Friday, June 22, 2012


As I have mentioned before, I love the gravestones that have photographs of the deceased on them.  That's one of the reasons I started doing this - I was photographing these precious porcelain photos before they crumbled from age and the elements.  On one of my first trips to Jewish Waldheim Cemetery several years ago, I was drawn to a small tombstone with a photo of a very serious little boy.  His name was Leo Edelstein.

The tombstone says:

BORN AUG 10, 1905
DIED  JAN 13, 1919

Here it is:

And here's a closeup of his photo:

Leo Edelstein
Such a serious expression - and don't you just love that hat?

After this I decided to see what the Internet could tell me about Leo and his family.

Leo's parents, Harry Edelstein and Rose Cohen were married by "minister" B. Berenstein on January 15, 1901 at the Congregation Anshe Knesses Israel Synagogue.

Rabbi B. Berenstein
This was when the congregation was at the corner of Judd and Clinton Streets - before they built their magnificent synagogue on Douglas Boulevard in 1913 (which tragically was recently torn down).

Leo's older sister Mary was born on February 6, 1902:

and Leo himself made his debut on August 12, 1905:

Leo Edelstein was born Louis Adelstein on August 12, 1905 at home, which was 191 Paulina Street.  His mother was Rose Cohn Edelstein, and she was 24 years old and from Russia.  She had one child already - Louis (Leo) was child #2.  Leo's father Harry was a salesman.  He was 29 and also from Russia.  Leo was delivered by a midwife.

The building at 191 S. Paulina Street is long gone - It's now part of a parking lot.  100+ years ago, this was part of a thriving residential neighborhood.

The 1910 Census (the only one Leo would be alive for) shows the Edelstein family now living at 102 S. Paulina Street (probably a larger apartment).  Harry and Rose had been married nine years and had two children:  8 year old Mary and 4 year old Leo.  Harry listed his occupation as "Tinsmith" as a worker (as opposed to the owner) of a tin shop.  Harry and Rose came to the US in 1901 - and unusual for the time,  Harry and Rose could both read and write.  Even though Leo is only 4, Harry is now 35 and Rose is now 29.  They speak Yiddish and are resident aliens.

1911 was a joyous year for the Edelstein family.  Their daughter Vivian was born May 20, 1911.  But their joy turned to sorrow in 1912 when Vivian died March 10, 1912 of pneumonia.

This reminds me of the book Angela's Ashes where Frank McCourt tells us that in the old days they told  mothers in Ireland not to get too close to their children until they turned 5 years old - the chances were that the child would not make it to that age and they wanted to help mothers deal with their grief.

Sometime prior to 1918 the Edelstein family moved to 1628 S. St. Louis Avenue in North Lawndale - the heart of the Jewish neighborhood at the time.

Unfortunately it is here that Leo died on January 13, 1919 from "pneumonia".

It doesn't say so, but I would guess that Leo's pneumonia was a complication arising from his having the Spanish Influenza.  1919 is the height of the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and it especially targeted the young.  Of the other Spanish flu victims I have written about, Katherine Craig Stewart was 15 and Wesley Gillette Dempster was 18 when they died.

Leo was buried the very same day - January 13, 1919.  This was not unusual in a time where the flu epidemic reduced or eliminated public gatherings to try to stop the spread of the disease.

But, life goes on, so let's see where the Edelsteins are for the 1920 census.  They were still at 1628 S. St. Louis Avenue, but there's someone new in the family - 4 year old Florence, born in 1916, before Leo's death in 1919.  Harry is still a Tinsmith and Leo's older sister Mary, now 18 years old and called "Marie" is a stenographer.

On October 15, 1920 more good news for the Edelsteins:  son Irving William Edelstein was born.  Interestingly, Harry now lists his occupation as "Junk Dealer."

The Edelsteins are still living at 1628 S. St. Louis.  Rose now lists her place of birth as Germany and Harry says he was born in "Chicago, Illinois"!  So much for the accuracy of legal records...

The 1930 Census show that the Edelsteins have moved again - to 1644 S. St. Louis Avenue.

Harry, now age 55 and still saying he was born in Illinois, is back to being a tin maker in a factory.  Wife Rose is 47, Florence is 14 and Irving is 9.  They paid $60.00 per month for their apartment.

Harry Edelstein died on September 11, 1950 at Mount Sinai Hospital of cancer and heart disease.  He was "about 75 years old".  Interestingly, Harry went to his grave insisting that he had been born in the United States.

Unlike his son Leo, and probably his daughter Vivian who are buried at Jewish Waldheim, Harry Edelstein is buried at Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge.

As the Jewish population of Chicago moved out of the old Jewish neighborhoods of Maxwell Street and Lawndale they left many of the old customs behind.  Jewish Waldheim is modeled more on the order of Eastern European Jewish Cemeteries, divided by synagogue membership or burial society.  Many Chicago Jews with ancestors at Waldheim, decided when their time came to be buried at Westlawn. Still Jewish to be sure, but not quite as "ethnic".  There are no photographs of the deceased on the tombstones at Westlawn.

Rose Cohen Edelstein died in 1961.

I was unable to locate her death certificate, but her obituary showed up in the Chicago Daily Tribune of October 12, 1961:

Rose Edelstein, 2054 Farwell Avenue, beloved wife of the late Harry A.; loving mother of Marie Goldblatt, Florence Shulman, Irving, the late Leo, and Vivian; six grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; fond sister of Samuel Cowan, the late Bertha Spivak, Mary Abrams, Ann Heller, Ida Amber, and Max Cohen.  Service Thursday, 2 p.m., at Weinstein Brothers Chapel, 1300 Devon Avenue.,  Interment Westlawn.  RO 1-2400.

I was very pleased to see that Leo and his sister Vivian were mentioned in the obituary.  So many times the previously deceased relatives are left out of obituaries.  As Leo's tombstone says, he is gone, but not forgotten.

Here's 2054 W. Farwell - a long way from 191 Paulina Street, in more ways than one.

How would life have been different for the Edelstein family if Leo had lived?  What would he have done with his life?  He probably would have married and had children of his own, as his siblings did, but we will never know for sure.

There is one thing we can be sure of:  His family never forgot the serious little boy with the felt hat who left them much too soon.

Leo Edelstein - 1905 - 1919 - Gone But Not Forgotten  

May Leo, and all of the Edelsteins, rest in peace.

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