On Wednesday, I utilized the “Ask a Librarian” link on the Lake County Public Library website to inquire about locating my older sister’s obituary. Violet Marie PALMER was the first-born of my siblings. We always knew that she died at the age of 11 months from pneumonia — two years before the 1940 birth of my second oldest sibling, Billy. So none of us had the privilege of knowing her.
During those days doctors made house calls; and her doctor delayed his visit to Violet because he had tickets to a Golden Gloves event. I never asked if he came afterwards. I remember his name and I share it when recounting the event to my family members; but I will not disclose it here. The important thing is that I have also remembered his name in prayer.
It’s unfortunate that the only evidence of Violet’s existence is encapsulated in the 3″ x 3″ patch of text displayed below and the only known portrait of her. But I am truly grateful to now have at least this obituary to add to: (1) a copy of the portrait, that I’m waiting to lay eyes on again when my relative scans it and sends it to me; (2) an increasingly foggy memory of her headstone, at Fern Oaks Cemetery, which includes a small photo of the portrait embedded under glass in the upper-right corner. No. (3) is just something somebody said that’s stuck in my head. I think this was an extended relative or family friend: “People said that baby was just too pretty to live.” She was a pretty baby; but I’ve always regarded this statement as someone’s honest attempt at sharing a sentiment. There are just some things I remember from childhood. I was truly astonished with how quickly my issue was resolved. After my futile searches of newspaper indexes for Violet’s obituary, the LCPL responded to my inquiry within a matter of a few hours with a scan of it. I immediately thanked Sharon for her awesome detective work and for responding to my inquiry so quickly. Even though the text is clearly legible now, I’ve transcribed it for all posterity.
|Violet Marie Palmer, age 11 months, died last night in her home at 1933 Adams as a result of pneumonia. She is survived by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Palmer. Funeral services will be held in St. Paul’s Baptist church at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning with Rev. W. F. Lovelace officiating. Burial will be in Fern Oaks cemetery. The body was taken to Cresswell’s funeral home.|
My first reaction to reading the obituary was that I distinctly remember living at the address listed as my family’s residence: 1933 Adams — especially from the age of about 3 years. So, from 1936 (the year they were married) until about 1953 (my last memory of living in this building) 1933 Adams was my family’s home. This was an apartment building that housed three families. I remember there was a basement with an exterior entrance. I don’t recall who lived there. Our family lived on the main floor; and Mrs. Lila Allen (my Godmother, affectionately called “IE”) lived on the second floor. I plan to include “IE” in the family history aspect of my genealogy because she played an integral part in my early upbringing.
- I even have photos of my parents standing in front of 1933 and one of my second sister (Patricia Anne PALMER) and me playing (I was riding my tricycle) on the sidewalk outside.
- I remember IE standing on the sidewalk with me and coaxing me to run and meet my mother one day as she returned home from work.
- I have a photo of my paternal grandfather (Will E. PALMER) sitting outside of 1933. The copy in my possession needs to be cleaned up.
- I remember one of my Dad’s co-workers threatening to cut my ears off if I was nursing a bottle the next time he came over. (I ran and hid behind one of my parents — don’t remember if it was Momma or Daddy.)
So, you see, I do know the building.
The next thing I focused on was the church where the funeral was held. It was directly across the street. This dark brick structure looms in the backdrop of my memories of 19th & Adams. My only memories of St. Paul are attending Vacation Bible School in the summers. Rev. L.K. Jackson was the pastor; but I also remember there was a blind preacher named Rev. Russell who presided over the VBS. During our late adult years, my brother, Rev. Charles PALMER, told me we once belonged to St. Paul. That explains why Violet’s funeral was held there. That building has been demolished. 1933 was one of the last buildings on that block to meet that fate. St. Paul is now located on 23rd & Grant.
The mortician, Cresswell’s Funeral Home, closed its doors about 30 years ago. I did make a few phone calls in an effort to locate the records. Despite learning that funeral homes are only required by law to maintain records for seven (7) years, I’m still going to make a concentrated effort to find out what happened to Cresswell’s records. Now that I have a date of death, my death certificate inquiry will be mailed on Monday; and I’ll also draft a follow-up letter to Fern Oaks to back up the phone message I left for them on Thursday.
With the genealogical tasks underway, and after I got over the excitement of finally seeing the details of my parents’ accounts in print, I began to notice the articles surrounding the obituary. They were not all obituaries. There were two others. But directly above Violet’s was a short write-up about a matinee dance. To the direct left was an article about a club’s activities. To the right was an ad for a pimple ointment and another ad below it that turned out to be an earlier location of the butcher that Momma purchased meats from. What was this? I didn’t think a whole lot about it. But I did return to the LCPL site to ask the Librarian if I could get a scan of the entire page — first, so I could document the obituary for my blog post; and secondly, because I just love nostalgia.
At this juncture, I have to thank Kathy Wienrank and all the other members of the Indiana Genealogy! Just Ask! facebook group. Were it not for their experience and willingness to help, I would not have found Violet. What an awesome group. Thanks guys!
As in all genealogy research, from every new development three additional questions will emerge. The librarian’s reply included a brief description of the page where Violet’s obituary was located. It was on Page 6 of the Wednesday, September 21, 1938 edition of The Gary Post Tribune. My first observation was that it was not in the Obituary section. It was in column 2 of the page and the section entitled, “News of Gary’s Negro Citizens.” Was there an obituary section on this date? If yes, why were Negroes excluded from it? If no, when was the first run of an obituary column? And was it always a part of the Classified section as it is today? Just below the header and byline, there’s a phone number to call in items to be included. I’m thankful to whoever called Violet’s obituary in.
There’s all kinds of stuff on Page 6. To be continued . . .