Wednesday, November 30, 2011


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:

Eli Daiches Is Riddled by Machine-Gun Bullets as He Leaves Chicago Hotel.
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 fiancĂ©, 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.

Eli Daiches

Saturday, November 26, 2011


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 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.

Samuel Sam Gitelson

Friday, November 18, 2011

OUR DEAR SON AND BROTHER "RUD" - Ralph C. Berkelhamer

This one speaks for itself:

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.

Capt Ralph C. Berkelhamer

Capt Ralph C. Berkelhamer

Capt Ralph C. Berkelhamer

Capt Ralph C. Berkelhamer

Saturday, November 12, 2011


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:


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.

Monday, November 7, 2011


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:


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.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


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. 

Burton Harris

Burton Harris

Burton Harris