Category Archives: family

Another Blow To Young Paul Kaser

Two final blows came to the young Paul Kaser as he made the abrupt transition from carefree youth to independent adult.

Irene Kaser and Paul Kaser

Irene Kaser and Paul Kaser late 1920s

September 1926,If you have read the two previous stories about a letter and a life-shifting death in the family, you know that at 17, Paul left Millersburg Ohio to start college in Washington D.C.

October-November 1926. But shortly after school started, he was called home because his mother died. His father decreed that he could not go back to school.

April 1927. Therefore at 18 he was home, when his younger brother, Milton Kaser, got pneumonia and ultimately died. Not only was this a blow because he loved his younger brother, but now he had to live alone with his father. But that was not to last long.

Marriage License-Cliff Kaser

Cliff Kaser’s 2nd Marriage. To Mildred Dailey

December 1927.  Cliff Kaser, Paul’s father, married Mildred Jameson Dailey in Millersburg and they set off on a trip to Florida. I did not know her name until I found this marriage license.

The way my father told it, the woman his father married just wanted to go to Florida, so she married Cliff on the promise that he would take her there. Within a week, Cliff was back in Millersburg–without Mildred.

I have not dug deeply enough to find a divorce record, but their is a mystery hiding in this story.  I know from the records that Mildred continued to call herself Mildred Daily on census reports, and all official papers.  And when Clifford Kaser died, the death record listed Mame Kaser as his wife, and he shares a burial plot with his first wife, also. They both apparently wanted to forget that day in December 1927 when they were officially married.

That is the problem with family stories. You only hear one side.  And the essence of a story is that there must be a conflict between a “bad guy” and a “good guy.”  Now, maybe my Dad’s recollection is true and Mildred just wanted to get out of town. Maybe unemotional and strictly religious Cliff didn’t turn out to be the man of her dreams and she bailed.  But maybe Cliff deserted Mildred down there in Florida in a fit of pique.

Maybe they were just two lonely widowers looking for company when they married.  Cliff’s wife had died a few months earlier and Mildred’s husband had died at the end of 1925.  Find a grave says that the cause of his death was “alcoholism.”  If that is true, it could lead to all kinds of twists to the story.  But I don’t know.

All I have to go on are my father’s admittedly biased report, and some official documents.

At any rate–his father’s marriage and the brief trip to Florida disrupted my father’s life once more. At 19 he was thrown on his own, expected to find a way to make a living.

End of 1929-January 1930. Toward the end of 1929, back in Millersburg, and once again working on building duct work for furnaces, Clifford Kaser began to feel bad.  He had a hernia and went to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Mt. Vernon Ohio for treatment and surgery.  His death certificate graphically describes the cause and contributing factors in his death. Too graphically, for me to add here.  As my father said, he died of complications from an operation that today would be totally routine.  (Ironically, my father also died of complications of an operation).

Death Certificate - Cliff Kaser

Cliff Kaser Death Certificate

January 13, 1930. Paul Kaser officially becomes an orphan when his father dies. Paul is now approaching his 22nd birthday.  For more about his rootless life during the early years of the Great Depression see “Paul Kaser: No Permanent Residence.

A Life and a Dream Ended When Mame Kaser Died

In the last episode of my father’s life, I talked about the sad loss of his Fourteen-Year-Old Brother, Milton Kaser.   I said in that story that I would explain why my father, Paul Kaser, was at home in April 1927 to tend to Milton in his final illness, and why 1926 was both the best year of his life and the worst. Before Milton died, the seventeen-year-old Paul Kaser was to face a worse crisis–the death of his mother, Mame Kaser.

I used this picture in my last post. Mame is shown here just about a year before her death. She was only 55.

Keith Kaser and family

Clifford Kaser Family: Paul, Irene, Milton and Keith with Cliff and “Mame” in front. About 1926

If you have read that previous story about young Milton, you know that my father, eager for knowledge, started college in September 1926.  I imagine that his mother, Mame Kaser, who stimulated his love of literature, pushed to allow him to go away to college. And I also am pretty sure that the fact he was attending a Seventh Day Adventist Washington Missionary college (now now Washington Adventist University) was a compromise with Paul’s strict father, Clifford.

Clifford was a practical man who had built a successful career as a “tinner” without any fancy education.  As the 20th century began and central heating replaced the previous fireplaces and Franklin stoves as a way to heat homes, Cliff made the move to “furnace engineer”, installing the duct work for the new heating systems.

So we now can picture Paul Kaser happily delving into Latin, Greek and ancient history in the chilly suburb of Washington D.C. when he unexpectedly receives a telegram in the first days of November from his father.  While I don’t know the exact wording, the message was simply, “Come home. Mother dead.”

Well into his eighties, my father would still bemoan the fact that his father had not informed him that his mother was ill until after she died.  Our family formed our opinion of Cliff Kaser largely on that seemingly heartless way to treat a young man who adored his mother. However, when–with a little help from another member of Facebook*–I discovered Mame Kaser’s death certificate, I realized that we might have a false picture of Cliff.  He didn’t tell Paul that Mame was ill because her death came so suddenly.

Mame Kaser's Death Certificate

Mary I. Butts Kaser Death Certificate

(Mary I) Mame Kaser suffered a stroke on October 28th (cerebral hemorrhage of right side of brain) and died October 31st at 8:30 p.m.  Since the stroke was on the right side, she would have lost speech and her left side would have been paralyzed. The doctor and family no doubt hoped that she would recover, as many people do. But the death certificate lists contributing factors as arterial hardening and high blood pressure, which were not treated as efficiently as they are today, and she probably never had a chance.

At any rate, it is easy to see that Cliff, in his practical way, could see no point in having Paul get on a train and rush home when the outcome was so uncertain. So he waited–until it was too late for Paul to say goodbye.

I can forgive Cliff for not contacting Paul earlier. I’m not so forgiving, however, about his next decision. He told Paul that he was needed at home now, and could not return to school.  Instead, he needed to stay in Millersburg and work with his father. Therefore in April 1927 when his brother was ill, Paul was home.

So between June 1926 when he graduated from high school and the end of October 1926 when his mother died, my father had faced what he thought were the high point (going to college) and the low point of his life (the death of the beloved mother Mame Kaser). However, as we have seen, five months later, another blow came when his brother Milton died.  At eighteen, life must have looked pretty grim.

In 1928, he faced another turning point, and to make things worse, the country slid into the Great Depression. Next time, I’ll explain the final incident that cemented his move from boyhood to adult.

It is also worth noting, that Paul Kaser died almost exactly 70 years after his mother. She died on October 31 1926 and he died on October 29 1996.

Less Is More?

*Note: For those interested in “inside baseball”, I’ll explain about finding the death certificates of Milton Kaser and Mary Isador “Mame” Kaser. I had searched Ancestry.com to find more information about the Kaser family, but it had been a while, so I decided to go to Family Search.org and see if I could find any documents I might have been missing.  

I particularly wanted to find the death certificates for Mame, Milton and Cliff, and one more document that I will be writing about next time.  I put in all the information and came up with only those documents I had seen previously. Then I Googled “death records 1920s Holmes County Ohio.” and followed the bread crumbs to a link to Family Search.org list that was supposed to contain death certificates. I entered Clifford’s information and came up with nothing. I changed the name to Cliff and found nothing. I knew his death year because I had an obit, a tombstone, Find a Grave and the index of death records for Ohio.

So I went to the Ohio Genealogy Just Ask! page on Facebook and posted an inquiry. Could someone tell me how to find death records for the 1920s from Holmes County Ohio–if they existed.  A member of that group almost instantly came back with all the records I was looking for.  How? She didn’t even go to the link for the specific collection. She searched from the main search page.  She entered LESS information about Clifford than I did. And although I had the specific death year, she expanded the search to a decade (five years before and after). I still don’t know how LESS information equals a better search, but there you have it. It worked.

A Lively Letter from Teen Milton Kaser Makes Me Sad

Why do I say that a letter from the fourteen-year-old Ira Milton Kaser to my father, Paul Kaser makes me sad? The letter itself is cheerful and full of life.

For my father, the year 1926 was “the best of years, the worst of years.” (Apologies to Charles Dickens). The 17-year-old graduated from Millersburg High School in Ohio in June that year and in September he set off for college. The gregarious dark-eyed boy with a shock of dark hair and a flare for dressing well, made friends easily and had an endless curiosity. His mother had instilled a love of reading.

His strict father would only allow attendance at the  WashingtonMissionary College run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, a suburb of Washington D.C. Although Paul secretly had no plans to become a minister or a missionary, he was eager to learn and happy to board the train for the trip east.

The family in 1926.

Keith Kaser and family

Clifford Kaser Family: Paul, Irene, Milton and Keith with Cliff and “Mame” in front. About 1926

When he went to college, Paul left behind his doting mother (looking much older than her 54 years in this picture), task-master father, and beloved younger brother, Milton Kaser. Their sister Irene was working as a maid in other people’s homes.  Their much older brother Keith was married and farming nearby. Milton would have been fourteen in this picture and when he wrote a letter to his older brother, Paul, away at college. Ira Milton Kaser looks and sounds (in his letter) more mature than 14, although the letter is unmistakably that of a young teenage boy.

letter from Milton to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton to Paul Kaser, October 1926, pg. 1

Milton to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton to brother Paul Kaser, pg 2

Milton Kaser to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton to Paul Kaser, October 1926, pg 3

Letter from Milton Kaser to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton Kaser to his brother Paul Kaser, October 1926 pg 4

Milton spends two pages describing the latest high school football game, a description full of details and nicknames. The description is also notable for his use of a derogative term for the quarterback of the other team, which reflects a time less concerned with tolerance than our own time.

Milton Kaser then says “I’m doing fine in school” which is an understatement, as he gives his grades of A’s and B’s in subjects that sound advanced for a fourteen-year-old–at least the Algebra and Latin. Later we learn that he is a Freshman in High School.

He then moves on to the family. “Everybody fine here. Irene just went to Kenmore and “dad” and “Mom” just returned from Glenmont. Since Irene is gone we get bigger pieces of pie. Keith was to Mt. Vernon today and brought some  Cero (?) meat home.

We’re sending you your overcoat and a comfort[er].”

Darned Freshman class had a party Friday night.”

These passages take some explaining.

  • Irene may have been going to serve as a live-in maid with a family in Kenmore, a neighborhood of nearby city of Akron.
  • Glenmont is a town in the same county as Millersburg, where many of Mary (Mamie) Butts Kaser’s relatives lived.
  • Why are “Dad” and “Mom” in quotes?  In the 1920’s these words would probably still qualify as slang–not the kind of words you use in formal writing. However, later Paul’s father signs himself ‘dad.’
  • I’m still giggling at the fact that his older sister’s absence mainly means Milton gets a bigger piece of pie.  Wish I had recipes for Mamie’s pie.
  • The word that is missing in the sentence about older brother Keith looks like Cero.  Milton’s writing is quite clear, so I’m really puzzled by this one.  However, since Seventh Day Adventists manufactured vegetarian meat substitutes, and Mt. Vernon was a center for the church in that part of Ohio, I’m guessing that is what it refers to. Perhaps a brand that disappeared so thoroughly that even Google can’t find it.
  • sending your overcoat”  Apparently the D.C. area had some early winter weather that my father was not prepared for. He might have preferred to get some of that pie!
  • And why would a 14-year-old say “Darn” about a class party? Probably because of religion again. His father was very strict about keeping the Sabbath. No work between Sundown on Friday and Sundown on Saturday.  And that would no doubt include no parties.  So Milton would have preferred that the party be scheduled at another time.

On the fourth page, Milton Kaser closes the letter, and their father adds a note.  This is a rare–in fact unique relic of Cliff Kaser.  When my sister read it, she felt it reflected his concern for his far away son (sending the overcoat) combined with his practical side (weather report). It seems to me to reflect, the rather cold man, unable to express emotions, that was reflected in my father’s stories about Cliff Kaser.

“Rained from Saturday midnight to Sunday midnight then snowed about 1 1/2 “. Sloppy snow on ground this a.m.  your overcoat and comfort to forward today.  dad.

To return to the question at the beginning–why does this letter make me sad?

Because just five months after the lively letter, Milton Kaser was stricken with pneumonia. Three weeks later he died in his brother Paul’s arms. He had not yet reached his 15th birthday, which would have come in September. My father, Paul, never entirely got over Milton’s death, and we had heard the story from him many times.  But this week I finally saw the death certificate, and could more clearly understand the tragedy of this young man’s life and death.

Milton Kaser Death Certificate

Milton Kaser Death Certificate, April 9, 1927

Milton Kaser is buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Millersburg, beside his parents and other members of the Kaser family.

And why was my father, Paul Kaser, at home with Milton instead of in the spring semester of college in Washington D.C.?  That will be the subject of my next post, when I continue with Paul Kaser’s year 1926–the best of years, the worst of years.