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Archive for June, 2017

The other day I posted Richard DeKorn’s death certificate from Kalamazoo and asked for help with the cause of death. Readers were very helpful, and I’m so appreciative.

I mentioned at the time that Richard’s daughter and Grandpa’s mother, Cora DeKorn Zuidweg (Mrs. Adrian Zuidweg), wasn’t in the register of deaths. Two readers kindly sent me Cora’s death certificate that they found on the Seeking Michigan website.

Cora is a particularly intriguing person to me because Grandpa and Grandma used to tell me that I looked a lot like her, especially with my hair pulled back. Cora always wore her hair up. The first time I saw this picture of Cora I was in my 20s and felt as if I was looking into a mirror.

Also, Grandpa’s stories about her included stories of her love for animals and her courage to defend them. I feel a real affinity in the area of love of animals and wish I had her courage.

Here are Cora and Adrian (senior) with Grandpa, Adrian (junior)

What I knew about Cora’s death was that she had cancer that had spread throughout her body and her brain became confused from the disease. I also knew that she was dying when my grandparents got married. That explains why they got married out of town and on their own. My grandmother moved into the house with Grandpa and his mother and took care of her until she died a few months later.

Now take a look at the cause of death on the certificate:

Exhaustion – debility from gen – metastatic sarcoma spindle cell – primary in left thigh, followed injury was removed 9-16-29 – had existed there 5 years.

I believe that it is what it says.

So cancer that started in her left thigh. Cancer that, according to Google, would be treated with chemo today. If caught in time, the results would probably be positive. Spindle cell sarcoma apparently is a connective tissue cancer.

I thought that was a little bit of a coincidence because it seems that Cora had the cancer since she was about 52 and when I was 50 I had a tumor in my foot. While my tumor turned out not to be cancer, it was a giant cell reparative granuloma, which means that it has some characteristics of cancer (possibility of metastasizing and also destruction and replacement of healthy tissue). My tumor is the type that also reacts to injury or pressure, as Cora’s did.

After checking out more on Google, I also learned that Giant Cell tumors can turn into cancer if left untreated–and sometimes into spindle cell. Notice that Cora’s original tumor wasn’t removed until 1929, about two years into her diagnosis.

All very curious. I know that I am lucky that I got 21st century medical care for my foot.

Cora passed away at age 57, never meeting her three grandchildren. My mother would be born less than two years after Cora’s death.

 

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The haphazard method of genealogy research that I practice is fun because I follow threads that interest me at the moment, and since I am always juggling a lot at once because I’m a little hyper, it probably works best for me.

Nevertheless, this style has its limitations. I didn’t realize the extent, though, until I went to look up “causes of death” on death certificates for my grandfather’s family. Well, darn. They all lived and died in Kalamazoo–and apparently it is not easy to find death certificates in Kalamazoo. At least not from afar.

Out of 6 people–Grandpa’s parents and both sets of grandparents–I only have one death certificate, that of Richard DeKorn. When I pushed myself, I did find 4 of the other 5 on the death registers online. Then I emailed the County Clerk volunteers to see if someone can find the information for me. Keeping my fingers crossed on this one!

Grandpa’s mother, Cora DeKorn Zuidweg, isn’t even in the register. She passed away near the end of 1932, but I couldn’t find her the last few months of 1932 or even the beginning of 1933. I hope that volunteers can give me some insight into this issue.

Here is Richard DeKorn’s death certificate:

Here are some things I noticed of interest from the 1930 document:

Richard lived at 1440 Maple Street (not too far from Oakland Drive), not at the corner of Burdick and Balch. Does this mean that he had already moved with his second wife, Jennie, from the old neighborhood?

He died at New Borgess Hospital. So Borgess must have had that name at that time.

He had been retired for fifteen years from his occupation as a mason contractor. Since he was 78 when he passed away, he retired at age 63.

What does his cause of death state?

Secondary pneumonia 2 days.

Mucopurulent bronchitis 10 days.

Prostatic hypertrophy [interstial???] cystitis 3 months.

Is that last the same thing as prostatitis?

Does this mean that he had a UTI that eventually led to pneumonia?

If penicillin was first used as an antibiotic in 1928, what was the state of antibiotic usage in 1930? Were they being used yet? Did Richard die because he didn’t have an antibiotic for cystitis?

UPDATE:

Since I posted this earlier this morning, I’ve had some interesting info shared. Amy Cohen of Brotman Blog asked her medical expert about Richard’s cause of death. Here is what he said:

I would say with confidence that the ultimate cause of death was pneumonia–formerly known as the old man’s friend because it caused death quickly and with relatively little discomfort. It sounds as though he initially became ill with either a viral infection or had COPD (Chronic Bronchitis), which progressed to a pneumonia. Cystitis is any inflammation of the bladder, and it does not need to be infectious in nature. A man with an enlarged prostrate could have cystitis from inadequate bladder emptying and bladder distension. If a UTI was the primary factor, then the ultimate cause of death would have most likely been sepsis, not pneumonia.

As for antibiotic treatment at his time of death, none really existed. Sulfa-based antibiotics and penicillin may have been discovered in the late 20’s – early 30’s, but they would not be commercially available for another decade. Sulfa was being used in the 30’s, but Penicillin use didn’t really start until WW2 and probably was not widely prescribed until late 40’s – early 50’s.  People not dying from bacterial infections is just another thing Baby Boomers take for granted.

I sure do! I was born in 1955, and I remember getting a lot of penicillin as a kid because I was sick a lot. It never occurred to me that my parents wouldn’t have had that same advantage.

Also, TAO (who writes a fabulous blog about adoption) shared some specific information about penicillin. According to her, it wasn’t prescribed until 1945, which is corroborated by Amy’s medical expert.

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Great photos of a tour of Henderson Castle in Kalamazoo from Pedis-n-Passports.

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While visiting Kalamazoo for my son’s college orientation at Western Michigan University, we had the incredible opportunity to spend a night at The Henderson Castle.  This delightful step back in time was more than we could have hoped for and was an enchanting reminder of our trip to Europe a few years ago when we resided in an Austrian castle.  Immediately upon entering, our senses were ignited with the spark of history–the aroma of old wood, the creaking of the original flooring and the soft melody of piano transported us to a royal destination.

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Almost two years ago, I posted photos of my grandfather as a very young man with an unidentified female. I hypothesized that she was his girlfriend before my grandmother.

Here they are together–looks like a couple to me.

I was going through some papers and found memory books my grandparents had prepared (one of his memories and one of hers) for the grandchildren. Inside Grandpa’s memory book, the question is asked: WHO IS THE GIRL YOU REMEMBER THE MOST?

This was his answer: (2) Vander Weele and Garthe: Don’t remember first names

So I did a little research on these names. I figured out who I believe at least one of the girls is, based on the census reports and other documents.

Garthe turned out to be Margaret Christine Garthe, born 11 days after my grandfather in 1908. She wasn’t from Kalamazoo, but from northern Michigan. She had come to Kalamazoo to attend Western. I found her in the 1928 Western State Teacher’s College yearbook.

Tell me if this isn’t the girl my grandfather is seen with above. Back row, 3rd from left.

 

From Ancestry it looks as if Margaret married Hans James Knutson. She passed away in 1997 in Muskegon, Michigan. Grandpa lived until 2000, happily married to the end to Grandma.

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I was doing a little research for a post I want to write about my grandfather when I discovered this link to a historical photography project in Kalamazoo.

Students are taking old photos from the Kalamazoo Public Library collection and photographing the same scene from the same angle. Very interesting. It’s still a work in progress, and I can’t wait to see more.

Check it out here: KALAMAZOO THEN & NOW

Although I am so disappointed that Western Michigan University’s old campus was allowed to be destroyed for the most part, I do think Kalamazoo has a strong voice for history–in part because of the university and an active library and in part because so many people love Kalamazoo.

How about your community? How does it take care of its history?

downtown Kalamazoo, photo by Joseph DeKorn

 

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Since this is the week of Memorial Day, I thought I would share something about a veteran from my husband’s side of the family. His paternal grandfather, Isidore Scheshko, was born 24 December 1889 in Tiraspol, Moldova, but ended up serving the United States army in WWI (and survived the war).

Six days before his 24th birthday, Isidore arrived in New York City, planning to become an American citizen.

Four years later, on 23 November 1917, he joined the U.S. Army and two months later was sent overseas for 13 months. His discharge information states that he was not wounded.

What the paperwork doesn’t say is that he was gassed during WWI–something that happened to a great many soldiers during that war. After that, he had a bad stutter. The only person he could speak to without stuttering was his wife, my husband’s grandmother, Celia. Since the long-term effects of mustard gas don’t appear to include neurological problems, I am speculating that maybe PTSD caused the stuttering.

My husband says that Isidore was also in the Czar’s army before he immigrated to the U.S. I think he’s a hero for joining up again so soon after coming to this country. After all, he was trying to support himself and learn English and he had a girlfriend (yes, Celia).

Not sure what army uniform this is: any ideas? Note that X on his right sleeve and the bars on the bottom of his left sleeve. Why do his legs appear to be “wrapped” with fabric?

We have a couple of postcards he sent to Celia while he was away. Here is one from 8 September 1918.

Then two months later:

Notice that he spells Celia’s name Sealie. And his own first name without the E at the end. The fine print legible underneath Isidore’s handwriting is the printed card itself, not postmark information. I don’t know where he was when this was sent, but it was in the middle of the period where he was “overseas.” It might seem surprising that after only four years in the United States, Isidore could write so well in English, but we do believe he wrote these cards himself. From the first card to the second, he apparently learned that it’s “I before E except after C.”

There is no way to tell from these upbeat notes to “Sealie” that Isidore had been gassed or had, in fact, seen any “action.”

Get a load of that fur hat in the photo on the left! It looks like the coat collar might also be fur. Do you think that is a uniform of the Russian army?

Isidore’s trade as a young man in America was a house painter, and when I think of the fumes he dealt with after he had gone through the gas in the war, it makes me wonder how he lived until 1953. But he didn’t stay a painter; within a few years, he and Celia owned a candy store in Sutton Place in Manhattan where his daughter (my husband’s aunt) went to school for a time with Anderson Cooper’s mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. That didn’t make him rich, but he didn’t suffer by coming to the United States, other than what he went through in the war.

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