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


  1. catvonpukamer: I've been researching your grandmother's father and would love to speak with you. You can reach me at multimedioz AT gmail DOT com. Thanks very much. --Atticus

  2. My mother had a cousin by the name of Anne Murch.