Black Sheep?

Aunt Fran & Grandma

Frances and Helen Bowers

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Ralph Bowers











52 Ancestors in 2 Weeks  topic this week is Black Sheep in the family.

I can’t think of any ancestors that were black sheep in the traditional sense.  I have not run across any criminals or ones that have done outrages things and been banished by family.  

The closest I can come to black sheep are my grandmother, her brother, and sister.  My grandmother’s parents were divorced when she was a young child.  She grew up never knowing her father or his family.  They lived in the same small town, and she would see them from a distance.  She said the reason she never knew them was because the Bowers family thought they were better than the Reinhardt’s.  My Grandmother claimed the Bowers denied that their son, Robert, married and had children.  My grandmother told stories of how she saw her grandmother, Alexena, in the cemetery; but Alexena did not acknowledge her.  One time she saw her father walking down the street and she ran up to him and said, “I’m your daughter.”  He said, “Get away from me kid, I don’t have any children.” The Bowers were of English and Scottish descent, and the Reinhardt’s were from Germany.  Also the Bowers appear to be financially better off than the Reinhardt’s.  It also appears that the Bowers were upper class and the Reinhardt’s lower class.  Maybe the Bowers had something against Germans or maybe it was a class thing.

The story is that Robert Bowers and Eva Reinhardt ran off to Chicago to be married, however I have not been able to find a marriage record for them in Cook County Illinois.  For awhile, I wondered if they never married and that is why the Bowers denied the children were Roberts.  However after Charles Bowers died in February 1897,[1]  Robert and Eva sign a quit-claim deed over to Alexena Bowers on 26 June 1897.[2]  It lists Eva Bowers as Robert Bowers wife.[3]  Eight days earlier on 18 June 1897 Eva and Robert’s first child is born.[4]   Charles bought the two lots listed on the quit-claim deed in 1882. [5] At some point he turned the lots over to Robert and Eva.  I am wondering if he gave them as a wedding present to Robert and Eva.   After his death and after their first child is born, the property is signed over to Alexena for $1.00.  I am speculating here, but did she insist on getting the property back because of her dislike for Eva and now their newborn child?  I never found a divorce record for Robert and Eva either.  Robert died in Chicago 4 March 1913.[6]  Eva went by Eva Bowers until she died 23 December 1941.[7]  Her death certificate lists her as Eva Bowers, widow.  I believe they were married because of the quit-claim deed and her life long use of the Bower name.  I beginning to believe that they were never officially divorced.  See Quit-Claim Deed below:

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The story my grandmother told came to life for me when I read Alexena’s will.  This is proof that they did not want to acknowledge Robert’s children.  The following is a transcribed from Alexena’s will in Probate Court for proof of heirship:

On the 26th day of June 1926 R Ethel Vittum, a competent witness of lawful age produced sworn and examined on oath in open court, testified as follows, to-wit:

C. B. Chapman
Q. Your name is R. Ethelyn Vittum?
A. Yes
Q. You reside in Ottawa, Illinois?
A. Yes
Q. You are a daughter of Alexena Bowers?
A. Yes
Q. When did she die?
A. March 7, 1926
Q. Where did she die?
A. At her residence 543 Chapel Street
Q. At the time of her death was she an actual resident of the city of Ottawa, County of LaSalle, State of Illinois?
A. She was
Q. About what was her age?
A. 79 years in August
Q. She was a citizen of the United States?
A. She was
Q. Did she leave a surviving husband?
A. No
Q. What was her husband’s name?
A. Charles Bowers
Q. And about how long ago did he die?
A. I think it was about thirty years ago
Q. Was she married more than once?
A. No
Q. How many Children were born of the marriage?
A. Five
Q. What were their names?
A. Richard L. Bowers, Elizabeth A. Bowers, Robert F. Bowers, Genevieve L. Bowers, myself.
Q. R. Ethel Bowers is yourself?
A. Yes
Q. And you are residing in Ottawa, Illinois?
A. Yes
Q. Is R. L. Bowers living?
A. He is
Q. And he is living in Ottawa, Illinois?
A. In Ottawa
Q. And Elizabeth Ann Bowers is living in Ottawa?
A. Yes
Q. Is Richard Bowers living?
A. Richard and R. L. are one and the same.  You mean Robert?
Q. Robert, I should say.
A. He is dead
Q. About how long ago did he die?
A. 13 years ago, I think.
Q. And was he married?
A. I don’t know, Mr. Chapman
Q. You haven’t any knowledge so that you could testify as to whether or not he was ever married?
A. No.
Q. Do you know whether or not there are living any persons who claim to be his children?
A. There was a few years ago.
Q. And do you know there names or the names that they go by?
A. I don’t think of the name, Mr. Chapman.
Q. Let me refresh your recollection.  Do you remember whether the persons who claim to be his children are Ralph Bowers?
A. Yes Ralph is one
Q. And Helen Kaiser?
A. I don’t know the Kaiser, but I know a Helen.
Q. Helen claimed to be Helen Bowers and you don’t know whether she is now married and whether her name is Kaiser.
A. No
Q. And Frances Bowers, who also claimed –
A. I think so.
Q. And do know that she is now married and her present name is Beck?
A. I don’t know.
Q.  Were there any other parties than Ralph, Helen and Frances that claimed to be children of Robert?
A. I don’t know of any others.
Q.  Never heard of any others?
A. Never.
Q.  And in matters where the question of the heirship of Robert was raised you knew that there was proof made and these three parties were found to be children of Robert, did you?
A. Yes
Q.  And found to be the only children of Robert?
A. Yes
Q. and the other child of Alexena Bowers was what?
A. Genevieve L.
Q. And she died in infancy?
A. Yes – Oh, no –
Q. Because she was-
A. Why she died about 29 years ago.
Q. Was she ever married?
A. No.
Q. Did your mother at any time ever adopt any children?
A. No. [8]

In 1935 Ethelyn passed away[9] and in 1947 Elizabeth passed away.[10]  The only one left was Richard Bowers.  It was after the others were all gone that my grandmother got to know her Uncle Richard Lambly Bowers.  He must have been the one who gave her the pictures of the Bowers family that are now in my possession.  I have done extensive researched Charles and Alexena Bowers, and I think it would be of interest to my Grandmother to know about her father’s roots.  They seem to interest me for some reason.  What kind of people deny their own grandchildren?   By the way, my grandmother, her brother and sister did not receive any inheritance from her Grandmother.

Today with DNA tests it can be proved that my grandmother, her brother, and sister were indeed Robert’s children.  I had my DNA test done and it is a match with fourth cousins that descend from one of Charles Bowers brothers.

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst

  1.  Ottawa Avenue Cemetery Records: Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois. Record number 8539, Cemetery Card CCY-TS, Burial location OT18-7
  2. Tract Index Book, Recorder of Deeds Office, Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois, Book488, Page 167,  Microfilm at the LaSalle County Genealogical Guild 115 W. Glover St., Ottawa, Illinois 61350
  3. Ibid.
  4. [1] Registration State: Illinois; Registration County:  Cook; Roll 1613573; Draft board: 53. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. {database on-line}.  Provo, UT, USA;  Operation  Inc, 2005.  Original Data:  United States, Selective Service System World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cares, 1917-1918.  Washington,  D. C. :  National Archives and Record  Administration.  M1509, 4,582 rolls.  Imaged from Family  History  Library Microfilm.
  5. Tract Index Book, Recorder of Deeds Office, Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois, Book238, Page 137,  Microfilm at the LaSalle County Genealogical Guild 115 W. Glover St., Ottawa, Illinois 61350
  6. Certificate and Record of Death for Robert F. Bowers, March 4, 1913, Registration 1311, Department of Heath, City of Chicago, Cook, Illinois
  7. Certificate of Death for Eva Bowers;  State of Illinois, Department of Public health, Division of Vital Statistics, Springfield, Illinois, Registration Number 34633. Date of death: December 23, 1941; Place of death: County of Cook, City of Chicago.
  8. “Probate of  will of Alexena Bowers” (Proof of Heirship), 26 June 1926, LaSalle County, Illinois,  Old Estate Books,  File 1,  Box 954., LaSalle County Court House, Ottawa, Illinois. Photocopy of original in possession of this writer.
  9. Cemetery Record for Ethelyn Bowers, Ottawa Avenue Cemetery, Ottawa LaSalle, Illinois; Date of Birth, June 20, 1878, Date of Death March 14, 1935, Burial March 16, 1935; Burial location: OT, 18-7, Cemetery Card: CCY-TS, Record: #8542.
  10. Cemetery Record for Elizabeth Bowers, Ottawa Avenue Cemetery, Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois; Date of Death January 31, 1947; Burial location OT, 18-7; Funeral Home Gladfelter; Cemetery card CCNF-noTS; Record number 10315.



Father’s Day: A Tribute to My Dad

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My Dad and me

My Dad, George Philip Manfroid, Jr. was born to George Manfroid and Helen Desens on 26 October 1919 in Forest Park, Illinois.  Dad grew up in Forest Park and Elmhurst, Illinois.  He went to York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois.  He had a brother, Donald, 14 years younger than him.  He grew up during the depression and that made a great impression on him.  I remember the stories that my dad told me about the depression.  When I hear about the recent recession compared to the great depression on TV, I cringe because the recent recession is nothing like what my father described to me.  His father lost his business, then they lost their house, and they ate bananas for Sunday dinner.  There were no safety nets like there are today for the unemployed.  Because this made such an impact on my Father he decided that his children would not go without.  He went without lunch for weeks and saved his lunch money to buy me a doll for Christmas.  He made me a doll house with a hand saw (he didn’t have power tools at the time).   He gave me everything he possibly could.  Not only did he give me material things, he gave me his time, attention, advice, and love.  He gave me history lessons at the dinner table.  He loved history, and I learned about history and current events through dinner time discussions.  He had a great sense of humor.  Whenever my brother or I asked if he would buy us the latest toy or gadget, he would say, “Yes on the 42nd of July.”  Just in case they ever changed the calendar the 42nd had to land on the second Tuesday of the week.  In other words we were never going to get it.  He loved  gardening and painting the house.  He was always painting inside or outside.  He loved his baseball and the Cubs.   He was always there for me whenever I needed him.  If I just need to talk or if I needed a shoulder to cry on, he was there.  I loved him very much and I have no doubt about his love for me. 

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Dad walking me down the aisle

When I got married, he walked me down the aisle and gave me away.  He told my husband on our wedding day that if he (my husband) ever did anything to hurt me, he would have to answer to him (my father).  After we were married for several years, my father told some friends of ours that when their daughters grew up he hoped they found someone like my husband.  I picked a good man because I had a good father. 

My Dad worked hard and sometimes worked two jobs to make ends meet.  When I was born my dad was a bus driver.  He drove a bus for a suburban bus company, Leyden Motor Coach.  At first he worked nights and holidays, but as he gained seniority, he was able to work mostly days and had the major holidays off.  Sometimes he would take a charter on his day off.  He especially liked the ones to the ball games.  He would get off work from the bus company about 2:30pm, and go to his second job driving a mini bus for a nursery school, Jack and Jill, in Villa Park, Illinois.   He was with the bus company for 17 years when the company closed down.  My Dad then got a job with Burney Brothers Bakery driving a delivery truck.  He delivered to Jewel grocery stores in Chicago.   He also took overtime delivering wedding cakes on Saturdays.  After 17 years with Burney Brothers, they closed down too.  At 59 years old my father was without a job, no pension, and not old enough for Social Security.  He found a job doing maintenance work at the Wheaton Park District.  He worked there for the next five years.

We lived in an Apartment until 1953 when my parents bought their first house in Lombard (Villa Park was across the street).   We lived in that house until 1963 when they bought another house in Villa Park.   In 1968 they moved to a smaller house in Carol Stream, Illinois due to my father’s health issues.  My father lived in the Carol Stream home until his death.

In 1967, my dad was diagnosed with throat cancer.  He was given radiation treatments for six weeks.  The tumor was in his voice box, and he couldn’t talk very well.  The radiation shrank the tumor so he did get his voice back.  They wanted to remove the voice box to get rid of the cancer altogether, but my father said he would rather die than to be without his voice.  He lived 17 more years without a recurrence.  In late February or early March of 1984, we noticed my dad had slowed down.  He said he wasn’t feeling good, and my mother finally convinced him to see a doctor.  He went to the doctor and was sent him for some tests.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer. A few days later my dad was admitted to the hospital.  I went to see him and he had to cough a lot.  It was deep cough and it seemed that when he coughed he could not get his breath.  It was hard to watch.  My last visit with my father, I noticed he kept staring at me.  I thought to myself that he is studying me in case this is the last time he sees me.  When it was time to go, I said “Good-bye I hope you get better soon.”  He said, “Me too.”  We were holding hands and he did not want to let go and neither did I.  I planned to go back every day, but the next day I came down with a terrible cold that settled in my chest.  I did not go to visit him because I was afraid of giving him my cold.  I thought the last thing he needs is a cold.   The next day my mom called me to say that the doctor called her and told her to get to the hospital he was dying.  I couldn’t go because I had two small children at home.  My mother and brother were there with him at the end. My mom said he kept pulling the tubes out of his arms.  So I think he was ready to die. 

My dad passed away from Cancer on March 15, 1984 at 64 years, 4 months, and 18 days.  I wish I was there with my Dad at the end; however it is a comfort to know that my mother and brother were there for him.  He is loved and dearly missed by his children, grandchildren, family, and friends.  Happy Father’s Day to a great Dad!  If I could tell him one thing it would be this, “Dad, the Cubs finally did it and won the World Series in 2016!” 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  topic this week Father’s Day

Copyright©2016 Gail Grunst

Going to the Chapel

Gloria and Lou

Lou and Gloria Schultz

“Going to the chapel” is this weeks topic for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  The first thing that came to my mind when I saw this topic was the song  Going to the chapelIf you are too young to remember this song click the link to hear it.  Of course it’s about getting married and June is a wedding month.  Then I scanned my brain trying to think of what ancestor or family wedding I could write about.   I decided to write about, Louis Schultz, my father’s cousin and my Godfather.

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I’m posting the original newspaper announcement of the wedding, and I transcribed it below because it is hard to read.

Mr. and  Mrs Louis Carl Schultz are now receiving their friends in their new home at 7425 Dixon (Forest Park, IL) after a brief sojourn in Oak Park (IL) following their return the end of April from a wedding journey through the Smokey Mountains, Tennessee, and North Carolina. 

The young couple were united in marriage on Sunday afternoon, April 18 (1948), at St John’s Lutheran Church (Forest Park, IL) with Dr. J. W. Behnkin, President of the Missouri Synod officiating at the services. 

The bride is the former Gloria Magdalene Zuttermeister, daughter of Mr. & Mrs Martin C. Zuttermeister of 216 Des Plaines (Forest Park, IL).  Her husband is the son of Louis Schultz of 416 Marengo (Forest Park, IL).

For her wedding the bride chose a gown of white slipper satin, the peplum and long train falling over the the double net skirt.  The sweetheart neckline was edged with crystal beads, and the pointed sleeves buttoned from wrist to elbow. A tiara of seed pearls held the tulle veil bordered by Chantilly lace, and she carried a bouquet of white gladiolas centered with purple tipped white orchid.  A mother of pearl cross set with rhinestones and set on a white gold chain was her only adornment.

Mrs Paul Mullenbruck, gowned in turquoise marquisette ruffles edging puffed sleeves and neckline served as her matron of honor.  Salmon tinted daisies formed her bouquet and she wore a pearl  necklace.

Dorothy Igler, gowned in orchid marquisette,  and Annette and Lois Zuttermeister attired in lime green and peach maquisettte gowns fashioned with ruffled  neckline and sleeves were the bridesmaids.  Each wore a necklace of pearls and carried a bouquet of white daisies.  Barbara Jean Meentemeyer, the flower girl, was in yellow marquisette, her rose-petal filled white basket in cool contrast. 

The bride’s mother chose a gown of orchid marquisette, styled with full skirt, tiny puffed sleeves and sweetheart necklace.  Her corsage soft pink carnations.

Paul Mullenbruck of Blue Island (IL) served the groom as best man.  Ushers were Joe Ulrich, Jr. of Chicago, Clarence Hingst, and Bill Lemn of Forest Park (IL).

Henry Desens acted as master of ceremonies at the reception attended by some 100 guests held at Eagles Hall, gay with white wedding bells and streamers.  Richard Ramel and John Herold furnished music for the entertainment of the guests.

The bride who, like her husband, is graduate of St. John’s grade and Proviso high schools was entertained before her wedding with showers given by Mrs. Walter Zuttermeister and by Dorothy Igler and former classmates.”[1]

I love the description of the dresses, jewelry, and flowers.  This article is also full of genealogical information. 

Lou was my father’s 1st cousin and my 1st cousin once removed.  Lou was not only my father’s cousin; he was also my Godfather.  My parents visit with Lou and Gloria regularly.  After my parents passed away, I still saw Lou and Gloria a few times a year.  When they camped at the state park near our home, they would stop over and see us.  Sometimes we visited them at their campsite and played cards or board games.  Lou had a good memory and gave me a lot of information on the Desens family.    

Lou and Gloria lived in Forest Park, Hillside, Bloomingdale, and Bartlett, Illinois.[2]  They never had any children.[3]  They loved square dancing, camping and golfing.[4]  Lou studied accounting; however he gave it up due to poor eyesight.[5]  He was a Milk Man for many years, delivering milk to homes.[6]  After that became obsolete, he drove a limo.[7] Gloria died on 12 July 1994,[8] and Lou died on 22 January 2009[9]

I miss Lou and Gloria very much.  Lou was one lucky guy because Gloria was a wonderful woman.  She was so nice and kind-hearted, and I loved her very much!

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst

[1] Forest Park, Illinois, Forest Park Review, Thursday, June 24, 1948, Pg. 8.

[2] Personal knowledge of Author, Abigail Grunst, 2916 Martin Drive, Spring Grove, IL

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Number: 319-24-7427; Issue State: Illinois; Issue Date: Before U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2011.Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.

[9] U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2011.Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.

Great-Grandma’s German Books

German was the predominate language spoken by my most of my ancestors.  My grandfather, Fred Kaiser, was born in Chicago, Illinois, however his parents were new immigrants when he was born, and they spoke only German in their home.  My grandfather did not learn English until he went to school.  He often talked about how he was behind in school because he did not know English.  He eventually caught up, but it sure made an impression on him.  I have a couple of books that belonged to his mother, Wilhelmina Kaiser nee Springer, that are written in German.  They are a Gesangbuch fur die Evang. Luth. Kirche[1] (hymnal).  It has her first initial and last name on the front cover (see below). 

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Another book from her is a small book of the New Testament[2] in German.  It was published in 1888 the year she emigrated from Germany, but I don’t know if she brought it with her or not.  She did write in it.  On the one page she wrote: “Mrs Wilhelmina Kaiser geborn Springer Dinkelsburl Bayern born 17 December 1869.  Father Karl Mother Margaret Springer.  October 31 1911.”  On the next page she wrote in German “Immigrating to America in July 1888 and arrived 3 August”  Mina Springer Dinkelsburl.” (see below). 

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Some of the words I cannot read.  If anyone reading this post can read it, I would appreciate your input. 

It’s amazing to me that these books have survived over 100 years, and that I have something written in my great-grandmother’s handwriting.  In her own little way, she was trying to let future generations know who she was, where she came from, who her parents were, and when she came to America.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  topic is Language.

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst


[1] Philadelpia:  Lutheran Publication Society, Gesangbuch fur die evangelish lutherische kirche.  For sale by German Literary Board, Burlington, Iowa.  Copyright 1902 by the by the Hymnal Book Publishing Committee of the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States.

[2] New York: Americansche Bibel-Gesellschaft, Gegrunbet im Jabre 1816, 1888, New Testament.

Mother’s Day 1987



I originally posted this five years ago and I am posting it again today.  52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks topic is Mother.  I have already written about most of the mothers in my family tree.  This is about my own Mother and Mother’s Day 1987.

On Saturday, May 9, 1987, I was in Phoenix, Arizona sitting at the kitchen table discussing with my Uncle and Brother what we were going to next when the doorbell rang, and  I answered  the door.  There stood a man smiling at me with a floral arrangement.  It was the florist delivering flowers for my mother.  I had ordered them the previous Monday for Mother’s day.  I took them to the kitchen with tears running down my cheeks and asked my Uncle and Brother, “What am I going to do with these?”  You see, my mother had just passed away an hour before.  My Uncle said, “Well, you can enjoy them, you are a Mother.”

It had been a horrible three days, and I knew there were more horrible days ahead.  It was funny how fast life could change in less than a week.  Last Monday, I ordered the flowers never knowing my Mom would never see them.  On Wednesday, it was a beautiful day in Illinois.  I was trying to start a home based business.  I was out delivering flyers for my business.  I was enjoying being outside on such a beautiful day and feeling good and excited about my business venture.  That evening, my husband, kids, and I went out to dinner.  When we came home there was a phone message from my brother.  He said, “When you get this message call me.”  I could tell by his voice that something was wrong.  I returned his call and he told me that my mother had collapsed that afternoon, and it was serious.  I didn’t know how serious.  What exactly did he mean by serious.  Serious like she will die, or it’s serious and she has a chance.  I didn’t want to ask.  So I said, “Do you think, I should come down there?”  He said, “Yes please!”  At that point I knew it was bad.  I got off the phone and tried to tell my husband, but the words were hard to get out.  My kids were little.  How do I tell them about their Grandmother?  She had just moved to Phoenix the previous year.  Until she moved, she lived nearby and my kids spent a lot of time at Grandma’s and were very close to her.  I went outside and sat on the front steps, I felt like I was dreaming.  My husband came out and sat next to me.  We talked and cried. There was a lot to be done, and I knew I would not sleep.  I thought about the day she moved.  We were at her house the night before.  I didn’t want her to go.  I sat in her house wishing this night would last forever.  I didn’t want to go home.  I now knew what a broken heart felt like.  I felt like my heart was breaking.  I even thought I might have a heart attack.  I never showed it, and I never said anything to her about it.  I don’t remember the reason I did not go over there the next day when she left for Phoenix.  At first we called each other all the time, but the phone calls were expensive and neither of us had a lot of money.  So we had to cut down on our phone calls.  We went down to visit her for two weeks that summer and she came up for Christmas.  She went back after New Year’s and my oldest son’s birthday.  When it was time for her to board the plane, she started to cry.  I thought then this is the last time I’m going to see you, and I believe she was thinking the same thing.  That was the last time, I saw her alive and well.  The last time I talked to her on the phone was Easter.  I was saving my next phone call for Mother’s Day.  I spent the rest of Wednesday night making plane reservations, washing clothes to take to Phoenix, and making plans for the kids and my husband.  I got on the plane the next morning for Phoenix.  On the plane, people are talking, laughing, and having a good time.  I listened to conversations about vacations.  I wished I was going there for a vacation, and I wished my husband was sitting next to me instead of some stranger.  All I wanted to do was cry, and I was holding it back.  I didn’t want to cry in front of strangers.  I also felt sick to my stomach.  I was hoping I really wouldn’t be sick.  It was the longest four hours of my life.  My brother and Uncle met me at the airport.  They wanted to know if I wanted to go to their house or the hospital.  I said, “Is she going to make it?”  They didn’t know, but said she had not regained consciousness and she was attached up to all kinds of machines.  I then said, “To the hospital.”  I could not believe my eyes when I saw her.  She was pale and she had all kinds of tubes attached to her, I took her hand and talked to her.  I didn’t know if she could hear me or not, but I hoped she could.  Then the doctor came in to talk to us.  He said that she had a brain aneurysm and she was brain dead.  He showed us her chart with a straight flat line.  He said, “She is being kept alive on machines. You will need to make a decision whether to take her off of the machines or not.  She is not going to get better.  If she lives, she will be a vegetable for the rest of her life.  I’ll leave you alone to discuss it.”  All three of knew what had to be done.  We didn’t want to do it, but we had too.  I remember before my mother left for Phoenix she had told me, “If anything happens to me, I do not want to be kept alive on a machine.”  I tried to make light of it because I didn’t want to talk about it.  She said, “’I’m serious.”  So I knew that this is what she would want.  When the doctor came back into the room, we told him to go ahead and remove the machines.  He said, “We will do it slowly, and wean her off the machines.  We will remove one at a time.”  We went back to the hospital later, and her breathing was harder.

Back at her house, I looked around and saw her everywhere I looked.  Her glasses lying out and things she had been in the process of doing when this happened.  I asked my brother and uncle if she complained of headaches or anything and they said, “No”.  That morning she mentioned that she felt like she had a hangover although she didn’t have anything to drink.  She went to sit outside.  The dogs started barking and looking out the window.  My brother looked out to see what they were barking at and saw her lying on the ground with lawn chair tipped over.  He went out there and tried to talk to her and she said, “Where’s my pillow?”  And that was the last thing she said.  They called 911 and she was taken to one hospital, but then air vaced to another hospital that specialized in neurology.

We went back on Friday she was still alive, and her breathing even more labored.  Some friends of my mother and uncle came by the hospital and then invited us over to their house.  It was a pleasant relief.  It helped to take my mind off of my mother dying.   They were telling stories about my mom and about life in Phoenix.  Then on Saturday morning we went to hospital again.  Her breathing now was really hard.  I thought each breath was her last.  Her chest would rise up and then nothing and then after what seemed like minutes, but probably just seconds, she would let the breath out and her chest would sink back down. And then this would repeat.  I held her hand and talked as if she could hear me.  I told her how much I loved her and how much the grandchildren loved her.  How my husband had said she was a great mother-in-law.  I told her she was a great mother and my uncle added “and sister”.  My brother said, “I guess were not going to make it to Vegas”.   My Uncle said, “Next time”.  We decided to leave, go get something to eat and come back later.  So we went to a restaurant and then back to the house.  We were only home a few minutes when the call came that she had passed.  Later that afternoon we went back to the hospital to sign papers and make arrangements for her.  We decided that she had more family and friends in Illinois so we would have her cremated in Phoenix and her ashes sent to the cemetery in Illinois.  We would have a memorial service in Illinois.  I had to get back to Illinois because my husband was taking time off of work to stay home with the kids. I made plane reservations for my brother and me to fly back to Illinois on Monday.  My Uncle came later in the week.  He could fly for free as he was retired from the airlines.  Later in the week we had the memorial service to have our final good-bye to Mom.  It was a horrible Mother’s Day that I will never forget, and I still don’t like Mother’s Day.  I don’t like celebrating it.   I felt like I didn’t have time to mourn her back then.  My brother had no family so I felt bad for him.  I tried not to let my kids see me break down.  I had made all the arrangements so I was busy.  My brother and I were now orphan’s.  My Brother, Uncle and I were the only ones left from our original family.  In the seven years preceding my mother’s death, I lost both my grandparents, and father.  My husband had lost his mother and a brother.  So we were feeling pretty lonely especially on holidays.  Recently, a friend who lost her father asked, “Does it ever get any better?”  The answer is, “sort of”.  I don’t think about it every day, but there are days when I want my mother.  I would love to be able to talk to her.  When I have had problems over the years, I wish I could ask her advice.  I have felt so alone at times.  That’s why I say it “sort of” gets better.  I have moments when I regret that I wasn’t with her at the end holding her hand.  Why did we leave her?  I don’t remember what our thinking was that day.  I feel guilty that we said remove the machines.  I think about the “what ifs”.  What if the doctor was wrong?  What if she wasn’t brain dead?  I know this is wrong to think about the “What ifs” and most of the time I think we did the right thing.  Life does go on and my brother and I often talk about our childhood memories with Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa and our Aunts and Uncles.  We have many good and wonderful memories of them all.  This Sunday is Mother’s Day so once again my thoughts are on that Mother’s Day twenty-six years ago.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you!

Side note:  Since I wrote this five years ago, both my uncle and brother have passed away.  I am now truly an orphan.  I have no one left from my family of origin.  No one left to talk about those childhood memories.

Copyright © 2013 Gail Grunst

Close-up in Ottawa, Illinois

Lincoln Douglas Debate

 Lincoln – Douglas Debate Statue in Washington Square Park Ottawa, Illinois

1957 — 1965

Did you ever visit a place and feel that you belong there?  I had that feeling when I was a young.  We would visit a great-grandaunt who lived in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois with some friends.  The friends had a daughter my age and we became friends.  I would stay with them for a couple of weeks each summer from about the time I was 10 until I graduated high school.  My friend and I would walk all over Ottawa, and I came to know Ottawa as well as my own town.  We went to the parks, the movies, played on the school play-ground, etc. I loved Ottawa and I felt I belonged there.  I wished my family could live in Ottawa.  I had a vague knowledge that we had some ancestors or relatives that had lived in Ottawa at one time, and I knew my grandmother was born there.  Beyond that I didn’t know who they were or even their names and I really didn’t care at that time. 

Fast Forward to 1990 -2018

Now many years later, I am into genealogy and want to know all about my ancestors especially the ones that were from Ottawa.  So my search began and I spent many years researching my two sets of 2nd great-grandparents that settled in Ottawa. My 2nd great grandfather, Charles Bowers, settled in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois in the 1850’s and stayed in Ottawa until his death in 1897. After his death, his wife and children stayed in Ottawa except for Robert who moved to Chicago.  The other set of 2nd great-grandparents, Conrad and Anna Reinhardt, came to Ottawa in the early 1880’s. They lived there until their deaths. Anna died in 1910 and Conrad in 1920.  All their children moved away from Ottawa. Today there is no family or friends living in Ottawa.

I still love visiting Ottawa and seeing all the places that I visited as a kid.  In addition to researching in the courthouse, genealogical society, historical museum, and the cemetery, I visited all the places I went when I was there in the 50’s and 60’s.  Some things have changed but there are still some things there that remain the same, and I enjoy reminiscing.  I have seen the house where the Bower’s and the Reinhardt’s lived.  One of the things that I learned is that one of great-grandaunt Elizabeth Bowers was a school teacher at Lincoln School.  That is the school play-ground we played on as kids.  One summer day a few years ago I parked my car in front of the school and walked around it. While walking, I thought about how I was walking on the same ground as my ancestor’s walk on.  I still feel connected to that town.  A town I never lived in.  I think somehow I instinctively knew this is where I came from and I belonged here. Between visiting Ottawa and researching both families, I feel I have come to know both the town and the families close-up.

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst

Maiden Aunt


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Martha is first one on the left


The topic this week for  52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  is Maiden Aunt.  I could only find one maiden aunt, and I have already written about her.  So I decided to write about someone who is not a blood relative, but was someone who I thought of as an Aunt and loved.

My grandmother’s brother, Ralph Bowers, was married to Helen Treppa.  Helen had a sister Martha who lived with Ralph and Helen.  When Uncle Ralph and Aunt Helen came to holiday or Sunday dinners, Martha was usually with them.  Martha (Marty was her nickname) paid a lot of attention to me when I was a child, and I loved the attention.  I remember her as a very sweet and quiet lady.  At the time, I just enjoyed Martha’s company and attention, and never thought about her life.  So I really don’t know very much about it.  All I really know is from researching records, and there are not a lot of records on Martha.  No surprises surfaced like a secret marriage or illegitimate children.  She must have led a very normal quiet life, just like I thought. 

Martha was born to John and Helen Treppa on 4 May 1911 in Cook County, Illinois.[1] Martha was the youngest of five children.[2] The family lived at 1441 Lill Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.[3]  When I knew Martha she lived in that same house on Lill Avenue with her sister Helen and brother-in-law Ralph Bowers.  They lived on the second floor and someone else lived downstairs.  In 1940 her brother John and his family lived on the lower level[4] and sometime later they moved and then the apartment was rented out.

Martha worked as a packer for a wholesale meat company.[5]  She always seemed old-fashioned and she was the typical maiden aunt of the time.  Martha died 7 August 1992 at 81 years, 3 months and 3 days old in the state of Washington.[6]

I will always think of Martha with love and remember her kindness and quiet ways.

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst

[1] Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.  Original data:  “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878–1922.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Illinois. Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878–1922. Illinois Department of Public Health. Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

[2] Year: 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 24, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_335; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 1359

Source Information: 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.  Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA. Note: Enumeration Districts 819-839 are on roll 323 (Chicago City).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Year: 1940; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-01012; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 103-2902.  Source Information: 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.

[5] Ibid.

[6] U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2014.  Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.