Friday, September 14, 2012

AT REST - P.F.C. Larry L. Kauffman

I came across the following story by accident and thought long and hard before I decided to post it.  Further research showed that all members of the immediate family had passed away, so I decided to go ahead.  It is a very sad story that leaves many unanswered questions.

One Sunday taking grave photos at Jewish Waldheim I found myself at Gate 226 - Congregation Atereth Zion.  I have mentioned before that I usually photograph the graves of members of the military who died in service so when I saw the gravestone of P.F.C. Larry L. Kauffman I took a picture of it:

I could see from the tombstone that he died at the age of 24, but I couldn't think of any armed conflict that happened in 1958 - it was after Korea and before Vietnam.  Unfortunately as I uncovered the facts surrounding his life and death there were more questions unanswered than answered.  But first a little background:

Larry Lawrence Kauffman was born in Chicago January 31, 1934, the first child of  Dr. Charles Kauffman, DDS and Jane Z. Kauffman nee Bellow.  The 1940 census shows the Kauffman family living at 5042 Glenwood Avenue.

You may remember this as the same building where Morey Lasky and his family were living when he passed away in 1939 (see previous post).

Charles J. Kauffman was born in Russia on August 28, 1904 and Jane Zelda Bellow Kauffman was also born in Russia on August 25, 1907.  In 1940 both of the Kauffmans reported that they were naturalized citizens of the United States.  On June 28, 1944 their second son Robert Irwin Kauffman was born.  As with most families, the Kauffmans' names did not show up in the newspapers.  They were neither famous nor infamous - just a typical American family.

In March of 1957, Larry Kauffman enlisted in the United States Army.  In about August of 1957 he was assigned to the Presidio Military Base in San Francisco, California, one of the most beautiful spots in the United States - in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.  

We don't know what led up to it, but we do know that at 7:50 PM on the evening of August 22, 1958 Lawrence Kauffman was found hanging by his neck in the stockade at the Presidio Army base.

Stockade at the Presidio
The official cause of death was asphyxiation from strangulation - suicide from hanging in the post stockade "not while at work". 

That last sentence may mean that Lawrence Kauffman worked at the stockade rather than having been a prisoner at the stockade - we don't know.

The embalmed body of P.F.C. Lawrence Kauffman was flown back to Chicago on August 25, 1958 for burial, by Flying Tiger Airlines at a cost of $152.50 (!!!) to ship a container that weighed 475 lbs (the body, the casket and a sealed shipping container).

Dr. Charles J. Kauffman died on November 17, 1974 at the age of 70.

Sadly, tragedy would visit the Kauffman family yet again.  The Chicago Daily Tribune from December 17, 1988 carried the following obituary:

Robert Irwin Kauffman, 44, died Thursday, Dec. 15 in Miami, Fl., he was the beloved son of Jane, nee Bellow, and the late Dr. Charles; beloved brother of the late Lawrence.  He is mourned by many friends and relatives in Miami, FL. and Chicago, IL. where he was born and grew up.  He was a graduate of the University of Illinois and a Realtor in Florida.  Service Sunday December 18, 9:30 a.m. at Cong. Bet Breira, 9400 S.W. 87th Ave., Miami, FL.  Interment Monday, December 19, 10:30 a.m. at Atereth Zion Cemetery, Jewish Waldheim, 18th and Harlem.  Info. Furth Funeral Direction. 784-4360.

Jane Zelda Bellow Kauffman died on May 9, 2003 just short of her 96th birthday, in a nursing home in Mason, Ohio where she had gone to live with extended family.

In this blog I have occasionally told the stories of other people who chose to end their own life.  It is very easy to judge without knowing all the facts or seeing into the mind of the departed.  As with Paulina Klein who took her own life and that of her infant daughter, Lawrence Kauffman felt that his only option on August 22, 1958 was to end his own life - a tragedy, to be sure.

P.F.C. Larry Lawrence Kauffman - may he rest in peace.


  1. Jane Zelda Kauffman nee Bellow was the sister of Saul Bellow. Their father Abraham Belo was from Druya/ Druja ( today in Belarus) their mother Lesha nee Gordin was from the Dvinsk area ( today in Latvia.

  2. The uncle;

    Saul Bellow (June 10, 1915 – April 5, 2005) was a Canadian-born American writer. For his literary contributions, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts. He is the only writer to have won the National Book Award three times, and the only writer to have been nominated for it six times.

    In the words of the Swedish Nobel Committee, his writing exhibited "the mixture of rich picaresque novel and subtle analysis of our culture, of entertaining adventure, drastic and tragic episodes in quick succession interspersed with philosophic conversation, all developed by a commentator with a witty tongue and penetrating insight into the outer and inner complications that drive us to act, or prevent us from acting, and that can be called the dilemma of our age." His best-known works include The Adventures of Augie March, "Henderson the Rain King," Herzog, Mr. Sammler's Planet, Seize the Day, Humboldt's Gift and Ravelstein. Widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's greatest authors, Bellow has had a "huge literary influence."

  3. Lillian was Charlie's sister. She lived to be 94 and until she was 92, she was always active. She was not the typical grandma - she listened to WLS, Chicago rock station, and took us to see the Who movie. She worked at Jefferson Electric, where she found some great friends who loved her. She looked out for her neighbors and was always more active then people 20 to 30 years younger. She was a really good card player. A lousy cook, but made a very good lemon cake. Rae, also Charlie's sister was a lot of fun, great sense of humor. My favorite memory was when we saw her she would touch her toes and brag about it. I think she was about 4' 6", so it wasn't much of a stretch. Thanks for the post.