Friday, August 30, 2013

THE BEST PAVING MAN IN THIS COUNTRY - Louis Fahrberger

When I was doing research for the article on William G. Edens, for whom the Edens Expressway was named, I came upon an interesting notation in one of the documents:

LOUIS FAHRBERGER, General Supt. of Arcole Construction Co., had been their oldest employee and intended to retire after the Edens Highway job was completed.

He started to build a new home in Skokie in which to spend the last years of life, when on June 13, 1951, he was killed by one of the Arcole trucks on Edens Highway near Emerson Street.

A wonderful man, esteemed by all who new him, and was considered the best paving man in this country.

He was born March 7, 1886, and passed away June 13, 1951.

It is not unusual for workmen to be killed working on major construction projects.  Five workers were killed building the Empire State Building, and eleven men were killed building the Golden Gate Bridge.  But those were projects "up in the air" whereas the building of a highway is work done "on the ground."  After reading this, I decided to find out the story of Louis Fahrberger, the only man killed during the building of the Edens Expressway.

Louis Fahrberger was born Alajos Fahrberger on March 7, 1886 in Burg, Hungary, to Francis Fahrberger (1857-1910) and Juliana, nee Fahrberger (1861-1905).  

Louis came to the United States on February 26, 1905, when he was just short of nineteen years old and settled in Chicago.

On August 29, 1908 Louis married Miss Mary Oswald st St. Aloysius Church in Chicago:


and they were blessed with their first child, a daughter Mary, on May 12, 1909.

The 1910 Census shows the young family living at 1532 N. Rockwell in Chicago.  I can't show you where they lived because the building the Fahrbergers lived in was torn down circa 1990 and replaced with a townhouse.  On the census form Louis listed his job as "Cement Worker."  1910 ended on a happy note for the Fahrberger family - their second daughter Josephine (1910-1972) was born on December 6th.

Like many immigrants of that era, the Fahrbergers were anxious to become Americans and they became naturalized American citizens on May 31, 1912.  Later that same year their son Louis (1912-1981) was born on October 1st.

Things had changed for the Fahrberger family by the time the 1920 Census was taken.  The post World War I building boom of the 1920s had not started yet, so Louis listed his occupation as "Car Repair" and the family lived in the rear of 2445 W. North Avenue in Chicago which is still an auto parts store all these years later:

2445 W. North Avenue, Chicago

By the 1930 Census, the fortunes of Louis Fahrberger and his family had improved substantially. They now owned their own home - a bungalow at 5452 W. Byron in Chicago:

5452 W. Byron, Chicago

Louis now listed his occupation as "Superintendent Building a Cement Road".

All was not well for the family when young Mary Fahrberger died suddenly on January 1, 1931 of complications from diabetes:


Even though the country was suffering through the depths of the Great Depression, Louis Fahrberger continued to do well.  By the 1940 Census the family was still living in the bungalow on Byron, but now Louis listed his occupation as "Executive - Construction and Asphalt." Things continued to improve for the Fahrbergers and by the time he registered for the World War II draft on April 27, 1942 Louis listed his address as 6523 N. Tahoma in Chicago:

6523 N. Tahoma, Chicago

He listed his employer as the Midwest Construction and Asphalt Company.

Another happy occasion took place on June 18, 1946 when Josephine Fahrberger married Stanton Frederick Reberg in Chicago.  

Somewhere along the way The Midwest Construction and Asphalt Company became the Arcole Midwest Corporation,


and it was under that name that they became one of the contractors involved with the building of the Edens Superhighway (as it was called then).

Edens Overpass over Cicero Avenue

As mentioned above, Louis Fahrberger planned to retire as soon as the Edens project was done - but he would be going out on top.  The Edens project was a Twenty-three million dollar project, and when it was completed it would be known as the "Most Beautiful Highway in the Country."  Fahrberger was excited to be working on a project of this size and scope - and right here in Chicagoland.  He spent every free minute supervising all aspects of the paving work.  Here he is talking with Alex Mariotti, one of the foremen on the project:


Construction on the Edens Superhighway started in 1946 and the highway was dedicated five years later, on December 20, 1951.  The end of the huge project was in sight when tragedy struck.  From the Chicago Daily Tribune of June 14, 1951:


What happened?  We will never know for sure.  Fahrberger instructed the driver to move the truck and was standing behind it when the driver backed up.  Maybe Fahrberger thought the driver would pull out instead of backing up; the driver surely thought that Fahrberger had gotten out of the way.  I could not find any record of charges being brought against George Will - it seems to have just been an unfortunate accident.  A tragedy for all concerned, but an accident nonetheless.

Here is Louis Fahrberger's obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune, June 15, 1951:


Louis Fahrberger is buried in St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois:



He is buried with his wife Mary, his daughter Mary Ann, and his grandson L. Martin -


and with his daughter Josephine, son Louis, and Louis's wife Evelyn.

The next time you are on the Edens Expressway, if you seek the monument of Louis Fahrberger, look around you.

Louis Fahrberger

Louis Fahrberger, said to be the best paving man in this country - may he rest in peace.

And what about George C. Will - the man who was driving the truck that killed Louis Fahrberger?  As I mentioned above, there is no record of any charges being filed against Will - the whole episode was just an unfortunate accident.

Will went on to marry and raise a family - I couldn't find out whether he stayed in the construction trades or not.  Here's his obituary from September 1, 1983:


Finding Will's grave was a different matter.  St. Matthew's Lutheran Cemetery in Niles is tucked away in a residential neighborhood.  It's not too large - maybe six city lots deep by five city lots across.  It has alot of trees, and burials going back to the pioneer days - many of the old tombstones with German inscriptions.


The main wrought iron gates were padlocked, but the side gate was open, so in I went.  It took me two complete passes through the entire cemetery before I found George Will's grave.  His tombstone had been almost completely buried and was under some overgrown evergreens:


I brushed away the dirt and debris and here's the stone:


George C. Will died at the age of 64.  We will never know how he was affected by the accident that caused the death of the beloved Louis Fahrberger.  I would imagine not a day went by that he didn't think about the accident, and he probably replayed that day in his mind thousands of times - wondering why he did what he did.  We can only hope that George C. Will found peace in life and that he is resting in peace today. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

RUDOLPH VALENTINO'S FAITHFUL DOG - Kabar

August 23, 2013 marks the 87th anniversary of the death of silent film superstar Rudolph Valentino who died in New York City on August 23, 1926.  Those of you who are frequent readers of this blog will remember that I have been fascinated with the life and career of Valentino for over forty years.  Every August 23rd since 1927 there has been a memorial service for Valentino at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (formerly Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery) in the Cathedral Mausoleum where he is interred.  The service starts precisely at 12:10 PM which is the time Valentino died in New York - although 12:10 New York time would really be 3:10 Los Angeles time.  I attended my first Valentino Memorial Service in the 1980s and for many years I was one of the featured speakers at the service which remembers Valentino as "The Greatest of Them All."

Hundreds of books have been written about the life and career of Rudolph Valentino, so it is not necessary for me to expand on those. However, to remember Valentino on the anniversary of his death I would instead like to tell you the story of his faithful friend and companion:  his Doberman named Kabar.

Kabar

Rudolph Valentino loved animals, but he especially loved horses and dogs.  He was an excellent horseman and did many of his own horse-related stunts for his films, much to the alarm of the studios who were worried that something might happen to their star money-maker.  But as much as Valentino loved his horses, he loved his dogs even more. Some of Valentino's dogs were kept in kennels on his property but certain "special" dogs were given the run of the house.  One of these "special" dogs was Kabar.

Kabar was born June 20, 1922 in the Alsace region of France.  Alsatian Dobermans are said to among the finest in the world - and also the smartest.  When Kabar was just a few months old he was given to Valentino when Valentino was staying at the French estate of the Hudnut family, relatives of his then-wife Natacha Rambova (nee Winifred Shaughnessy).  The donor was said to have been a Belgian diplomat who was also a fan of Valentino.  From the very start, Valentino and Kabar were inseparable, and Kabar was even allowed to sleep in Valentino's room wherever he happened to be.

People who are very wealthy like to have their animals travel with them, and this was the case with Rudolph Valentino.  However, pets of the wealthy are not housed in the baggage compartment, or even in steerage - they are with their owners in First Class.  Here are two great photos of Rudolph Valentino with Kabar on the deck of the Leviathan:



   Here are two photos of Valentino with his family - and Kabar:

L-R:  Jean, Rudy, Ada, Alberto and Kabar

L-R:  Rudy, Jean, Ada, Alberto and Kabar

Here's a photo of Valentino with Sophie Tucker and Kabar:


As you can see, Rudolph Valentino took his dear friend Kabar with him wherever he went.  Here they are at Falcon Lair:


We'll never know why Valentino did not take Kabar with him on his last trip East in July of 1926 - but he didn't.  And then the shocking news of August 23, 1926 from New York:


Several sources reported Kabar's unearthly howling at the time of Valentino's death three thousand miles away.  It has been reported that the howling scared Beatrice Lillie so badly that she ran her car off the road and fainted when driving home from a party at John Gilbert's house.  Anyone who is around dogs becomes very aware that they have some sort of extra-sensory perception, particularly on an emotional level.  Our family beagle howled all night when my grandmother died unexpectedly.  At first we did not connect the two incidents but his howling was so unusual and mournful that we then realized the two were connected.

It was reported that once Kabar started his mournful howling, Valentino's other dogs housed at Falcon Lair joined in the chorus.  No wonder Beatrice Lillie was scared! 

Things seemed to have gotten a little better when Valentino's brother Alberto arrived, but Kabar was almost constantly sick after the death of his beloved master.

There is no cure for a broken heart, and Kabar finally died of grief on January 17, 1929.

Kabar's death was even reported in the Chicago Daily Tribune of February 3, 1929:


From the beginning Alberto realized that his brother and Kabar had a special bond.  Alberto considered burying Kabar somewhere on the grounds of Falcon Lair, but he knew that technically that was not legal in Los Angeles.  The city laws stated that animals could only be buried in a cemetery set aside for that purpose under city grant and approval. That wouldn't do Alberto any good - at that time there were no animal crematories or pet cemeteries in Los Angeles - or so he thought.  Then someone told Alberto about the Los Angeles Pet Park in Calabasas - about 22 miles from the heart of Hollywood.

The L.A. Pet Park was founded by a veterinarian to the stars named Dr. Eugene C. Jones. The cemetery, hidden among lush rolling hills and an industrial park off the Ventura Freeway, was once part of the estate of Hollywood financier Gilbert H. Beesemeyer, who embezzled $8 million from the Guaranty Building and Loan Assn. in 1929. But before his estate crumbled and he went off to begin serving a 40-year sentence at San Quentin, he subdivided his property into several 10-acre plots, one of which Jones purchased.

Jones, who graduated from Washington State College with a degree in veterinary medicine in 1924, moved to Los Angeles, where he opened one of the city's first small-animal hospitals, the E.C. Jones Veterinary Hospital on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles. Four years later, as a service to his clients and as a way for them to deal with their bereavement, he opened the Los Angeles Pet Park and a Hollywood pet funeral parlor.

The Los Angeles Pet Park officially opened for business on September 4, 1928, and a mortuary and crematory were added in 1929.

This was the answer that Rudolph Valentino's brother Alberto was looking for.  He could have Kabar buried at the L.A. Pet Park, acknowledging Kabar's special status as a beloved dog of Rudolph Valentino.  The cemetery still mentions in their advertising that Kabar was the first pet of a film idol to rest in the plot near Calabasas.


In November of 1931 Screen Play Magazine did a feature article on the pet cemetery, and of course, Kabar was mentioned.

Screen Play Magazine - November, 1931

I made my first trip to Hollywood and the grave of Rudolph Valentino in 1980.


I was not able to make it to the pet cemetery on my first trip, but several years later I was finally able to make the drive all the way out to Calabasas.


It was a typical Sunday afternoon in the summer in Los Angeles - hot and clear.  The cemetery had grown somewhat since the 1930s photos, but was very well kept, and many of the graves had decorations on them.


The office was unfortunately closed the day I was there, and there was not another living soul in the cemetery.  What if I couldn't find Kabar's grave?  I asked Valentino and Kabar for help, and in a short time I found Kabar:


But now I had another dilemma.  I wanted a photo of me at Kabar's grave, but as I mentioned, there was not another living soul there.  I decided to wander around and see if I could find someone.  After awhile I found a couple who had recently buried their dog at the cemetery and had come to visit his grave.  They graciously agreed to take my photo at Kabar's grave:


I will end with a quote that I feel sums up the special relationship between Rudolph Valentino and his beloved Kabar:

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.  A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and in sickness.  He will sleep on the cold ground when the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only to be near his master's side.  He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world.  He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince.

When all other friends desert, he remains.  When riches take wing, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives his master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies.  And when that last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there, by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true, even in death.

Senator George Graham Vest, speaking to a jury about Old Drum, shot in 1869

Kabar - faithful and true, even in death.  May he rest in peace with his beloved master.

Friday, August 16, 2013

IT WILL ALWAYS BE DYCHE STADIUM TO ME - William A. Dyche

From the minutes of the Northwestern University Board of Trustees, October 26, 1926:

"Be it resolved that the stadium now being erected for Northwestern University and any additions thereto and any other stadium which may be erected at any time or place to succeed it shall be named Dyche Stadium."

What the minutes didn't say was that "at any time or place to succeed it" just meant "until we get a better offer."  Before we look at the circumstances surrounding changing the name from Dyche Stadium to Ryan Field, let's look at why it was named Dyche Stadium in the first place.

William Andrew Dyche was born May 25, 1861 in Monroe, Ohio to David Raper Dyche, MD (1827-1893) and Mary S., nee Boyd (1838-1926).  William Dyche's only sibling, George A. Dyche, MD (1872-1942) was born March 19, 1872.  Dr. David Dyche moved his family to Chicago in 1865 to help his brother George who was ill.  George F. Dyche (1832-1866) had operated a drug store in Chicago for several years. Life for the Dyche family changed significantly on July 4, 1867 when Dr. David Dyche took his family on a Goodyear excursion steamer trip in Lake Michigan.  The story was, when Dr. Dyche got his first glimpse of Evanston and Northwestern University from the steamer, he determined that Evanston would be the Dyche family's permanent home.

William A. Dyche entered Northwestern in 1878 and graduated from the Classics Department with an A.B. degree in 1882.  He continued his education at the Chicago College of Pharmacy and Northwestern, earning a diploma from the Pharmacy College in 1886 and an A.M. degree from Northwestern in 1888. Immediately after graduation Dyche entered his father's drug business in Chicago.

William Dyche's father David died in 1893, and in 1894 William was asked to replace his father on the Board of Trustees of Northwestern. As a successful businessman and Trustee of Northwestern, William Dyche was asked to run as the Republican candidate for Mayor of Evanston in 1895.  On April 16, 1895 Dyche was easily elected Mayor, with a plurality of 736 out of 1,740 votes cast.  Due to his other pressing responsibilities, Dyche chose to serve only one term as mayor.  In later years he said that he felt his greatest accomplishment while he was mayor was to get the elevated train from Chicago extended through Evanston.

Mayor William A. Dyche

As busy as he was, it was not all work for William A. Dyche.  On February 11, 1897 he found time to marry May Louise Bennett at her home on Sheridan Road in Evanston:


William and May Dyche were blessed with three children:  David Bennett Dyche (1902-1990), Ruth Caroline Dyche (1907-2003) and George Frederick Dyche (1910-1984).

In 1903 William Dyche decided to serve as Business Manager of Northwestern, a position he held until 1934, at which time he became Counselor to Northwestern.


In 1908 Dyche was elected President of the State National Bank and Trust Company of Evanston.  He was President from 1908-1919, Vice President and Chairman of the Board 1919-1935 and President again in 1935.

A sad event happened to the Dyche family on April 28, 1923 when May Bennett Dyche died at her home in Evanston of complications from nephritis.  She was fifty-two years old:


As the obituary stated, Mrs. Dyche was buried in the Dyche family plot at Oakwoods Cemetery in Chicago.


Why then, was the Northwestern University football stadium named for William A. Dyche?  University president Walter Dill Scott said that during Dyche's tenure as business manager of NU, that Dyche was single-handedly responsible for bringing in over $20 million dollars in endowment funds.  "But," said Scott, "he scorned the "high pressure" methods of modern salesmanship.  His thought was to "educate" men of wealth to his own faith in the cause of education.  James A. Patten, the late wheat-king, came under the spell of the business manager and contributed $310,000.00 for the building of Patten gymnasium, and made total gifts of $1,500,000.00."

At the Board of Trustees meeting of October 27, 1926, as Northwestern's new stadium was being completed, Scott suggested to the board that the stadium be named for Dyche.  Scott waited until Dyche had left the room, and then the resolution was introduced, discussed, and unanimously passed by the Board of Trustees, all without Dyche knowing anything about it.  Further, the Board declared that the Dyche name was to be used in perpetuity, no matter where or when Northwestern had a stadium.


The new "Dyche Stadium" was officially dedicated by William A. Dyche at ceremonies before the NU-University of Chicago football game on November 13, 1926:




No doubt the day was made even sweeter for Dyche by NU's trouncing Chicago, 38 to 7.

William A. Dyche retired from Northwestern in 1934.  The ceremony to honor his retirement was held in the stadium named after him:

William A. Dyche Retirement Ceremony 1934

William A. Dyche died February 18, 1936 from heart disease.


Here's his obituary from the New York Times:


He was buried next to his wife in the Dyche Family plot at Oakwoods Cemetery in Chicago:


So why was the decision made to rename Dyche Stadium?  The root cause for the change was what it usually is:  MONEY.

In the mid-1990s it was determined that Dyche stadium needed renovation.  The seventy-year-old stadium was looking tired and need to be upgraded and modernized.  Estimates were between $8 and $10 million to bring the stadium up to the nineties.  But where would the money come from?  Northwestern, with one of the highest college tuition rates in the country, cried that they didn't have the money.  What to do?  Enter insurance executive Patrick Ryan.  He would gladly donate the millions necessary to upgrade the stadium with one string attached:  the stadium would have to be renamed for him and his family. Lawyers were consulted.

From the Chicago Tribune of September 18, 1997: "Northwestern's attorneys were aware of the 1926 declaration but said board members of a private institution have the right to override rulings of previous boards. School officials say the document was more a show of appreciation than anything else, but that doesn't explain why trustees went so far as to include a clause stating the stadium always be named Dyche.

Dyche family spokesman David Dyche doesn't argue the legality of the name change, but he does question how 71 years of history can disappear with the opening of a checkbook.


Dyche spoke with Northwestern President Henry Bienen on Wednesday, and Bienen said the school would be willing install a historical plaque at Ryan Field informing fans that the venue was called Dyche Stadium from 1926-1997.


That's not enough for Dyche and his wife, Mary. They would like both names on the stadium, just as Northwestern's basketball arena, McGaw Hall, kept its name after the Ryan family made a sizable donation in 1982 for renovation of the facility. It is also called Welsh-Ryan Arena. Northwestern officials said the renovation of Dyche Stadium was so expensive, the Ryan family's name deserved to be on it alone.


"I'm sorry to see that buildings cannot be named for people who have given a lifetime of service to the university," said David Dyche, 65, a financial analyst in Boca Grande, Fla. ". . . Now it has to go to people with money."


"Dave's not as outspoken as I am," Mary Dyche said. "I would have said to the president, `Why don't you just rename the school Ryan University and be done with it?' They've got the basketball arena. Now they've got the football stadium. God knows what else. I find it just appalling. Why bother to make a rule if you can break them that easily?


"I think they just decided they were going to do it and what the hell. Damn the republic. Things don't have to go that way. We have every right to protest."


When Northwestern announced the name change in May, officials said they had only been able to locate one member of the Dyche family. Their search was limited to Dyches who were Northwestern graduates or gave money to the school. (emphasis mine) That's why they didn't find Schubert Dyche, who lives in Chicago and is listed in the telephone book. He is a grandnephew of William Dyche."


That is just so typical of Northwestern.  If a person did not graduate from Northwestern or donate money to the school, as far as Northwestern was concerned, they didn't exist!


Money won out, as it usually does, and Ryan Field was dedicated Saturday, September 13, 1997 at halftime of the Northwestern-Duke game.

So now you know the story of William A. Dyche's lifelong dedication to the university he loved, and the university's gratitude by naming the football stadium after him - in perpetuity.  And you also know about a man who made all that disappear by the opening of a checkbook.  I think I prefer the old days when deeds were recognized instead of money.

As I said in the title, Northwestern can call their football stadium anything they want to, but it will always be Dyche Stadium to me.


William A. Dyche, lifelong booster of Northwestern University - may he rest in peace. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

HERE LIES THE SLEEPING BEAUTY - Alvina Schaeffer

I have a lot of fun "digging up" stories for this blog.  Sometimes I stumble upon an interesting tombstone and look for the story under it, and other times I find an interesting story and look for the tombstone that goes with it.  That's what happened in this case.  I was browsing the Chicago Tribune newspaper archives for material about Leo Kovetz, a future subject of this blog, when I happened upon this story from the Chicago Daily Tribune of January 17, 1908:


This was too good of a story to pass up.  Before we check to see if her final wishes were carried out, let's see what we can find out about Mrs. Alwin Schaeffer.


Alvina Beyer was born December 20, 1856 (even though her tombstone says 1861) in Magdeburg, Saxony, Germany.  Her first name is also spelled Alwina, and Allwine.  Her parents were Carl Jacob Beyer and Marie Sophia nee Kruger.  Alvina had two brothers:  Wilhelm Christian Andreas Beyer (1844-1913) and Robert.  Alvina seems to be the only family member who immigrated to America.  

Little is known of Alvina until March 3, 1884 when she married hotelier Henry Schaeffer in Chicago.  The marriage lasted twenty years until September 20, 1904 when Mr. Schaeffer was granted a divorce.  As part of the settlement, Alvina came to own side-by-side townhouses at 3555-3557 S. Prairie Avenue in Chicago:

3555-3557 S. Prairie Avenue, Chicago
    
Alvina Beyer Schaeffer died of cancer of the omentum on December 29, 1907 in Chicago. She was just forty-six years old.  (Thanks to the members of Genlighten who deciphered the death certificate for me).


And then the fun started!  As stated above, Alvina requested the following in her will:

1.  Tombstone labelled "Here Lies the Sleeping Beauty" in German with gold letters.
2.  A willow tree planted at her grave
3.  Her poodle Lottie given to one of the richest families in Chicago - they would receive $2.00 per week for Lottie's care
4.  Two festivals per year  (one on August 3rd) for German, Bohemian and German-American Protestant orphans.  First church services, then a children's production of Sleeping Beauty.  Prizes of $25.00 each to the boy and girl with the highest grades in school.  Other prizes 50 cents to $1.00 each.  Two ten-piece bands:  one German, one American.

Well, Alvina's body was not even cold when there were objections to the will - by her "friends", as noted in the Chicago Daily Tribune of January 18, 1908:



What were the friends' objections?

1.  They thought the epitaph "Here Lies the Sleeping Beauty" was inappropriate.
2.  Alvina gave Mrs. Mary Zuber her bank book showing an account of $900.00 cash and told Mrs. Zuber she could have the money, but did not mention her in the will
3.  Alvina had already given her poodle Lottie to Mrs. S.F. Norman, who lived next door on Prairie Avenue.  We can assume that Mrs. Norman was not a member of "one of the richest families in Chicago". 

And these were just the objections of her friends - we still hadn't heard from Alvina's two brothers!

Surprisingly, there is no further mention of Alvina or her will (or Lottie) in the archives of the Chicago Tribune.

So, I decided to take a trip out to Alvina Schaeffer's final resting place to see if at least those wishes regarding her tomb were carried out.  Alvina is buried in Section G, Lot 913 of Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. This would be my first trip to Oak Woods.

I had been warned that Oak Woods Cemetery is in a bad neighborhood, and they weren't kidding.  Oak Woods is a HUGE cemetery (183 acres).  It's not as large as Rosehill (350 acres) but it seemed much larger to me, maybe because I was unfamiliar with it.  I've been at Rosehill so many times it feels like my own backyard.

Oak Woods is surrounded by a stone wall topped with barbed razor wire, to keep intruders out.  Other than the staff in the office I didn't see another living soul the whole time I was at Oak Woods, but I did not feel the least bit afraid.  Both Oak Woods and Rosehill are now owned by Service Corporation International (SCI); however, unlike their colleagues at Rosehill the office staff at Oak Woods could not have been more friendly, or more helpful.  Without my asking, the man in the office went back and pulled the plot card for Alvina's plot to see who, if anyone, was buried in Lot 913 besides Alvina.  It turned out that Alvina has Lot 913 all to herself.

So, with my trusty map from the office, I set out to find Alvina Schaeffer to see if her last wishes regarding her burial were carried out.

Here is a photo of Alvina Schaeffer's tombstone.  It is a substantial monument, about 6 feet tall.  


Standing in front I could see the inscription:


Hier Ruhet
Dornröschen
Alwina 
Schaeffer
Geb. 20 Dez. 1861
Gest. 29 Dez. 1907


Here Rests
Sleeping Beauty
Alwina
Schaeffer
Born 20 Dec. 1861
Died 29 Dec. 1907

So, at least part of her request was carried out.  Her tombstone does say "Here Rests (the) Sleeping Beauty", although the letters are not in gold.  Just as well - if there were gold letters, they would have been stolen long ago.  When Alvina died, gold coins were still in general circulation in the United States.  No willow tree there - or evidence that a willow tree was ever there.  In fact, I don't think I saw any willow tees at Oak Woods.

In checking the Chicago Tribune archives I could not find any mention of the twice-yearly festivals for the orphans, nor any mention of the adoption of Lottie by any wealthy family.  In fact, as mentioned above, I could find no further mention of Alvina other than when Leo Kovetz, her executor sold her property on S. Prairie Avenue.  (There is a lot more to the story of Leo Kovetz, but that will be in a future post).  The property on S. Prairie was sold on May 15, 1909 to Lon Well for $15,000.00.    

So that, dear readers, is the story of Alvina Schaeffer.  She certainly had good intentions about the way she wanted to leave her money. The gold lettering may have been a little much, but the twice-yearly festivals and prizes for orphan children would have been nice.  And what about Lottie?  Those of us who are dog lovers hope that our beloved dogs would be taken care of if anything happened to us.  Remember, Alvina was only 46 years old when she died.  Hopefully the neighbor Mrs. Norman took care of Lottie for the remainder of the dog's life - with or without the $2.00 weekly.  If there is any lesson to be learned here, it is to take care of as many of your final arrangements as you can before you die.  That way you are not relying on other people to see that your last wishes are carried out.

I think I can safely say that very few people have thought about Alvina Schaeffer in over 100 years.  She and Henry Schaeffer had no children; her brothers never left Germany.  I have said before that one of the purposes of this blog is to see that the people I write about are not forgotten.  We'll never know if I stumbled upon Alvina's story by accident, or whether I was "guided" by someone to find her story.  But, thanks to the miracle of the internet, Alvina Schaeffer and her story will not be forgotten.

Alvina Schaeffer - "Here Lies the Sleeping Beauty" - May she rest in peace.