in for his gravestone. A little research proved me wrong. Sam's obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of August 21, 1941 is as follows:
GITELSON-Samuel Gitelson of 1236 S. Harding Avenue, father of Alfred, Milton-Nathan, Adelsylvia, Anna, Rebecca, and Marjorie. Funeral services Friday, Aug, 22, 1 p.m., at chapel, 3246 W. Jackson Boulevard. Burial Rosemont. Los Angeles, Cal., papers please copy. Kedzie 2394.
If Sam had six children why did his friends have to chip in for his headstone? This morning I decided to look Sam up in familysearch.org to see if there was any addtional information. There is an Ancestral File for Sam and it has the following note:
"Sam Gitelson came to London from Globoka with a cousin about age 19 in approximately 1896. His primary language was Ukranian. He had one sister that he left behind. He felt estranged from his family and did not discuss his family with wife or children."
So he was estranged from his family in the Ukraine, but what about his wife and six children in the United States? His wife is not mentioned in his obituary - she may have been alive or dead in 1941 - but his six children are mentioned. Was he estranged from his children as well? Then why mention them in his obituary? Why did his friends erect his tombstone? We will probably never know. May Sam find the peace which seems to have eluded him in this life.
Capt. Ralph C. Berkelhamer, M.C., graduate of the University of Illinois Medical School, 1939, entered the service of his country in May, 1941. In August, 1941 he was sent to the Philippine Islands as a Battalion Surgeon with the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts. He was captured at the fall of Bataan, April, 1942 and was imprisoned at Camp O'Donnell and later at the Cabanatuan Prison Camp. At Cabnanautan he served as Detachment Commander of the hospital unit. On October 1, 1944, he sailed from Manila aboard a Japanese prison ship bound for Japan. On October 24, 1944, the vessel was sunk by submarine action in the South China Sea over 200 miles from the Chinese coast. He is believed to have perished in this incident.
Another young life snuffed out defending our freedom. We must never forget the sacrifices of these brave young men and women. Captain Ralph C. Berkelhamer's grave is at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery, Gate 265, Ziditshover Section. May his soul rest in peace.
People often ask me why I spend my free time in cemeteries, photographing tombstones of people I have never met and are not my relatives. I recently stumbled upon a poem that pretty well sums it up:
THE CEMETERY PHOTOGRAPHER
Wandering among the stones I see
The stones so weathered and worn
‘Tis difficult to find the date
On which the babe was born
I stare at the stone and am struck with awe
At the life that I knew was gone
This was someone's child, a babe so sweet
With loved ones to carry on
So I take a photo for all to see
For the family that remains
An everlasting memory of
A child of God's domain
I brush the weeds back from the stone
And say a silent prayer
For the babes that had no chance to live
And for mothers everywhere
The dove calls out it's mourning song
Among the stones so still
Echoes of the woes, through time
The choirs of despair
The stone will someday perish
The flowers will be gone
But a photo now remains of this
Their memory lives on!
And so my friend, don't hesitate
To film the weathered stone
Those who live within your hearts
Are never truly gone.
Author: Jan Miller - used with permission
With thanks to fellow graver Baxter Fite who first made the poem known to me, to Geraldine Humes who directed me to Jan Miller as the poem's author - and especially to Jan Miller who graciously allowed me to use her poem on my blog.
I was at Irving Park Boulevard Cemetery in Chicago today filling a Find a Grave photo request. While hunting for the gravestone I was supposed to photograph I came across the grave of PFC Robert Uttley who died on July 4, 1942. I was sure that he had died in combat, but the Chicago Tribune archives had another story:
SOLDIER DROWNS DURING PICNIC
Pvt. First Class Robert Uttley, 20, who arrived in Chicago Thursday on leave from Fort Ord, Cal., drowned in Beverly Lake, four miles east of Dundee on Higgins Road where he was attending a picnic. Uttley was a son of Mrs. Addie Khalar, 2915 Warren Boulevard. His body was recovered.
Chicago Daily Tribune - July 5, 1942
Losing her son so close to home must have been even harder for his mother to take than if he had died in battle. PFC Robert Uttley's grave is in the Highland Section of the Irving Park Boulevard Cemetery, Chicago. May his soul rest in peace.
Many of the gravestones at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park have photos on them. The gravestone for Burton Harris, however, had something else. It has the obituary his classmates wrote for him after his untimely death. Here's what they wrote:
BURTON HARRIS: Born 1930, Died 1943
Burton Harris, popular student of 309 died early on the morning of May 13. He was thrown from his bicycle the previous night by an automobile.
Even after his death, Burton will long be remembered by his many friends and relatives as an all around American boy and a real pal. The entire school is grieved by his death. As we go on through the years growing up and getting old we will always remember him as we saw him last, a healthy youngster full of high spirits and laughter.
To Mr. and Mrs. Harris the pupils of his classes send their deepest sympathy. Burton's Classmates
What a wonderful testimonial. It is no wonder that Burton's parents wanted it added to his tombstone. Burton's grave can be found at Gate 289 - Saroka Bessarabia. May Burton Harris' soul rest in peace.
After reading about the heroic actions of William Hofnauer in helping rescue over forty persons from the sunken excursion ship the Favorite (see previous post), I decided to try to find where he was buried. After some research I found William Hofnauer, his wife Lillian and their daughter Doris Hofnauer Kehm (Hofnauer's yacht was named the "Doris") in the mausoleum of Rosehill Cemetery on the lower level. Here is his obituary and photos of his crypt:
W.A. HOFNAUER DIES, CITED FOR LAKE RESCUE
William A. Hofnauer, 68, of 1200 Lake Shore dr., president of the Chicago Waste company, cotton waste processors, died yesterday in Grant hospital. In 1927, he and the three crewmen of his yacht, the Doris, a 185 footer, rescued forty persons from the lake when an excursion boat, the Favorite, foundered during a squall. Mr. Hofnauer received a citation from the city council and a gold police star. Mr. Hofnauer is survived by his widow, Lillian. Services will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow in the chapel at 25 E. Erie st.
Chicago Daily Tribune - June 7, 1956
May the Hofnauers, and all the victims of the Favorite, rest in peace.