Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sunday's Obituary - An Obituary That Broke My Heart

My sisters and me with "Nana" (I'm the ham-bone on the right).  We loved her hugs.

I was excited to get home to Pennsylvania and dive into the local newspapers so I could find the obituary for Hazel Blum nee Hill...the next door neighbor we called "Nana".  I wanted more details on her life.  I knew some basics about who she was, but hoped for more in her obituary.  I was to be greatly disappointed.

Hazleton Standard Speaker 01AUG1996, pg2
"Hazel Blum

Hazel Hill Blum, 97, of Hazleton, the oldest member of Trinity Lutheran Church, died Tuesday at Hazleton General Hospital.

Born March 17, 1899, she was the daughter of the late Conrad and Olive Aubrey Hill, and was a life-long resident of Hazleton.

Preceding her in death were her husband, Dr. Maurice L.; brother, Harry; and a sister, Rebecca Hill Kramer.

Surviving are two nieces and a nephew.

Funeral arrangements will be announced."

I know I shouldn't have been disappointed with this obituary.  There is some good stuff in there (believe it or not).  It gives me the name of the church she belonged to (which I did not know).  With this I can help rectify something that was missing from this obituary...where she's buried.  I saw that statement "Funeral arrangements will be announced" and with two kids getting bored in a library I only searched through the rest of the roll of microfilm in hopes of finding her burial announcement, but there was nothing.  A call to Trinity Lutheran will hopefully tell me where "nana" is buried.  I have a feeling it's Vine Street Cemetery in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.  Why?  Proximity.  It's the closest cemetery to the church. That's not conclusive, but it's a start.  Perhaps the church will be able to help me out more.

My parents always would talk about how old "nana" was.  I frankly thought that it was a bit of an exaggeration.  Little did I know that "nana" was already 73 years old when I was born!  The obituary (while not a primary source) helps to confirm how old she really was.  There's a little part of the Irish in me that giggles knowing "nana" was born on Saint Patrick's Day.  Warm and fuzzy feelings (nothing truly of genealogical significance there...just smiles).

Knowing that "nana's" parents were Conrad and Olive Hill was no surprise.  I was able to find this information out in the US Federal Censuses.  Hill may indeed be a very common last name, but I had one bit of information going for me..."nana" was my neighbor and I knew that the house she lived in with her husband, Maurice, was the house she grew up in.  Finding her in the census records while knowing that tid-bit was easy.  What I didn't know was her mom's maiden name.  The way the obituary was written we can tell it's Aubrey.  I'll be able to do some research there.  Why?  She's not my family. I just want to know more about hers.  It's not something that I can really explain.  Perhaps other genealogists can empathize with me here...perhaps I'm just a bit kooky.

Michele, "Nana" and me (I know I'm cute)
I knew the names of her brother and sister because they were in the census records too.  Now I'll be able to look for Rebecca in later census records under her married name. Perhaps I'll be able to find out the names of both Harry and Rebecca's Hill descendants.

So there is information gleaned out of a rather brief obituary, so why am I so sad?  I loved "nana".  Still do and always will, but I have the memories of a child of her and we know that children don't always remember the most significant bits of information, nor do they ask the questions we as adults want to know.  My "nana" died when I was a trainee in the Army.  I didn't know until over a year later that she was gone.  My father never told me.  I just felt hollow.  I was now an adult and would never be able to hug that tiny little lady again.  I'm 5'5"...or at least I was before the Army shrank about 3/4-inch from me over 10 years.  "Nana" was maybe 5'0" tall.  There wasn't a time I saw nana outside or visited with her that I did not hug her.  She never had children and rarely had family visit her.  Who is there to remember her?  This obituary doesn't encourage me.

I hope that I will find the burial information for her in the newspaper next year.  I hope it was put in there. I hope that she was memorialized properly.  "Nana" lived to be 97 years old, but did she out-live everyone that truly knew her?  Does anyone have fond memories of "nana" apart from my sisters and I?  I hope so.  I hope this post lets them find me so that we can always remember one of the most loving people I have ever met...Hazel Blum nee Hill.