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.
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.
(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.