Friday, May 10, 2013

ANOTHER TREE TOMBSTONE - William Reisz of the Order of Boy Builders

One of the most widely read posts I have done for this blog was the one I wrote about the tombstone that looked like a tree that marked the grave of Frank Fremont Campbell at Rosehill Cemetery.  Now I am always on the lookout for interesting tree-tombstones.  A recent Find-a-Grave photo request took me to Gate 59 - Dr. Herzl Verein at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery where I found this tree tombstone:

This tombstone marked the grave of William Reisz who died January 14, 1923 just a few months short of his twentieth birthday. Remembering the clues that Frank Campbell's tree tombstone revealed, just what can we learn about William Reisz from his tree tombstone?  

The largest and most obvious part of the tombstone is the Magen David at the top.  From that we can gather that William Reisz was Jewish...of course the fact that he is buried in a Jewish Cemetery told us that already. The Magen David is surrounded by a wreath symbolizing victory in death.  As the hymn says, "The strife is o'er, the battle won." The Magen David is also known as the Star of David, or Shield of David and is the symbol of Divine protection.  Below that is another kind of shield that was unfamiliar to me (more about that shield later).  Next is the abbreviation which stands for po nikbar or po nitman, meaning "here lies", along with the Hebrew name of the deceased and some information about them.  At the end of the Hebrew inscription is the abbreviation of a verse from the Bible, the first book of Samuel, 25:29, "May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life".

Unlike many tree tombstones that show a living tree, this one shows a tree that has already been cut down, and is placed on logs at the bottom.  The cut tree symbolizes the newly departed; the logs are those who have gone before.  So the newly departed is joining those who went ahead of him.

At the bottom on the left is a lamb, symbolizing innocence - usually used to denote the death of a young person.  The calla lilies signify the restored innocence of the soul at death.  Next to the calla lilies are ferns which signify humility and sincerity.  As we move around the tree, we can see ivy growing up the side of the  tree trunk.   Ivy signifies friendship.  

The branches cut off the trunk signify a life cut short.  The back of the tree is the name "Reisz" with the letters made out of logs.  

and that brings us back around to the front.

So, what can we find out about William Reisz?  Let's start with his obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of January 15, 1923:

REISZ - William Reisz, beloved son of Phillip and Theresa, fond brother of Mrs. Herman Greenburg, Albert and Edward Reisz.  Funeral Monday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m. from chapel, 2018 W. Division st.  Interment Dr. Herzl Ver. cemetery, Waldheim.  Member of the Order of Boy Builders and Junior auxiliary of Humboldt  Boulevard Temple.  Please omit flowers.

The Humboldt Boulevard Temple, Chicago

His obituary answers one question - that of the shield under the Magen David.  It was the shield of the Order of the Boy Builders.  Here's a better picture of it:

According to their website, The Order of the Builders for Boys was formed in 1921 for young men between the ages of eleven and twenty-one related to Master Masons.  In January 1921 (two years after the formation of the Order of DeMolay in Kansas City) Arthur M. Millard and several members of Van Renssalaer Lodge of Perfection in Chicago founded the Order of the Builders for Boys, an organization for young men between the ages of eleven and twenty-one. Originally restricted to the sons and brothers of Master Masons, membership was soon changed to admit sons, brothers, grandsons, and nephews of Masons who belonged to recognized Masonic Lodges as well as the closest friends of these individuals.

Today it is simply called the “Order of the Builders,” and its objects are:

To promote the mental, moral, physical, and spiritual development of its’ members. To develop their activities in all that relates to individual duty to God and parents. To promote civic, state, and national betterment, by the defense of civil, religious, political, and intellectual liberty, and to provide by means of fraternal association a relationship through which to develop activities aiming for the mutual advancement of those coming within the range of its purpose and plans.

It is reported that in the first year of the Order’s existence over sixty chapters were established in Illinois with a total membership of approximately 4,500, of which William Reisz was one.

We are able to find out a little more about William Reisz and his family. William Reisz was born May 25, 1903 in Chicago.  His father was Phillip Reisz (1864-1933).  His mother was Theresa nee Kiershler (1875-1936).  The family came to the United States from Austria-Hungary in 1899, and became US citizens in 1905.  William had three siblings: Albert (1896-1987), Edward (1899-1980) and Elka (1897-1983).  Elka married Herman Greenburg in 1920.  The 1920 census has the family living at 2707 W. Hirsch Street. 

2707 W. Hirsch Street, Chicago

Phillip was a beer distributor.  Albert owned his own shoe store, and Elka was a stenographer for a fire insurance company. Twenty year-old Edward and sixteen year-old William were not employed, and at least William was probably still in school.

So that brings us up to January 14, 1923 - the death of William Reisz:

It's a little hard to read, but it says that William Reisz of 2707 W. Hirsch Street died of "Acute endocarditis after streptococcus".  He worked as a bookkeeper for Fred C. Cramer & Co., manufacturing agents. 

So, that is the story of William Reisz, bookkeeper, son and brother and member of the Order of Boy Builders.  He must have been a very special guy, so his family wanted to remember him in a very special way - with his own tree tombstone at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery. Their loss gave us another beautiful work of funerary art, and a way for William Reisz to be remembered.

May William Reisz rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. Wow --- very interesting!! Great photos, but really a lot of information. :)