Friday, September 28, 2012


I recently watched the movie "War of the Worlds" again.  I'm sure most of you are familiar with the story of an invasion of the earth by hostile aliens from another planet.  As the invasion continues they spread death and destruction all across the world.  The mightiest armies and deadliest weapons are useless to stop them, until they are finally vanquished by an unseen weapon - a microscopic germ.  It seems that the invaders did not have the immunity to certain diseases that man has acquired over the ages, and within a short time of being exposed to these disease bacteria they became ill and died.

One of the points of the story is that although mankind may take comfort from our large arsenals of deadly weapons, there may be a deadlier enemy that can't even be seen by the naked eye.

That brings us to this week's story of a decorated combat veteran of World War I.  This soldier evaded capture and death at the hands of the German army only to be brought down by a deadlier enemy that he couldn't see - the Spanish influenza virus.

This is the story of that soldier:  Lieutenant Norman C. Ernst.

Few people are aware that Unit A ("The Old Section") of the Rosehill Mausoleum has a second floor.  It is reached by climbing a white marble staircase just off the entry court.  The staircase leads to a large open room surrounded by private family rooms.  It is a dark and forgotten part of the mausoleum and few visitors venture up there.

If you go all the way to the back of this room, you will see the east wall, covered with niches for cremated remains.  There are large torches around the room and several along this wall.  If the torches are not lit it is too dark to see much, but if they are lit, they cast a warm glow over the wall of niches.

Standing in front of this wall and looking at the names and dates, one niche caught my eye.  It simply said "Lieutenant Norman C. Ernst, 1894-1918".   

I assumed that these were the remains of a soldier who had died in combat.  Perhaps he died after a fierce battle in the trenches.  Maybe he was a World War I flying ace, and died as his plane went down in a blaze of glory.  None of these scenarios are what killed Lieutenant Ernst.  The Chicago Daily Tribune from October 9, 1918 tells the story:


Twelve Local Boys in the Official Casualty List for the Day.

Twelve Chicagoans were named in the official casualties yesterday, eight in the day list, and four in the night list, apportioned as follows:  Killed in action, two; died of disease, two; wounded severely, eight.

Among unofficial casualties reported in The Tribune was that of Lieut. Norman C. Ernst of the United States aviation corps, who died on Monday of pneumonia at Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, O., where he was an instructor in the advanced course in aviation known as circus or trick flying.  He was 24 years old and a son of Leo and Louise Ernst of 2340 Lincoln Park West.  

2340 Lincoln Park West, Chicago

There are two brothers in the service, Lieut. Hilmar F. Ernst, also of the aviation corps, and Quartermaster L. Wainwright Ernst, U.S. Navy.

Was "Prep" Football Player.

Lieut. Ernst  was a member of the 1912 football team of the Chicago Latin school, every member of which is now in military service.  He is the third aviator alumnus of the school to meet death.  The others were Dinsmore Ely and Harry Velle.  Funeral services will be held this afternoon at 4:30 o'clock at Graceland chapel. 

Lieutenant Ernst was not the only casualty of the flu at Wright Field. The Dayton Daily News of October 4, 1918 reported in Dayton what was being reported by others all across the country: 


Reports from the hospital at Wilbur Wright Field are to the effect that there are 250 men stationed at the post now confined and suffering from attacks of influenza.  The hospitals are taxed to their capacity to handle the cases, and other buildings near the hospital are being used as wards during the epidemic.

Things had worsened by the 7th:

New Cases of Influenza at Wilbur Wright Field Continue to Reach Hospital.  Eight Have Died.

Two more soldiers of Wilbur Wright Field were added to the toll of the influenza epidemic Monday with the deaths of Privates Fred Peters, of Wavington, Minn., and Wm. L. Alexander, Washington.  With four deaths Sunday from the dread disease, the total number of men claimed thus far at the post is eight.  The four men who succumbed Sunday were Sergeant James MacCombie, Oswedgo, N.Y.; Corporal Wm. J. Blansett, Jasper, Tenn.; Private Bernard O. Jones, Brownville, Me.; and Private John C. Dennar, St. Joseph, Mo.

Major A. G. Farmer, chief medical officer at the field, said Monday that there were several patients in the post hospital whose conditions are precarious and doubts are entertained for their recovery.  The sick call Monday morning brought 16 new cases to the hospital, the lowest number which has been reported since the breaking out of the epidemic.  On Sunday 27 cases were reported.

Major Farmer and his staff of assistants are making the fight against the epidemic at the field without outside assistance, except for the 16 nurses who have been furnished by the Dayton and Springfield Red Cross.

While Major Farmer would not say Monday that the epidemic was now under control, he expressed the belief that the malady among the soldiers was gradually abating.  The coming of colder and somewhat damp weather Monday is not conducive to getting the epidemic under control.

The total number of cases now at the field is 430.

One death occurred Sunday from among the forces of workmen employed on the flood prevention projects in and near this city.  It was that of Steve Miker, 48, who had been employed at Osborn.  His death occurred at the Miami Valley hospital where he had been taken for treatment.  Pneumonia followed an attack of influenza or grip.  The body was turned over to Undertaker Luthman and is being held pending an effort to locate relatives of the dead man.

The officials and physicians of the Miami conservancy district are taking every possible precaution against the spread of the influenza among its 1600 workmen.  There have been several cases of colds and grip but the patient in every instance has been isolated and separately treated.  The results have been excellent, according to the reports submitted to E. M. Kuhn.

The 8th reported the death of Lieutenant Ernst:


Although the toll of the influenza epidemic at Wilbur Wright Field was increased by four deaths Tuesday morning, Major A. G. Farmer, chief medical officer of the post, expressed the belief that the epidemic was abating.  He based his hopes upon the fact that but 14 new cases were received at the field hospital Tuesday morning, as against 45 cases Monday.  There were 435 cases in all under treatment at the post hospital at noon Tuesday.

In addition to the four deaths of Tuesday, two more deaths occurred Monday night, bringing the total number of deaths since the outbreak of the epidemic to 14.

The Tuesday victims of the disease were Private Martin Anderson, Bridgeport, Conn.; Private Herald Schilling, South Bergerstown, Pa.; Private Benjamin Goldstein, New York City, and Private Henry J. Cling, Canton, Ohio.  Private Cling had been assisting the medical staff at the hospital since the outbreak of the epidemic and had given noble service in the fight against the disease which finally brought him down and ended in his death.  Major Farmer spoke highly of Cling and of the work which he had done to relive suffering among his comrades before he was stricken.  Cling had intended entering medical school at the end of his military service.

The two deaths Monday night were those of Lieutenant Norman Ernst of Chicago and Private Frank Wyss of Fort Wayne, Ind.

Lieutenant Ernst’s death was the first of a commissioned officer since the epidemic began at the post.

Major Farmer’s staff was augmented Tuesday by the arrival of a medical officer.

The nurses furnished by the Dayton and Springfield chapters of the Red Cross are giving valiant service in the fight against the epidemic.

In all of the deaths thus far at the field, the end of the sufferer has been brought about by the cases of influenza or grip, developing pneumonia.

By the end of October, 1918  it was thought that the epidemic had burned itself out in Dayton, Ohio, leaving 572 dead.  In reality it was only the calm before the second wave as colder weather caused people to congregate indoors.

The epidemic in Dayton finally seemed to be over by the end of January, 1919.  There were a total of 639 deaths from the Spanish influenza.  Approximate estimates by officials of the division of health placed the total number of cases in the city from the epidemic at between 40,000 and 50,000 out of a total population of 152,559 meaning that one out of every three Daytonians got some form of the Spanish influenza.

And remember - there is still no cure for the Spanish influenza - it just burned itself out.

Lieutenant Norman C. Ernst, World War I flying ace - he escaped death at the hands of the Germans only to be brought down by the Spanish influenza.

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


This week we have a guest contributor to the blog.  In my post about the tree tombstone of Frank Fremont Campbell I suggested that we all take a closer look at any tree tombstones we encounter to see if we can find symbols of the person's life or work carved into the monument.

A few days ago I received an email from the nice folks at True News (  Here's what they said:  "I saw your posting about the the "tree grave marker" and I thought you would enjoy these photos.  This is the grave of a Chicago cop. If you look at the tree marker you can see his uniform cap hanging off one branch stub and his nightstick hanging off a branch stub on the opposite side.

He is buried at Chicago's Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery on the city's far south side (Mt. Greenwood area)."

Here are the photos of the tree tombstone of Officer Patrick J. Gaffney who died on November 23, 1902:

You will notice his last name "Gaffney" spelled out in small tree branches, his policeman's star #1277, his cap, and his nightstick.  And luckily his tombstone also contains a photo of Officer Gaffney:

I could not uncover too much information about Officer Gaffney except that he and his family lived on South Ashland Avenue in Chicago and that he does not seem to have died in the line of duty.  Again - thank you to the folks at True News for letting us know about another fantastic tree tombstone.

AN ANNIVERSARY AND A MILESTONE:  I started this blog one year ago today.  When I started the blog I wondered just how many people would be interested in these stories of departed souls.  Like the blogger in "Julie and Julia" I sometimes wondered "Is there anybody out there?" Then, slowly but surely I started seeing more and more hits.  It took until May 10 of this year to reach 1,000 views but just this week we reached the 10,000 view mark!

We have had visitors from all over the world:  the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, France, Ukraine, India, Australia and the Philippines.  I have "met" many wonderful people - even the relatives of some of the departed whose stories I told.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive with only one negative comment to date.

I have had a lot of fun researching and telling these stories over the past year.  The object of this blog is to tell these stories so that the people featured will not be forgotten.  Some of the stories have been happy, most have been sad, some tragic - just like life itself.

So as we reach the one year mark and the 10,000 view milestone THANK YOU to all who have emailed, commented or contributed and most of all thank you to my loyal readers, some of whom have been with me from the start. Thank you also to those wonderful people at The Association of Graveyard Rabbits and GeneaBloggers.  Much of my success has come through those sites.  I have many more interesting stories in the queue and I am "digging up" new ones all the time so I hope you'll Stay Tuned! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

AT REST - P.F.C. Larry L. Kauffman

I came across the following story by accident and thought long and hard before I decided to post it.  Further research showed that all members of the immediate family had passed away, so I decided to go ahead.  It is a very sad story that leaves many unanswered questions.

One Sunday taking grave photos at Jewish Waldheim I found myself at Gate 226 - Congregation Atereth Zion.  I have mentioned before that I usually photograph the graves of members of the military who died in service so when I saw the gravestone of P.F.C. Larry L. Kauffman I took a picture of it:

I could see from the tombstone that he died at the age of 24, but I couldn't think of any armed conflict that happened in 1958 - it was after Korea and before Vietnam.  Unfortunately as I uncovered the facts surrounding his life and death there were more questions unanswered than answered.  But first a little background:

Larry Lawrence Kauffman was born in Chicago January 31, 1934, the first child of  Dr. Charles Kauffman, DDS and Jane Z. Kauffman nee Bellow.  The 1940 census shows the Kauffman family living at 5042 Glenwood Avenue.

You may remember this as the same building where Morey Lasky and his family were living when he passed away in 1939 (see previous post).

Charles J. Kauffman was born in Russia on August 28, 1904 and Jane Zelda Bellow Kauffman was also born in Russia on August 25, 1907.  In 1940 both of the Kauffmans reported that they were naturalized citizens of the United States.  On June 28, 1944 their second son Robert Irwin Kauffman was born.  As with most families, the Kauffmans' names did not show up in the newspapers.  They were neither famous nor infamous - just a typical American family.

In March of 1957, Larry Kauffman enlisted in the United States Army.  In about August of 1957 he was assigned to the Presidio Military Base in San Francisco, California, one of the most beautiful spots in the United States - in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.  

We don't know what led up to it, but we do know that at 7:50 PM on the evening of August 22, 1958 Lawrence Kauffman was found hanging by his neck in the stockade at the Presidio Army base.

Stockade at the Presidio
The official cause of death was asphyxiation from strangulation - suicide from hanging in the post stockade "not while at work". 

That last sentence may mean that Lawrence Kauffman worked at the stockade rather than having been a prisoner at the stockade - we don't know.

The embalmed body of P.F.C. Lawrence Kauffman was flown back to Chicago on August 25, 1958 for burial, by Flying Tiger Airlines at a cost of $152.50 (!!!) to ship a container that weighed 475 lbs (the body, the casket and a sealed shipping container).

Dr. Charles J. Kauffman died on November 17, 1974 at the age of 70.

Sadly, tragedy would visit the Kauffman family yet again.  The Chicago Daily Tribune from December 17, 1988 carried the following obituary:

Robert Irwin Kauffman, 44, died Thursday, Dec. 15 in Miami, Fl., he was the beloved son of Jane, nee Bellow, and the late Dr. Charles; beloved brother of the late Lawrence.  He is mourned by many friends and relatives in Miami, FL. and Chicago, IL. where he was born and grew up.  He was a graduate of the University of Illinois and a Realtor in Florida.  Service Sunday December 18, 9:30 a.m. at Cong. Bet Breira, 9400 S.W. 87th Ave., Miami, FL.  Interment Monday, December 19, 10:30 a.m. at Atereth Zion Cemetery, Jewish Waldheim, 18th and Harlem.  Info. Furth Funeral Direction. 784-4360.

Jane Zelda Bellow Kauffman died on May 9, 2003 just short of her 96th birthday, in a nursing home in Mason, Ohio where she had gone to live with extended family.

In this blog I have occasionally told the stories of other people who chose to end their own life.  It is very easy to judge without knowing all the facts or seeing into the mind of the departed.  As with Paulina Klein who took her own life and that of her infant daughter, Lawrence Kauffman felt that his only option on August 22, 1958 was to end his own life - a tragedy, to be sure.

P.F.C. Larry Lawrence Kauffman - may he rest in peace.

Friday, September 7, 2012

SHE LOVED EVANSTON - Viola Arabella Crouch Reeling

I am a lifelong resident of Evanston, Illinois.  My mother's family came to Evanston from the Hudson River Valley in New York about 1905 and there has been at least one member of our family who has lived here ever since.  My mother was born here, in St. Francis Hospital, and she died in that same hospital in 2003.  My father came to Evanston from Lacon, Illinois in 1936.  I have a great love for this city, and as I like to say "Our roots are deep here."  From a young age I was interested in the history of Evanston.  Maybe it's because my mother used to tell stories about her father Jacob Kramer the landscaper who provided landscaping for Evanston's grandest homes:  For industrialist George Dryden, for James A. Patten the "Wheat King" for Edward Hines, the "Lumber King" and for Charles Gates Dawes, Vice President of the United States.

In the days before the internet, collecting information was not easy - we had to find our information in books.  Once upon a time many years ago I went to our school library and asked for a history of Evanston.  The librarian went to the shelves and drew out a compact volume bound in blue cloth.  "This is the best history of Evanston there is", she said. The book was "Evanston, It's Land and Its People" by Viola Crouch Reeling.

It had been published by The Fort Dearborn Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  I took the book home and devoured it from cover to cover.  It not only told the history of Evanston, it had photos! 

After reading it I had to have my own copy - so I scoured all the used book stores on the North Shore until I found one.  It's the first history of Evanston I ever owned and to this day remains my favorite.  I decided to see what I could find out about Viola Crouch Reeling, a woman who shared my love for Evanston.  Thanks to the internet I was not only able to find out Viola's story, I was also able to find a connection she had with my own family!

Viola Arabella Crouch was born February 20, 1872 in Newark, Licking County, Ohio to Notley Hayes Crouch and his wife Sarah Louisa Wiseman Crouch.  Viola was the youngest of four children:  Joseph (b. 1856), Franklin (b. 1857), and Lula (b. 1869).  Viola's father was a harness-maker, and through him Viola had the right to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Notley Crouch was a direct descendant of John Manley, a corporal who fought in Captain John Randolph's Company (light cavalry) in "Lee's Legion" and was with George Washington at Valley Forge.  Viola's blood was as blue as the cover of her book.

I don't know how Viola happened to come to Chicago, but I do know that she was married to George Joseph Reeling on April 26, 1899 at St. Vincent's Catholic Church.

George Joseph Reeling was born August 10, 1873 in Chicago, the son of Joseph E. Reeling and Hibernia Catherine Forrestall.  Joseph Reeling was a house painter by trade and had given a disability discharge from the US Army after he was wounded in the Civil War.

Viola and George Reeling set up house at 2069 N. Robey Street in Chicago.  George found a job as a clerk with the Illinois Malleable Iron Company.

George J. Reeling

Their first child, George Hays Reeling was born September 19, 1900. Their second child, Kenneth, came along April 13, 1902.  

By 1910 the young Reeling family took up residence in Evanston - at 822 Michigan Avenue where they would remain for the next 40+ years. By now George was the Assistant Superintendent of the iron works.  He would ultimately work his way up to Superintendent and then part owner of the Illinois Malleable Iron Company.  

822 Michigan Avenue, Evanston
In 1914 the Reelings rounded out their family by welcoming their daughter Catherine L. Reeling.  

The Fort Dearborn Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has a rich history.  On June 6, 1894, a quiet gathering took place at "Anchorfast", the Evanston home of Miss Cornelia Gray Lunt, daughter of Evanston founder Orrington Lunt (and a future writeup on this blog). After a spirited discussion, the name Fort Dearborn was chosen in memory of "the old fort that gave protection to the gallant garrison and early settlers of Chicago." Cornelia Lunt was elected the first regent. In 1895, Frances Willard, prominent social reformer and the first woman dean at Northwestern University, was elected to an honorary life membership. 

By September 1925, the chapter reached a size not easily accommodated in a private home and meetings moved to the Evanston Woman's Club. By 1929, membership reached 276. In 1964, 431 members were recorded making Fort Dearborn the largest chapter in Illinois. 

Since its inception, the Fort Dearborn Chapter of the DAR wanted to lend its name and resources to a comprehensive history of its home city - Evanston, Illinois.  In 1923 they were approached by the Evanston Public Library who reiterated the need for a comprehensive Evanston history.  According to the library they were being asked for a history on almost a daily basis and had nowhere else to turn.  After much discussion the assignment was taken by Viola Crouch Reeling on the condition that she could do all her own research.  Her comprehensive research and first person interviews, as well as the gathering of over 100 photographs went into the finished product:  "Evanston, Its Land and Its People".  The book was an immediate success and Mrs. Reeling's schedule soon became full with speaking requests, which she proudly fulfilled until her death.

George and Viola Reeling

Once the "author bug" had bitten Viola Reeling she decided to try her hand at writing a different kind of book and in 1939 the Bruce Humphreys Publishing Co. of Boston published her children's book "Funny Fanny and Her Friends."  It is not recorded whether she was ever asked to lecture on this book.

George Joseph Reeling died on Christmas Eve 1947 and Viola followed him on April 18, 1958.  Viola's obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of April 20, 1958 is a simple one:

REELING - Viola C. Reeling of Evanston, April 18, 1958, wife of the late George J. Reeling; mother of George Hays and Kenneth Reeling and Mrs. Marshall Smith, all of Evanston.  Resting at chapel, 1567 Maple avenue, Evanston, where services will be held Monday at 2:30 p.m. Interment Memorial Park Cemetery.

As the obituary says, George and Viola Reeling are buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, Illinois.

My Contact With the Reelings

As I have mentioned before, my father started working for The Public Service Company of Northern Illinois in 1926.  He was transferred by Public Service in 1936 to Evanston where he met and courted my mother. Eventually Public Service was merged into The Commonwealth Edison Company.  When I was a little boy, Commonwealth Edison had a store on Sherman Avenue in Evanston. In the front of the store they sold electric appliances and in the back you could pay your light bill and get light bulbs.  The front of the store was staffed with salesmen, but the back was staffed with management personnel from Commonwealth Edison.  Whenever my mother and I were in downtown Evanston we always stopped in to say hello to my Dad.  My Dad was the assistant to the General Superintendent of Commonweath Edison for the Northern Division of Illinois who was ~~~ Kenneth Reeling ~~~ the son of George and Viola Reeling.  My dad worked for Ken Reeling for many years and my parents and the Reelings were good friends.  Over the years I myself was in the Reelings home on Ewing in Evanston but never made the connection between Kenneth Reeling and Viola Crouch Reeling. Sadly, Kenneth Reeling died in 1988.  He and his wife Muriel are buried next to George and Viola Reeling at Memorial Park Cemetery.

I would have loved to have met Viola Crouch Reeling and hear her stories about the Evanston of days gone by.  So many of the pioneers of Evanston who were alive in the 1920s to be interviewed by her were gone within one generation.  I never met Viola Reeling but I can tip my hat to her today and thank her for the wonderful legacy she left us:  "Evanston, Its Land and Its People".

Through the magic of the internet you can read "Evanston, Its Land and Its People" free of charge. Go to this link:

and you can read it, or download a copy to keep.

Viola Crouch Reeling was not born in Evanston, Illinois, but she was a long-time resident and came to love this city and its rich history. Frances Williard was another transplanted citizen who came to love Evanston as home.  The words of Frances Willard would make a good epitaph for Viola Crouch Reeling:

"When I die, I want to register as from Evanston." 

Viola Crouch Reeling - wife, mother, patriot, author, historian - May she rest in peace.