Posts Tagged ‘Karen Hesse’

In the last two posts, I told you about the series of disasters that befell the Paak (Peek/Paake/Pake) family.  As I started researching for more information, I came across a worse and more horrific family disaster.  And this one happened to my very own great-great-grandmother, Alice Paak DeKorn, Mrs. Richard DeKorn (born Aaltje Peek in the Netherlands), on May 26 1891.

Alice Paak DeKorn

Alice Paak DeKorn

If you remember the post with the pretty shawl, that was her shawl.  She’s the one with the 3 Peek sisters; Alice was  the prettiest one.  Poor George was her brother. She was also the mother of my great-grandmother Cora DeKorn Zuidweg.

Read it and weep:

At the time this happened, Alice’s children were 18 (Jennie), 16 (Cora), and 10 (Joseph).  For the next week, the local newspaper provides updates about Alice’s condition, which seems to be improving.  Alice did live another 17 years after the accident.

The “comfortable house” she lived in is said to be at Burdick and Balch.  That would be this house, built by her husband Richard DeKorn who stands in front:

Richard DeKorn's home at the corner of Burdick and Balch, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Richard DeKorn’s home at the corner of Burdick and Balch, Kalamazoo, Michigan

I would like to know more about “Dutch Pete’s,” where the oil stove was purchased.  What happened in those days with an accident like this?  Would there have been an investigation to see if there was a culprit responsible for the stove or if it was human error that caused the fire in the first place?

Notice how Alice was being a hero, trying to help out the neighbors so that they didn’t lose their house and belongings and so that they were safe.  I always had a good feeling about her.

Finding this accident in the newspaper archives did shake me up somewhat. After all, she looks like such a sweet lady, and I can only imagine how horrifically painful her injuries must have been–and what a frightening experience.

Strangely, my favorite contemporary children’s book (and one I taught several times) is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.  At the beginning of the book, the book’s protagonist Billie Jo loses her mother by an accident which is very similar. I remember that Hesse said in an interview that she found the accident in a newspaper article and put it in her book.  There are differences as in the book the cause seems to be an accident where the family confused kerosene with water, and in this newspaper account it seems to hint at a defective oil stove. I imagine there were far too many of these kinds of accidents in those days.

Alice’s terrible accident must have left her family very shaken up. I’m sure it made an impact on her children’s lives.

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