Thursday, September 29, 2011

MOTHER GIVES ALARM - Anna-Nathan-Dave Koplovitz

From the sacred grounds of Jewish Waldheim Cemetery comes a story almost too horrible to contemplate:

Fatal Fire in Humble West Side Home of Benjamin Kaplan

Two children were burned to death, a girl 4 years old and a boy 6 years old, and a third child, a girl about 10 years old, was burned perhaps fatally in a fire early this morning in a two story brick building at 1104 West Fourteenth street.

Benjamin Kapovitz, a peddler, is the father of the children.

The dead children are Nathan, 6, and David, 4 years of age. Annie, 10, was probably fatally burned.

Mother Gives Alarm

The family occupied the first floor in the rear of the building, which is of brick construction. The whole rear of the building was in flames when the mother ran into the street screaming and gave the alarm.

Pedestrians attracted to the scene by her cries carried the children to the street.

The younger girl was dead when carried out and the boy died while being taken to the county hospital. Efforts were made there to save the life of the third child. The bodies of the dead children are at the county morgue.

They were burned to death in their beds. The mother rescued her nursing baby.

Others Driven Out

Chief Michael Merwin of the seventh battalion with engine companies Nos. 18 and 6, answered the single alarm of fire sent in and quickly got the flames under control.
Chicago Daily Tribune, January 23, 1916

Anna, Nathan and Dave are buried together in Gate 19 - Gomle Chesed Shel Emeth.  May they rest in peace.

Anna Koplovitz

Nathan Koplovitz

Dave Koplovitz

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


A sad story to remind us that money doesn't buy happiness:


Mrs. Florence Hill, 50, Leaps From Her 5th Av. Apartment
After Leaving Note to Boy.

She Had Large Fortune.

Ill, She Writes of ‘Agony’ in Messages – 
Divorced Husband to Fight for Custody of Lad.

Mrs. Florence B. Hill, 50 years old, reputed possessor of a fortune of $1,000,00 and daughter of the late George M. Hill, Chicago publisher, committed suicide early yesterday, the police said, by leaping from her ninth-floor apartment at 1212 Fifth Avenue, near 102nd Street, into a rear court-yard. 

Notes addressed to Curtis, her 8-year-old son, and to friends indicated that Mr. Hill had been despondent over illness.  The body was found at 5:30 A.M. by Fred Kearns, the building fireman.  An ambulance physician, summoned immediately said the woman had been dead several hours.

The boy, who was to return soon to his class at the Peekskill Military Academy was asleep in the three-room apartment when detectives of the East 104th Street station arrived.  Bewildered at the intrusion, he protested against being awakened.  He was told that his mother had become ill and had been taken to a hospital.

The police found the following note addressed to the boy:  “Oh, Curtis!  I am in such agony I can’t go on.  Please strive on always to be a fine young man, and the only way is to follow your Bible and seek your God.  I know this may seem strange to you, but mother is unable to write and tell you how much I am suffering.  So love and blessing, Mother.”

Another note was addressed to “Dear Anne Murch,” a friend living on the floor below in the same building.  It said:
“Will you take care of Curtis until my cousin, William Himmel, arrives?  There is a bag of jewelry in the silver pitcher in the dining room which is for my Aunt Nellie.  I am in such mental torture I can’t go on.  Much love to you.  Florence.”

Mr. Himmel, notified of his cousin’s death, arrived by plane from Chicago last night and immediately took charge of the funeral arrangements.  He said that burial would be in Rosehill Cemetery, in Chicago.
In other notes Mrs. Hill asked the police to communicate with Mrs. Harold Conover at the Hotel; Croydon and with Mrs. George H. Payne at 145 West Fifty-fifth Street, both friends.

Mrs. Murch was not reached and Mrs. Conover, who had known Mrs. Hill for twenty years, took the boy to her apartment.  She said her friend had passed August with relatives in Chicago and had returned last week.  A few days ago she visited a physician concerning her illness, from which she had been suffering for several months.  Mrs. Conover said Mrs. Hill might have been alarmed by the physician’s diagnosis of her condition.

The silver and boxes yielded more than 200 pieces of jewelry and twenty shares of stock.  Mrs. Conover said she believed the jewelry was worth about $25,000 and that Mrs. Hill had even more valuable jewelry in a safe deposit box.  The jewelry included watches, brooches, eighteen bracelets, fifty-five pairs of earrings, lockets, fifty-eight strings of beads, thirty-one rings and many other articles.

A legal fight over custody of the boy was indicated last night.  Mrs. Conover said she understood that Mr. Himmel was his guardian, but Chicago dispatched reported that Mrs. Hill’s second husband, Curt von Puttkamer, whom she divorced, intended to start legal proceedings to gain custody.

Asked about the likelihood of a suit for guardianship, Mr. Himmel said he knew nothing of Mr. von Puttkamer’s plans.  He would not comment on what action, if any, he contemplated to carry out the guardianship.

Mrs. Conover said her friend had inherited most of her fortune from her mother, who died about two years ago, when mother and daughter were living in Forest Hills.  Mrs. Hill came to this city five years ago.

Mrs. Hill sued Mr. Puttkamer for separate maintenance in 1928, charging he had abducted their son and had attempted to get $25,000 for his return.  Later Mrs. Hill won a divorce on the ground her husband was habitually drunk and she received custody of the boy.

Mr. Puttkamer announced through his attorney in Chicago yesterday that court action would be begun if Mr. Himmel insisted on keeping the boy.  Benjamin Ehrlich, the attorney, said that in addition to a $750,000 trust fund Mrs. Hill had real estate holdings that brought her fortune up to $1,000,000.

The Hill fortune was built up by George M. Hill, who conducted a publishing and advertising concern.  Mr. Himmel, who is the son of the aunt mentioned in the note to Mrs. Murch, is an officer of the White Book House, a Chicago publishing concern.

Mrs. Hill’s first marriage was with John Cuneo, millionaire head of the Cuneo Press.  When she divorced him in 1926 it was reported she received a substantial settlement, according to Chicago dispatches.
New York Times –Sep. 12, 1935

Florence Hill is interred in the Hill Family Room in the mausoleum in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago. May she rest in peace.

Florence B. Hill

Florence B. Hill

Friday, September 23, 2011


Here's the story of an Evanston nurse, killed "by accident" on her way to the European front during World War I:


Funeral in Chicago May Pay Last Honor to Miss Wood.

Plans for a military funeral for Miss Helen Burnett Wood, one of the two nurses of base hospital No. 12, the Northwestern university unit, who were killed by fragments of an exploding shell on board the steamship Mongolia, were set under way in Chicago yesterday.  Suggestions were made that the military honors for Miss Wood be celebrated in Chicago preceding the funeral at her home in Evanston.

William W. Buchanan, president of the Evanston Hospital association, and the Rev. D.H. Jones of the First Presbyterian church, Evanston, last night discussed plans for Miss Wood’s funeral.  They could see no objection to a military funeral, but expressed the wish to consult with members of the family.  Miss Wood’s relatives told a reporter for the Tribune that they would not object to public military services.  It is expected that Miss Wood’s body will arrive in Evanston today or tomorrow, but until definite information is received, no plans for the funeral will be decided on.

Capt. W.A. Moffett, commandant of the Great Lakes Naval Training station, was one of the first to express approval of the suggestion for a military funeral.  He said he would send the station band to participate in the service.

Mrs. James A. Patten of Evanston, a personal friend of Miss Wood, made the young nurse’s death the subject of a talk at the meeting of the Service Guild of the First Methodist Episcopal church, Hinman avenue and Church street, Evanston, yesterday afternoon.  Mrs. Patten told of the life work of Miss Wood, whom she first met several months ago while a patient at the Evanston hospital.  At that time Mrs. Patten was suffering tonsillitis and Miss Wood was her nurse.  A strong friendship sprang up between the wife of the millionaire wheat operator and the nurse.

Mrs. Patten was so affected by the death of Miss Wood that she refused to allow newspaper men in the church hall at the time she spoke.

The three nurses left Chicago Wednesday evening as members of base hospital No. 12, the Northwestern university hospital unit under the command of Maj. Fred A. Besley.  The unit, comprising twenty-three physicians, sixty-five trained nurse, and 153 enlisted men, sailed from New York Saturday and was the first to be dispatched to the front from the United States.

Miss Wood was the second of her family to die in the war.  One of her brothers, William, enlisting in Scotland, was killed in the Dardanelles campaign.  Another brother, James, was badly injured in France.

Two sisters, the Misses Anna and Jeanette Wood live in Evanston with Mr. and Mrs. James Hall, 2044 Sheridan road.  A great aunt, Mrs. Mary B. Miller, lives at 1578 Sherman avenue, Evanston.  All were nearly crazed by the news of Miss Wood’s death.  Miss Wood’s parents live in Effelburg, Scotland (sic), and her mother recently sent her a letter protesting against her taking the trip.

She was observing her twenty-eighth birthday anniversary last Wednesday when she was notified by telephone that she had been accepted as a member of the unit and had only five hours in which to prepare.

Two letters from her were received by her sisters after she reached New York, one mailed the day she arrived and the other after she had embarked.  Both were written in a happy vein and she assured her sisters she was unafraid of the trip.

Miss Wood was graduated from the Evanston hospital in 1914 ad was a nurse in the same institution when called for service.

Exact details of the accident are meager, as Washington has closed down tonight on the matter until an investigation discloses the true facts.

Dr. A.B. Kanavel, 30 North Michigan avenue, was notified of the accident yesterday afternoon by the New York chapter of the American Red Cross, which sent him the following telegram:

“Unavoidable accident during target practice with stern gun on steamship carrying base hospital No. 12 resulted in death of Mrs. Edith Ayres and Miss Helen Burnett Wood.  Miss Emma Matzen not injured dangerously.  Nurses were seated on upper deck 200 feet away from gun.  No one else injured in any way.”
Chicago Daily Tribune – May 22, 1917

Helen Burnett Wood is buried in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois. May she rest in peace.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Here's another tragic story from inside the gates of Jewish Waldheim Cemetery:


Louis Lakin, 18 years old, of 1206 North Kedzie avenue, 1931 captain of the divisional champion basketball team of Tuley High school, was shot and killed last night by Alexander Roney, 50 years old, a special policeman on the premises of the Dr. Herzl Community home at 1335 North California avenue.  The youth, graduated from Tuley High last June, was planning to enter the University of Illinois.  He had gone to the recreation center last night to play basketball.

Stories conflicted as to the shooting.  However, it grew out of an attempt by Lakin and a dozen companions to join a dance in the community hall.  Some of the boys scaled the fire escape and were seen by Louis Vargo, 51, of 3425 North Nena avenue, the janitor.  He summoned Roney, who ordered them down.

According to statements made by seven of the youths to Lieut. John Buckley of the West North avenue station, Vargo paddled each of them with a club as they alighted from the fire escape.  Lakin was the last to descend.  Julius Echeles, 16, 4008 Monroe street, a student at Crane Junior college, charged that Roney fired at Lakin point blank.

Roney’s story was that he and Vargo ordered the boys down and that they “rushed him.”  During the scuffle he was kicked and struck, he said.  He drew his revolver to frighten the boys, according to his statement, and one of the youths struck him from behind, causing the weapon to be discharged accidentally.  He did not intend to fire, he asserted.  Vargo told a similar story, but said he was so occupied with the boys at the time of the shooting he did not see the actual firing of the pistol.

Both men were taken to the station.  Seven of the boys were also taken into custody.  They were later allowed to go home.  Besides Echeles they were:  Frank Goldstein, 1543 North Homan avenue, Joseph Selden, 2405 Division street, Jack Salzman, 648 Crystal street, Irving Shenker, 1826 Evergreen avenue, Martin Brooks, 1739 North Francisco avenue, all graduates of Tuley High school, and Harry Rosenberg, 1336 North Kedzie avenue, Crane college student. 

Lakin was described by his family as a model boy, and never troublesome.  Since graduation, he had been taken into the tire relining business by his father, Abraham.
Chicago Daily Tribune – January 18, 1932
Louis Lakin is buried in Gate 216 - Zemach Zedak.  May his soul rest in peace.  

Louis Lakin

Louis Lakin

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A SAD ACCIDENT - William S. Stinger

My own family has not been exempt from tragedy.  Here is the story of the death of my father's uncle William:


Charles J. McEntee, William S. Stinger and Keeling Wilson
Meet Death by Drowning in Slough.

Accident Occurred Sunday Evening.
Start to Lacon in Small Boat Which Capsizes from Some Unknown Cause and All Perish Within Only a Few Feet of Shallow Water --- Bodies are Not Recovered Until Monday Forenoon.
It isn't often in a city the size of Lacon that the local paper is called upon to chronicle as sad an accident as that of last Sunday evening in which William S. Stinger, Charles J. McEntee and Keeling Wilson met a watery grave.  In fact we do not believe that such a terrible affair has ever before occurred in the history of our city and few in Central Illinois.  The awful catastrophe was one which stunned every resident of Lacon and cast a dark pall over the city that will long be remembered.  Truly is it a fact almost too sad to chronicle when three young men in the prime of a vigorous manhood, with apparently many years of life and happiness before them, have their existence snapped out almost instantly.  And truly has it been written that "in the midst of life we are in death".
On Sunday last there was a big chicken fry at the Guede grove, along the river bank, a couple of miles south of Lacon.  A large crowd was present and while the doings of the afternoon may have been a prelude to the tragedy which we about to record it is not necessary to enumerate them here.  Suffice it to say that among the forty or fifty present were Charles J. McEntee, William S. Stinger and Keeling Wilson.  The two latter went down to the vicinity in the forenoon in Elliott Rose's row boat to fish, while the former rode down in a wogon with a number of friends.  After the chicken fry the three concluded to return to Lacon together in the boat.  It was a little after seven o'clock when they left the river bank, Mr. Stinger handling the oars, Wilson in the stern and McEntee in the bow.  The boat is capable of carrying only two persons with safety, and the weight of the men sank it well down in the water.  It is built of sheet iron with air chambers at each end, rendering it impossible to sink it.  Frank Bens and "Shine" DeKalb followed the two and passed them a couple of hundred yards from the starting point.  They were apparently going along without any trouble.  This was the last seen of any of the three young men alive, and what followed or how they lost their lives is only conjecture.   The fact that none of them did not return home that evening caused no alarm at either of their homes, because they had frequently been absent over night.
Mr. Stinger and Mr. Wilson were employed with Elliot Rose as painters, and on Sunday he told the boys that he would begin painting the Willis Ford property Monday morning and for them to be sure and be on hand.  Monday morning he went to the Ford residence but neither were there, so he came down to his shop and waited around a few minutes.  As they did not show up he became somewhat apprehensive and went down to the river to look for his boat.  Its absence told him something was wrong and a searching party was immediately organized, consisting of Mr. Rose, Frank Nye, Thomas Kelly and others.  The party proceeded down the river and when within some four hundred yards of where the three started the upturned boat was found in the willows, foretelling only too eloquently the awful tragedy that was about to be disclosed.  A hasty examination revealed the body of Mr. Stinger upright in the water, and after considerable search the body of Wilson was found in a partly upright position.  The body of Chas. McEntee was found only a short distance from that of Keeling Wilson.  The accident happened in the bed of what is a small creek during low water.  This bed is not over fifty feet wide and had either of the unfortunate young men swam fifteen feet either to the north or south they would have been in water only three or four feet deep.  The water in the creek ranged from seven to ten feet deep.  It is difficult to see how Mr. Stinger drowned if his death occurred at the spot where he was found.  The water was not over five feet deep and five feet further would have carried him to a point where the water was not three feet deep.  The bodies were found in a triangular position some thirty or forty feet apart.  The statement has gained considerable credence that the victims sank in quick sand, but there is absolutely nothing to this statement as the bottom of the creek at the scene of the accident is perfectly solid.  How the three lost their lives with such an excellent chance to escape is of the most peculiar part of the sad affair.  It must have been almost dark when the accident happened, as the watch on the person of Mr. Stinger was stopped at 7:30 when his body was recovered.  
Just how the affair happened no one will ever know.  One plausible theory is that Wilson was seized with a fit, to which he was subject, and fell over, capsizing the boat.  The location of the bodies when found, strengthens the theory.  Another is that the boat struck a small snag and was upset.  A few feet from where the bodies were recovered there is a small snag projecting just out of the water, which would be hard to notice in the day time, much less in the gathering shadows of the evening.  Another theory is that either McEntee or Wilson attempted to change places with Stinger who was rowing.  All these, however, are theories, and the true version of the affair will never be known.
After finding the body of William Stinger the news spread like wildfire about the city and the river at the scene of the drowning was soon alive with volunteers and boats.  The remains of the unfortunate young men were brought to this city and County Coroner Thomas summoned from Henry.  The following jury was empaneled:  Dr. Kemp, Herb Roth, Wm. Shaw, J.W. Hancock of Lacon, and Denny Hartley and Henry Peters, of Henry, who returned a verdict in accordance with the above facts finding that the deceased "came to their death by accidental drowning by the overturning of a boat in a manner unknown to the jury."
Charles J. McEntee was born in Lacon on July 8, 1881.  He was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick McEntee and besides his parent leaves one brother, Robert, to mourn his untimely death.  He was a painter by trade, and it is a queer coincident that all three of the young men who met such a sad and tragic death were painters.    Mr. McEntee had resided in Lacon nearly his entire life.  He was an industrious young man and while he will be sadly missed by a host of friends, his loss will be most felt by his father, whom he assisted in the draying business.  The parents have the sympathy of all in this terrible affliction which has befallen them in their declining years, just at a time when the strong arm of the son is most needed.
The funeral services were held at the Catholic church in this city yesterday morning at 10 o'clock, conducted by Rev. Father Hawley.  The pall bearers were Tom and Dave Breen, Peter and James Craig, Dave McGarvey and Louis Reil.  The remains were interred in the Catholic cemetery.
The demise of William S. Stinger is the second sad death that has occurred in the family in the past few weeks.  His sister, Mrs. Charles Gibbs, died on August 1st, from the effects of injuries sustained by a runaway accident.  The deceased was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Isaiah Stinger, and he, too, was born and reared in Lacon.  He was a quiet and industrious young man, a painter by trade, and has many friends throughout the city.  He was 29 years of age on the 11th day of last month.  Deceased was a member of the Lacon M.E. Church, uniting with that organization under the pastorate of Rev. Murray.  Besides his parents he is survived by five brothers and four sisters, namely, Frank Stinger of Magnolia, Mell Stinger of Varna, Leonard, Arthur and Bruce, Mrs. Frank Bean, Mrs. Wm. Craig, Mrs. Earl Gapen and Miss Olive Stinger of Lacon.  (Missing piece)...he was a worthy member and in which he carried insurance to the amount of  two thousand dollars.  Interment was made in the Lacon Cemetery.
Lacon Home Journal - September 5, 1907
William is buried in the Lacon City Cemetery.  May his soul rest in peace.

William S. Stinger

DIES AT 107 - Lazarus Finkelstein

Not all "tombstone stories" are sad ones.  Take, for example the story of Lazarus Finkelstein, buried at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park:


Having experienced the vicissitudes of 107 years on two continents, Lazarus Finkelstein, widely known patriarch of the west side, died with most of a family of seven children, thirty-six grandchildren, and twenty-eight great-grandchildren assembled in his home, 218 South Seely avenue.  He was born in Russian Poland, and, retiring from his locksmith profession when 72 years old, he came to America.

He declared he saw Napoleon and his troops burn buildings in his town during the famous retreat from Russia.  On his last birthday, which was also the festival of Chaunak, "Jewish Christmas", a mammoth reception was given in his honor, at which were present many notables of the city.

He was a member of the Hebre Micka and Jewish Literary society, and a steady contributor to charitable organizations.

His seven children all live in the city: Samuel, aged 70, Mrs. Bertha Stein, Mrs. Dora Frank, Mrs. Ida Epstein, Phillip, Hymen, and Henry.  Three of his grandsons are in the army, two of them lieutenants, and the other a chemist, now in France.  The funeral will be tomorrow at his late residence.
Chicago Daily Tribune - Jan. 20, 1918

After I created a Find a Grave page for him, his family contacted me and said that further research showed that Lazarus was probably born in 1808, making him closer to 110 when he died.  Lazarus Finkelstein's grave can be found at Gate 25, Anshe Knesses Israel.  May he rest in peace.

Lazarus Finkelstein
Lazarus Finkelstein

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


One day when I was photographing graves at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in the Western suburbs of Chicago I came across the tombstone of the Finkelstein family.  I noticed that all four people died on the same day and a trip to the Chicago Tribune Archives found the following story:

Escaping gas causes death of H. Finkelstein and Family at 122 Liberty Street

Escaping gas caused the asphyxiation of four persons during Monday night at 122 Liberty street. Their bodies were discovered yesterday morning by neighbors who forced their way into the rooms. The victims were:

FINKELSTEIN, H. 60 years old
FINKELSTEIN, MRS. ETTA, his wife, 50 years old
FINKELSTEIN, ANNIE, a daughter, 18 years old
FINKELSTEIN, ALFRED, a grandson, 7 years old

The Finkelsteins lived on the second floor in the rear of a three story brick dwelling house. When the rooms were entered shortly before noon life was still present in the body of the girl Annie, but the efforts of physicians to revive her were useless. The gas that caused the death of the four escaped from an open jet in the kitchen.

Finkelstein was considered wealthy by residents of the Ghetto, in which he had lived many years. He owned the property on which he lived and several pieces of land on the west side. Attorney Joseph Epstein, who attended to Finkelstein's legal affairs, declared that he had no reason for desiring to commit suicide. He was a country peddler, but spent most of his time at home. He left a son Louis in Milwaukee, a son Abraham in St. Louis, and a daughter, Mrs. E. Rice.

The Finkelstein graves can be found at Gate 25, Anshe Knesses Israel #2.  May they rest in peace.

The bottom of the tombstone says:

Of Our Loss
Four Souls in One Tomb
May They Rest in Peace

Hillel Finkelstein

Etta Finkelstein

Annie Finkelstein

Alfred Finkelstein