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Posts Tagged ‘Kalamazoo’

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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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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In “honor” of the weather some of the United States has been having this week, I am posting photographs from the Burdick and Balch neighborhood in Kalamazoo during the blizzard of 1978.The yellow house was my grandparents’ house at the corner of Burdick and Emerson.The white building was my grandfather’s Sunoco station.The other houses are from the neighborhood. As befitting a 1970s camera and film, the color is poor–yellowy and faded.

I’ve posted the house and gas station in the past. Here is the house from 1947:

Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Burdick Street

You can find the station at Down at the Station.

Meanwhile, Phoenix was about 90 degrees yesterday :).

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I remember my grandfather wearing his Sunoco “uniform” and his Sunday sportcoat, but I never thought of him as at the height of fashion. At least not in his attire.

But take a look at him as a 22 year old in 1930!

At first I saw his sport coat, sweater, shirt, fancy belt, and plaid pants as a spiffy outfit, but didn’t stop to think: why is he wearing bloomers? haha

Well, he’s wearing knickers (no, I don’t mean those kind of knickers), which are short for knickerbockers. Copied from this website:

Knickerbockers, later shortened to knickers, were popular sports wear for wealthy gentleman. Knickers were baggy pants that fit low on the natural waist and tight below the knee, ballooning out around the thighs. For upper class gentlemen wearing white or light striped knickers in summer with a matching Norfolk jacket was the look of the teens and early 1920’s.

Grandpa is not wearing a Norfolk jacket, but one that does look a little preppy over that sweater and shirt collar.

 

Plaid Plus Fours

Variations of knickers included plus-fours, plus- sixes, plus-eights and plus-tens. The plus is how many inches below the knee they hung. Plus fours came in tweeds, linen, corduroy, and flannel. Many were solid colors but to be really trendy men wore stripes, checks, and plaid patterns.  They were already on trend when the prince of wales went on tour in American wearing plus fours. His approval meant any man NOT wearing plus fours was out of  fashion.

Notice that “to be really trendy men wore stripes, checks, and plaid patterns.” That’s Grandpa–“really trendy”!

Knickers were worn for more than just sports and casual entertainment. They were common among both fashion forward industries such as the movies, but also among working classes who found the sturdier material knickers quite useful on the farm, for making deliveries, and for some factory work. The short legs and light weight clothes made them cool to wear in summer.

Not sure what beach this photo was taken at, but his outfit is sporty for the time period, as befitting a walk on the beach. By today’s standards, he’s a little over-dressed!

 

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Alice Leeuwenhoek received a postcard wishing her a Joyous Thanksgiving (and a Cordial one) in 1911.

The card was postmarked November 29 because the holiday fell on November 30 in 1911. If this seems late, Thanksgiving didn’t fall on the fourth Thursday of the month until 1941 when FDR changed it.

This card was sent by Alice’s cousin’s Elizabeth. Who in the world was her cousin Elizabeth?

Alice’s mother, Jennie DeKorn, had 2 siblings: her sister Cora had only my grandfather who was 3 in 1911. Her brother wasn’t even married yet and his children weren’t born until the 20s. So what about the Leeuwenhoeks? The only one I know that came to this country (and would have written in English and MAILED A CARD FROM KALAMAZOO) was Gerrit who died single at the age of 21 in the Spanish-American War.

Elizabeth appears to be young–by her handwriting, her slang (kinda), and the general sloppiness of the writing.

Since Alice lived in Kalamazoo and the card was postmarked Kalamazoo, it is also curious why Elizabeth said she wished Alice would “come down sometime.” It’s possible that she just lived on the other side of town since that can seem an enormous distance to children who can’t travel that far by themselves. Alice was 14 in 1911.

Could Elizabeth be a friend?

More mysteries.

What is not a mystery is that I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving.

 

 

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