Friday, April 18, 2014


I have mentioned previously that when I am in Rosehill Cemetery I like to look around for unusual or historically significant tombstones.  On a recent summer Sunday I found the following unusual monument:

It is the tombstone for Thomas F. Dowd and his wife Mary.  The monument says:

Erected by the
Marine Engineers Beneficial Assn. USA
in Memory of
Thomas F. Dowd
National Secretary

I thought perhaps with a little "digging" I could find an interesting story, and maybe also find out what that is supposed to be on top of the tombstone.

Thomas F. Dowd was born on Christmas Day, 1857 in Manchester, Lancashire, England to Owen and Bridget Dowd.  He was their first child, but would be followed by a sister Ellen (b. 1859) and a brother James (b. 1861).  At some point in his life to make him appear older, Thomas started using 1853 as his birth date, but the English BMD records and the 1861 English Census show that he was actually born in 1857. Both Owen and Bridget had been born in Ireland; Owen listed his occupation on the census as "Hawker," and the census spelled their surname as "Doud".

By the time of the 1870 US Census, sixteen year-old Tom had come to America.  He was living on a farm in Hamilton, Illinois as a "Farm Laborer" with the Peter Egbers family. 

On January 9, 1879, Thomas Dowd married Mary Hall (1855-1925) in Red Wing, Minnesota.  The bride was twenty-three; the groom was twenty-one.  Mary was the daughter of Samuel Hall (1828-1901) and Betsy, nee Marshall (1825-1897),  both of who were born in Ireland.  Samuel and Betsey had eight children:  Jane, Mary, William, Robert, Sarah, George, Fred, and Frank.  Samuel Hall listed his occupation as "Farmer". 

The 1880 U.S. Census shows the Dowds living at 189 Milwaukee Avenue (now 483 N. Milwaukee Avenue):

483-85 N. Milwaukee Avenue

Thomas listed his occupation as "Engineer Tug Boat."   Thomas and Mary were blessed with two daughters:  Dora M. (1880-????) and Edna G. (1885-????).

The Chicago Daily Tribune of May 20, 1898 carried the shocking news: 


Thomas F. Dowd, National Secretary of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, died yesterday at his residence, 982 Francisco street, of pneumonia.  He was 43 years old and had been secretary of the organization for many years.

Here is his death certificate:

His death certificate shows him living at 1073 (now 1938) N. Francisco Avenue in Chicago.

1938 N. Francisco, Chicago
Marine Engineering Magazine from June, 1898 carried the following:

An official announcement of the death of Thomas F. Dowd, National Secretary of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association has been made by George Uhler, the national president under date Chicago, May 21 in these words:

To the order wherever found, greeting: With a feeling of profound sorrow I announce the death from pneumonia after an illness of only six days of Brother Thomas F. Dowd national secretary at his home in this city at 9:30 AM Thursday the 19th instant.  It is not my desire at this time to enter into any detailed eulogy of the official life and services of our deceased brother but with a sincere appreciation of his untiring zeal and interest in the affairs of the organization with which he has been officially connected for so many years I simply make this brief announcement.  The national president will be in Chicago for some days in connection with the office made vacant by the demise of our brother. Any important communications can be addressed to the Sherman House, Chicago.  To fill out the unexpired term of our late Brother Dowd I have this day appointed as National Secretary Brother George A Grubb of M.E.B.A. No. 4, whose address will be No 1537 George street, Station B Chicago, to whom all communications should be addressed and to whom all remittances should be forwarded.

Marine Engineering Magazine carried the following in their May, 1901 issue:


The Marine Engineers ' Beneficial Association has just performed a most graceful act, and one which is worthy of emulation by every fraternal order. For many years Thomas F. Dowd of Chicago was national secretary of the association, which, as is well known, involved a large amount of work which, all too often, is thanklessly received.

Mr. Dowd died in 1898, still holding the office of secretary and the association, acting under the auspices of No. 4 of Chicago, immediately set about to provide some suitable memorial for their late brother.

It was decided that it should be a memorial tablet in Rose Hill cemetery, his last resting place, and contributions poured in from every section of the country until the shaft was erected and dedicated upon Sunday, March 31st, with appropriate ceremonies.

The dedicatory speech upon that occasion was made by James Henry Harris, well known in N. A. S. E. circles, and will certainly be read with interest by all association members. It is as follows:

Memory is a mirror in which we see reflected the scenes of the past. The green fields of youthful sports and joys, the hardships and misery of other days are pictured there.

In the mirror of memory we see the sunlit hills of hope painted by the inexperienced hand of youth. We behold the crags and breakers over which our impetuous feet were eager to walk, and we are charmed by the picture of youthful exultation when the lowering clouds of adversity had been burned away, and we had tasted the first sweets of success.

In this beautiful looking-glass—memory—we look upon the face, the form, the smile and the frown of those we love. In its magic depths we can hear the merry rippling laughter that thrilled our souls with delight, and we listen again to the words that pointed out the way that our feet should trod.

To prevent the accumulating dust of time from dimming the mirror of memory and in order that we may perpetuate a recollection of the dead we build monuments upon which we inscribe the names of those we would honor and we chisel words that shall tell future generations of their good deeds.
"When a great man dies the angels weep," the poet has said. Greatness is, however, measured by no definite standard.

The soldier who upon the field of battle yields up his life in defense of his country, the statesman who in the forensic arena defends the rights of the people, the scholar who from the caverns of learning brings light to the mind, the actor who snatches from the grave of tradition visions of the dead and rehabilitates them in the garb of living beings, the painter who fills the galleries of the mind with the beautiful creations of his genius or the musician who floods the corridors of the soul with the sweet melodies of song are great only as we are influenced by their deeds.

Someone has said that true greatness consists in fulfilling well life’s mission, in doing our duty as it is pointed out to us. We are here today, brothers and friends, to unveil a monument erected to the memory of one who fulfilled, to the fullest measure, the mission of his life so far as opportunity offered.

We have two classes of men. One class asserts their personality in every act, while the other shrink from public gaze. Of the latter class Brother Dowd was a faithful example, for he was modest though determined, enthusiastic and yet unobtrusive. His nature was sunny and bright, and he carried into the midst of his associates happiness and joy.

He who inspires laughter is a public benefactor, for from out of the gloom and blackness of sorrow he brings happiness and comfort, he illuminates the dungeon of despair with the holy light of hope.
No man could long associate with Thomas F. Dowd and not be influenced by the subtle magic of his laughter the potency of his good nature. A man of rare humor who found in the most trivial circumstance the foundation for merriment, and as the sunlight warms the budding verdure into blossom so did the exuberance of his nature better fit him to face the serious side of life by enabling him to cope with its exigencies with a warmth and geniality that was wonderful.

We who have gathered here today to pay a tribute to the memory of our late brother need no words of mine to bring back to our hearts remembrances of his kindly deeds, his determination and his zeal in the promotion of the principals that as a member of the Marine Engineers ' Beneficial Association he espoused.

Let the monument be unveiled. A magnificent tribute of a fraternal brotherhood. However, Thomas F. Dowd, whose mortal remains are resting in tranquil peace beneath this canopy of roses, does not require this shaft of stone to remind us of his worth nor must we gaze upon the inscription, that is carved upon it, to keep aglow the sacred fire of fraternal love upon the altar of our hearts, for that will die out only when we rest with him in the tomb.

And with that, they unveiled the stunning monument that still marks the grave of Thomas Dowd.

It is obvious that Thomas Dowd was beloved by all in the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.

Thomas F. Dowd - May he rest in peace.

PS - I never did find out what that is at the top of his monument.

Friday, April 11, 2014


One day last fall I was wandering through the Jewish section of Rosehill Cemetery when I happened upon a very unusual tombstone:

On the tombstone was the following epitaph:

Mark Well That 
In This Earth a
Soldier Naps - 
Whose Love of
God and Country
None Surpassed

In front of the tombstone was a flat stone:

Abel Davis 1874 - 1937

I really didn't think much about it - I just created a Find a Grave memorial page and posted the photos to the page.  Then recently I was contacted by someone who said "I am a descendant of General Abel Davis" and asked about the Find a Grave page and the photos.  After I responded, I checked Wikipedia for "Abel Davis" and found this:

Brigadier General Abel Davis was an officer in the Illinois National Guard. He was regarded as "the second highest ranking Jewish officer in the Illinois National Guard, and one of the highest ranking Jewish officers in the United States Army." He served in the 66th infantry.

After reading this, I decided that General Abel Davis would be a perfect subject for this blog.  And so, here is the story of Abel Davis, an inmmigrant from Lithuania who rose to the highest ranks of the US military.

Abel Davis was born December 26, 1874 in Koenigsberg.  Koenigsburg was at different times, part of Prussia, Germany and Russia, although Davis always said he was from Lithuania.  His parents were Pesach (Peter) Davis (1836-1903) and Keile (Katherine), nee Lipshitz (1839-1915).  Pesach and Keile had nine children:   Haim (1865-1938), James (1869-1943), Ralph (1870-1940), Anna (1872-1958), Abel (1874-1937), Olga (1875-1920), Marie (1877-1962), Ida (1879-1968) and Maurice (1880-1962).  

The Davis family emigrated to America in January, 1891 when Abel was seventeen.  His obituary erroneously calls him "A lifelong resident of Chicago."  He started his career as an errand boy in the shipping room of a State Street department store at $1.50 per week.

As the Spanish American War broke out Abel Davis felt drawn to the military and enlisted in the Illinois First Infantry, based in Chicago. When the First Infantry marched into Cuba in 1898, Private Abel Davis was with them.  According to tales he spun in later years, he was also part of the famous charge up San Juan Hill. After the armistice was signed on August 12, 1898, Davis returned home to Chicago.

He returned to work in the department store, but now as an errand boy in the executive department. Meanwhile, he studied law at night, receiving his law degree from Northwestern University in 1901.

The 1900 US Census finds Abel living st home with his parents and siblings.  Home was #14 Fowler Street  (now 1915 W. Schiller) in Chicago:

1915 W. Schiller, Chicago

Abel's father listed his occupation as a salesman of notions, and Abel listed his occupation as insurance agent.

1902 was a big year for Abel Davis.  On May 13, 1902 he was admitted to the Bar, having passed the examination, and in November he was elected to the Illinois General Assembly from the 23rd District as a Republican.  Abel Davis served in the General Assembly at the same time as future Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, the subject of a previous article in this blog.

Abel's father Peter died in Chicago on May 6, 1903 at the age of 66, having lived long enough to see his immigrant son elected to the Illinois General Assembly. 

Once he had a taste of politics, Abel must have liked it, because in November of 1904 he was elected Cook County Recorder on the Republican ticket, being elected with a plurality of over 96,000 votes.  Here is a photo of Davis from that era:

The 1910 US Census has the Davis family (now headed by Keile) living at 1408 W. Hoyne.  Keile said that she had given birth to nine children, and that all nine were still alive in 1910.  Unfortunately 1408 N. Hoyne is now a vacant lot.  Abel listed his occupation as a general practice attorney.

During this time between the Spanish-American War and World War I, Abel Davis continued to serve in the Illinois National Guard, working his way up through the ranks.

Abel Davis served two terms as Cook County Recorder and also maintained a private law practice.  In 1912, at the end of his second term as Recorder, he decided to return to private life and was elected Vice President of The Chicago Title and Trust Co.

Davis' military career (and life) almost came to an end on July 6, 1912 when he, and a group of other soldiers, was struck by lightning at Camp Lincoln outside of Springfield, Illinois.  Here is the report from the Chicago Daily Tribune of July 7, 1912:

Davis (by now a Major) was the most seriously injured and reported to be in critical condition.  Mercifully, he recovered. 

Keile Lipsitz Davis died in Chicago on May 9, 1915 at the age of 75.

In 1916, Major Abel Davis, with his First Infantry, spent some time patrolling the border between Mexico and the Southern United States and was engaged in at least two skirmishes with the forces of Pancho Villa.

It was at the end of World War I that Abel Davis' military career reached its peak.  He was sent to France in 1918 as colonel of the 132nd Infantry. His regiment was in the midst of the fighting during the last six months of the war.  Davis and his regiment were in Amiens in July, were engaged in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in September, were attacked with the 17th French army corps east of the Meuse in October and were in the thick of the fighting at St. Hilaire three days before the armistice.  For repulsing an enemy attack at this point, Davis was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Here is the text of his citation for the Distinguished Service Cross:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Colonel (Infantry) Abel Davis, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 132d Infantry Regiment, 33d Division, A.E.F., near Consenvoye, France, 9 October 1918. Upon reaching its objective, after a difficult advance, involving two changes of directions, Colonel Davis' regiment was subjected to a determined enemy counterattack. Disregarding the heavy shell and machine-gun fire, Colonel Davis personally assumed command and by his fearless leadership and courage the enemy was driven back.

and for the Distinguished Service Medal:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Colonel (Infantry) Abel Davis, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility during World War I. As Commanding Officer, 132d Infantry Regiment, 33d Division, Colonel Davis displayed in a marked degree the many and varied qualifications of a successful commanding officer of troops. In the organization and training of his regiment he brought it to a notably high state of efficiency and morale with great thoroughness and in a remarkably short time. Afterward he handled it in all its actions against the enemy with marked success, displaying courage, resourcefulness, tactical skill, and military leadership of the highest order.

After the war Davis became a brigadier general, commander of the 66th Infantry Brigade, Illinois National Guard.

The 1920 US Census has the remainder of the Davis family living at 5125 S. Ellis Avenue, in Chicago:

5125 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago

Abel's brother Ralph was listed as Head of Household; Abel listed his occupation as Vice President of a real estate company.  In 1920, Ralph, Abel, Maurice, Olga and Ida were still all living together.

Here is a photo from 1921 of Davis with Col. C. M. Caldwell, Julius Rosenwald, and General George Bell, Jr. at Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois:

It was not all war and real estate for Abel Davis.  On December 28, 1922, he married Marjorie, nee Mayer (1902-????).  Marjorie was the daughter of David (1852-1920) and Florence, nee Blum (1872-1934).  At the time of their marriage, Abel Davis was 48, his bride was 20.

Here is a photo of Abel and Marjorie Davis shortly after their marriage:

Abel and Marjorie were blessed with three children:  Florence (1924-????), Abel Jr. (1925-2013) and Jean (1932-????).

In 1930, Davis resigned his command in the Illinois National Guard, saying that it was time to make room for a younger man to take over.

The 1930 US Census finds the Davis family living at 600 Sheridan Road in Glencoe, Illinois.

600 Sheridan Road, Glencoe

They owned the home, to which they assigned a value of $50,000.00. Davis listed his occupation as "Vice President of a Bank." They also had a live-in nurse, Johanne Oltmanns.  The house recently (2014) sold for $3.5 million dollars.

In 1931, Abel Davis was elected Chairman of the Board of The Chicago Title and Trust Company, a post he held until his death.

In 1932 and 1933, Davis served as one of the Trustees of the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago.

In 1935, Abel Davis resigned from the Illinois National Guard, having achieved the rank of Major General.

Abel Davis died in his home on January 7, 1937 at the age of 62.  He had been suffering from anemia for two years, although the immediate cause of death was, as it often is, pneumonia.

As befits a man of such heroic stature, Abel Davis was given a full military funeral with all the trimmings:

Abel Davis throughout his life, dedicated himself to the service of his adopted country, both as a soldier and as an elected official.  He is truly one of Illinois' finest sons.

Abel Davis, an American patriot - may he rest in peace.

Friday, April 4, 2014


I have written previously about tombstone message - words carved into a tombstone which make up the last message the departed wants to leave to those still in this world.  It was such a beautiful day last Saturday that after I fulfilled a Find a Grave photo request at Rosehill Cemetery I wandered around to see what I could "dig up".  My eyes were drawn to a large imposing monument that marked the final resting place of Ada Beatrice Schultz. 

On the front of the monument was the following:
Erected in
Loving Memory of
"Days That Are Gone
Will Never Come Again"

Ada Beatrice Schultz

What can we find out about Ada Beatrice Schultz?

Ada Beatrice Schoneman was born in 1875 in Michigan, the daughter of Adolph Schoneman (1845-1892) and Barbara A. Schoneman (1854-1915).  Ada was the "middle child".  She had an older sister Anna (1872-????), and a younger sister Beulah (1879-1909).

The 1880 US Census shows the Schoneman family living in Pontiac, Michigan, where Adolph said his occupation was "Cooper" (someone who makes wooden barrels).

Unfortunately Adolph Schoneman died in Pontiac, Michigan on January 8, 1892.  Shortly after that, Barbara Schoneman packed up her three daughters and moved to Chicago.    

On October 4, 1894 Ada Beatrice Schoneman married Otto Kohlhamer (1870-1897) in Chicago.  Their married life together did not last long, because on July 7, 1897 Otto Kohlhamer died of tuberculosis:

Here is his Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of July 8, 1897:

Ada and Otto did not have any children.

Life went on for Ada, and the December 23, 1899 Kane County (IL) Advocate had the following happy news:

But as was often the case in those days, the happiness was fleeting. Ada Beatrice Schoneman Kohlhamer Schultz died on January 15, 1905 in Chicago of endocarditis.  She was only twenty-eight years old.  

Here's her Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of June 16, 1905:

Her mother bought a plot at Rosehill Cemetery and erected a beautiful monument to her departed daughter.

Ada's exact resting place was marked with a simple stone that says "My daughter Ada."

"Days that are gone will never come again" - Ada Beatrice Schultz - May she rest in peace.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Last Friday, March 21, 2014 I was able to leave work early to fulfill Find a Grave photo requests at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park. It was the first time I had been at Waldheim since last December 15th because of the harsh winter we had this year.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I was going through cemetery withdrawal.  The time from December 15 to March 21 (96 days) is the longest I have been away from Waldheim since I started photographing graves there almost seven years ago.  It felt great to be back.  

After I took care of the photo requests I did what I always do when I am at Waldheim, I wandered around looking for interesting gravestones to photograph.  Here's one I thought looked interesting:

It was for a woman names Lillian Reznick Ott who died on February 6, 1965.  On the tombstone, in place of a photo of Lillian Ott was this:

Before we take a closer look at the poem that Lillian Reznick Ott wrote, let's see what we can "dig up" about her.

Lillian Reznick was born Lillie Reznick on August 18, 1898 in Russia (present day Belarus) to Moishe Leib Reznick aka Morris L. Reznick (1875-1957)  and Sara Fay, nee Gofseyeff (1875-1940).  Moishe and Sarah had a total of eight children all together - the first six were born in Russia and the last two were born in Chicago:
Lillian (1898-1965), twins Rose (1900-1900) and Mary (1900-1984), Julius (1902-1980), Hyman (1904-1973), Samuel (1906-1981), Sylvia (1910-2005) and Michael (1911-1968).

Moishe Reznick came to the United States first, arriving August 1, 1906, and once established sent for Sarah and the children who arrived in 1909.  The 1910 US Census shows them living at 1334 W. Washburne in Chicago.  Unfortunately today 1334 W. Washburne is a vacant lot:

1334 W. Washburne Avenue, Chicago 

Moishe Reznick was a butcher by trade.

On June 26, 1918 Lillian married Frank William Ott (1894-1931) in Chicago.

Frank William Ott was born March 6, 1894 in Chicago to Charles Ott, Jr. and an unknown mother.  Frank had two older siblings:  a brother William (1890-????) and a sister Minnie (1892-????).

The 1920 US Census shows Frank and Lillian Ott living at 3120 W. Fillmore Street in Chicago.  3120 W. Fillmore is today another vacant lot.

3120 W. Fillmore Street, Chicago

Frank listed his native tongue as "German" Lillian listed hers as "Jewish." Frank was employed as a Checker at the Butler Brothers grocery store in downtown Chicago.  There was an addition to the family as well, Little Jacob Marvin Ott had been born on January 27, 1919. (Jacob Ott went on to become a famous rabbi, and was the spiritual director  of Sephardic Temple Tefereth Israel in West Los Angeles, California for 34 years).

There were other additions to the family during that time.  Little Molke (Myra) Ott was born November 27, 1920, followed by Tybie (Tybel) Ott in 1925 and Esther Ott on February 28, 1930.

But all was not happiness for the Ott family.  Myra died on November 20, 1927 at the age of 7.

The 1930 US Census finds the Ott family living at 1312 S. Turner (now Christiana) Avenue in Chicago. You guessed it - 1312 S. Christiana is another vacant lot today:

1312 S. Christiana Avenue, Chicago

Their rent was $37.00 per month.  Frank now listed his job as a Conductor on the Chicago Surface Lines.  Lillian now listed her mother tongue as "Yiddish".

Tragedy was to deal the Ott family a double blow at the beginning of the 1930s.  First, Frank Ott died on September 5, 1931 at the age of 37:

followed by the death of little Esther Ott on August 21, 1932 at the age of 2.

Myra, Frank and Esther are all buried at Jewish Waldheim at Gate #40 - Anshe Motola:

Unfortunately all of their photos which were attached to the tombstone have either been stolen, or disintegrated in the Chicago weather.

Life went on for Lillan Reznick Ott as a single mother.  The 1940 US Census shows her living at 3644 W. Douglas Boulevard, in the heart of the old Jewish neighborhood:

3644 W. Douglas Boulevard, Chicago

Lillian was now 41, Jacob (now called "Jack") was 21 and Tybie was 15. Lillian listed her profession as "Operator in a Leather Factory."

It is not known when Lillian Reznick Ott started writing poetry, but as early as 1941 her poems were being published in The Sentinel (The American Jewish Weekly) magazine.  Here is one of her poems from the December 4, 1941 Sentinel:

Executed Hostages 

No drums, no taps, no bugle corps,
Call to salute at your grave;
Sleep as peacefully

No cannon roar, no flashing guns,
Bloody fields or battle cry;
Sleep as peacefully dared to die.

No sentinel guarding at your tomb,
No colorful banner your shroud;
Sleep as peacefully
Martyrs...a people's proud

Here is a poem she wrote for the birthday of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that was published in The Sentinel on January 27, 1944:

In Honor of the Birthday of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Even the mighty fall,
For God, Who created might,
Created none
To withstand His Own.
Only these
Find favor in his plan,
Mercy, truth and justice,
Among men.  And 'tis these alone
Above all the powers that be,
That shares with God
Of ageless immortality.

Most of the Sentinel magazines from the 1940s contain poems from Lillian Reznick Ott.

Perhaps because of her nationwide exposure, in 1949 Exposition Press in New York published a 176 page book of her poetry called "Teardrops and Dew."  This was before the days of self-publishing - meaning that her poetry must have been pretty good if a New York publishing house decided to print some of it. 

Admittedly poetry is not for everyone, but her book was favorably reviewed by The Saturday Review on September 17, 1949:

TEAR DROPS AND DEW by Lillian Reznick Ott, Exposition Press, New York, $2.50.  In the 176 pages of this volume, there is a range from the prophetic voice of tradition to the sheer doggerel of patriotism and journalism.  Nothing escapes the observing eye of Mrs. Ott.  All is translated in rhymed opinion and indignation.  From a nationalistic point of view, she recounts the tragedy of the Jew in the recent war, and she sings of his hope in a new land under the flag of his own making.  All this is told in enthusiastic and undisciplined rhymes.  In the occasional poem stemming from Talmudic lore, however, there are flights worthy of a prophet, songs which carry the ring of tradition in them.  Her poem of the Hebrew alphabet, in which we hear the child learning by rote, not only the letters, Aleph, Beth, Giml, but the whole history and culture of a people during centuries of oppression and heartbreak, compensates for the welter of words of other poems that are of a low bardic order.

Lillian Reznick Ott died February 7, 1965 (her tombstone says suddenly) at the age of 66 in Los Angeles, California.  She had moved from Chicago to Los Angeles about 1955 to be near her son the rabbi. Although she died in LA, she was buried back in Chicago with the members of her family who had predeceased her - her husband Frank, and daughters Myra and Esther.  Here is her obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of February 9, 1965:

Once she was living on the west coast she had begun contributing poetry to "The Voice" but I was unable to find any to share with you here except the one from her tombstone:

Mortal, Yet Immortal Too

I am I
Knowing that one day I shall die,
Perhaps tremble before the night
Like the sea running shoreward at end of day.
But it will be a momentary fear
A short shudder, then,
Relaxed of all care and all want
I shall slip into poetic oblivion.
Or heaven?  Or hell?  No matter
Save that I who am I
Shall be dead.
Then shall they come forward to speak of me
Kindly, generously, perhaps even lovingly,
And surely charitably -
But who shall have known me?

I am I
And if no one knows I live
Who shall know me when I die?\

Yet I am I,
A body, a soul, a mind;
I think and dream and love and hate.
I hunger and yearn and challenge and vie,
But if no one knows me while I live
Who shall know me when I die?...

Lillian Reznick Ott - may she rest in peace.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Right at the front of Gate 16 - Anshe Knesses Israel #2 at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois is a very unusual monument - and even more unusual for a Jewish Cemetery.  It is a tall, ornate monument that has a representation of an Egyptian sun disk across the top.

It marks the grave of noted Chicago manufacturer August Turner. Before we take a closer look at his monument, let's see what we can dig up about the man who lies under it.

August Turner was born August L. Tarkovsky in Russia, the son of Jacob Turner and Pesse (Bessie) Malke Rattner.  The date of his birth is given as circa 1863.  We know that August Turner came to the US in 1886. He had been married in Russia, and his three oldest children (Clara, Kate and Oscar) were born there. Family lore says that the wife left behind in Russia was called "Baba Alta".  She was said to be a cousin of Bernard DeKoven, who was the future husband of Clara Turner.  I assume that "Baba Alta" died in Russia because her three children ultimately end up in Chicago but there is no record of her ever joining them.      

August L. Tarkovsky shows up in the 1887 Chicago Directory as a partner with Louis Salganick in a picture frame business at 384 S. Halsted.  In 1888/89 August married Fannie Meisler (1868-1960), she, herself a recent immigrant from Russia.

On June 10, 1890, August and Fannie had their first child together. They named her "Bela".  She was joined on March 3, 1894 by a sister "Minee". By the time Oscar was born on December 11, 1895, the family name was Americanized from "Tarkovsky" to "Turner".

The picture frame company shared in the prosperity that was in Chicago after the Fire.  The firm was later known as the Globe Molding Company, with headquarters at 14th and Sangamon. In March of 1895 after suffering a particular devestating fire, the Globe Molding Company was declared insolvent (Assets $10,000; Liabilities $20,000) and was assigned to Edward S. Elliott as Trustee.

Today there is a park and university housing at 14th and Sangamon, but if you Google it, you find that it used to be known as "Dead Man's Corner" because of all the homicides that took place there between 1880 and 1920. 

On May 18, 1895 when workmen were dismantling what remained of the Globe Molding Company plant, a brick wall collapsed killing one man and severely injuring two others.  Since the company had been taken out of Tarkovsky's hands, he was not held responsible.

By 1896 August Turner was able to reorganize and regain control of the property at 14th and Sangamon,  He now opened his doors as the Great Northern Molding Company and within a short time business was booming again.

The 1900 US Census shows the Turner family living at 112 West Twelfth Street (now Roosevelt Road).  August Turner said that he had been born in September of 1869 and was then 30 years old.  Fannie was listed as having been born in August of 1868.  Then there were their three children:  Bella, Minnie and Jacob.  Fannie's father Falek Meisler was also living with them.  August listed his occupation as "picture frame maker".  They owned the property on Twelfth street free and clear.

Meanwhile, the family firm, now renamed the Turner Manufacturing Company was thriving.  They opened a second office in New York and would become for a time the largest manufacturers of picture frames in the United States.

The 1910 US Census shows the Turner family living at 1835 S. Turner (now Christiana) Avenue in Chicago. Unfortunately all that is there today is a vacant lot.

1835 S. Christiana Avenue, Chicago

The family consisted of August and Fannie, Belle, Minnie and Jacob. This time it was August's mother Bessie who was living with them, as well as a servant, Mina Helwig.

There are some other interesting facts that can be gleaned from this census.  August's mother Bessie said that she had given birth to twelve children (!!!) but only two were still alive in 1910 (August, and his brother Oscar).

August admitted that his marriage to Fannie was his second marriage, so there is an oblique reference to the mysterious Baba Alta.

Interestingly, they were renting at 1835 S. Christiana - they had owned the property on Twelfth street.

Any mentions of August Turner in the Chicago Tribune from 1910-1924 were charity related.  He was involved with the Federated Orthodox Jewish Charities, the Jewish Home for the Aged and the Chicago Hebrew Institute, among others.

On November 21, 1922, the Chicago Daily Tribune carried the following article:

There is no record of how the suit turned out.

August Turner died December 25, 1924 of heart disease in Los Angeles, California.  He was reported to be 63 years old.  Here is his Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of December 28, 1924:

His funeral took place on December 30, 1924 at the (Jewish) Home for the Aged, 1648 S. Albany Avenue. Rabbi Sol Silber conducted the service.

He was buried at the front of Gate 16 - Anshe Knesses Israel #2 at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois:

It is interesting that his gravestone has his year of birth as 1861 instead of the often-reported 1863.

So that's the story of August Turner.  So what about the symbol on his monument?

According to Google, it is the representation for the Egyptian sun god Ra.  Here it is in several forms:

August Turner's grave is not the only one at Waldheim that uses this symbol - I just featured his because it is the most prominent.  I don't understand why a Jewish cemetery would allow a grave to be marked with a representation of a pagan god.  I am sure that if August Turner had wanted to mark his grave with a cross that would not have been allowed.

Much was said about murder victim Ron Goldman's tombstone with an ankh on it, but he is not buried in a Jewish cemetery.

In 1924 many people were caught up in "Egyptian Fever" caused by the discovery of King Tut's tomb in November of 1922 - but I am surprised that this was allowed to spill over into a Jewish Cemetery.

August Turner - May he rest in peace.