Sunday, June 29, 2014

Goldie Benas

Goldie Benas was my great grandmother – a woman who never had a chance to get to know some of her grandchildren let alone great grandchildren. 

Goldie, the only daughter of Benjamin Benas and Frdericka Wilzinski, was born December 10, 1864 in Vallejo, California.  Goldie had three brothers – Isaac (1863-1951), Max (1867-1928), and Morris (1872-1929).  I don’t know much about Goldie’s early years, other than that she lived with her family in Vallejo until she married Herman Levy in San Francisco in September, 1883.  The Fresno Republican from September 22, 1883 (page 2) states that the marriage occurred on September 18, 1883 by Rev. Dr. Vidivar and the Oakland Tribune from September 18, 1883 (page 4) states the marriage occurred on September 15, 1883.  I do know that by December 23, 1884 the family was almost certainly living in Fresno when their first child, Herbert Levy, was born.  The next two children, Leon and Sigmund (my grandfather), were born in Vallejo – family interviews said that Goldie went back to Vallejo in the summer of 1886 and 1888 to have her sons in order to escape the hot summers in Fresno.  I’m sure she stayed with her parents as they were still living in Vallejo at the time.  The story of “too hot in Fresno” makes sense as the Fresno Republican reported on June 21, 1884, page 3, that Goldie was spending the summer in San Francisco with Miss Sopha Sachs.  Who was Sopha and why did she accompany Goldie to San Francisco?  Maybe a nurse or housekeeper?

I don’t have many pictures of Goldie but I’ve been able to come up with a few. 

Levy Home 1890
Levy Family Home, built 1887
846 or 946 K Street (later Van Ness Avenue), Fresno

When I enlarged the photo to be able to see the people better, I can see Goldie, Herman, Leon, Herb and Sig standing in front of the house.  I love the bicycles and Sig’s dress!

Levy House Van Ness Avenue Fresno 1890 cropped

Youngest son Benjamin (1892-1965) showed a picture of the family in his autobiography.

Levy Family Leon_Sig_Ben_Herb_Goldie_Herman
Back row:  Leon, Sig, Ben, Herb Levy
Front row:  Goldie Benas Levy and Herman Levy

In 1918, Herman passed away and Goldie was on her own.  In 1910 the family lived at the house shown above – Ben stated in his autobiography that K Street later became Van Ness Avenue.  In 1920, Goldie was living with Leon and Ben at 1509 Van Ness Avenue.

Here’s Goldie with her four grandchildren who were living in about 1922-1923.

Levy Goldie_HerbJr_Hermina_Barbara_Robert
Left to right:  Herb Levy Jr. (son of Herb), Hermina Levy (daughter of Benjamin), Goldie Benas Levy, Barbara Levy (daughter of Herb), Robert Levy (son of Sig), c. 1922-1923

And Goldie by herself. 

Goldie Benas 1922
Goldie Benas Levy
February 22, 1922
Taken at 647 N. Van Ness Avenue, Fresno, California
Based on 1920 census, home of Herb Levy and family

Goldie died January 19, 1926 at Stanford Hospital in San Francisco County from Chronic Myocarditis.  She was just 61 years old and was never able to meet her two additional grandchildren, my father, Gordon Levy, and Benjamin’s youngest daughter, Gilda Levy.  Interesting to note that my mother told me that based on Jewish custom, children were often named with the first letter of their first name matching that of a deceased loved one.  My father and Gilda were both born in 1927, just a year after Goldie’s death, and while I know that Gordon was named with a "G" in Goldie's honor, I would guess Gilda was, as well.

Goldie Benas Obit


Pioneer Fresno Citizen, Active in Community Affairs, Dies, Aged 61

Mrs. Goldie Levy, 61, mother of Herbert, Leon, Sigmund and Benjamin Levy of this city and a resident of Fresno for the last forty-three years, during which she had taken a prominent part in social club and civic affairs, died late yesterday at Stanford University Hospital in San Francisco.  She was the widow of the late Herman Levy.

Funeral services will be held at 1:30 P.M. tomorrow in the Stephens and Bean Chapel, followed by cremation.

The service will be conducted by Fresno Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star and Rabbi Alexander Segel.  The pallbearers will be S.B. Goodman, William Glass, S.L. Platt, Maurice Rorphuro, F. L. Simons and Curtis Ballard.

Mrs. Levy was born at Vallejo, December 10th, 1864.  Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Benas, were pioneers of the state.  She came to Fresno soon after her marriage and lived for twenty five years in the 800 block of Van Ness Avenue.

For several years of late, Mrs. Levy had made her home at 1509 North Van Ness Avenue with her son, Leon Levy.  She belonged to the Order of Eastern Star and the Parlor Lecture Club, taking an active interest in both organizations.  Besides her four sons, she leaves three brothers, Isaac and Max Menas [sic] of San Francisco, and Morris Benas of Oakland, and four grandchildren who live in Fresno.

I wish I knew which paper this obituary was printed in but I have just the clipped article above and haven’t yet located the source.

Goldie is interred with Herman at Chapel of the Light Columbarium in Fresno, California.

Grave Herman Goldie Levy Grave Name Herman Goldie Levy

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Volunteer Grandpa

Sheldon Abb Hunter was my Grandpa.  Probably not in the way he thought he would become a grandpa but sometimes life throws a curveball and Shell stepped up to the plate and took a swing.

Sheldon Hunter
Sheldon Abb Hunter
Date unknown

Shell was born 11 March 1895 in Sacramento to Abner Abb Hunter and Hattie Josephine Baldwin Hunter.  I know there was at least one sibling, Ethel, who was born in 1893.  Together they attended the birthday party of Rob Fischer in 1893 – Shell would have been just 3 years old!

Birthday Party Shell

I don’t know much else about the family until 1917 when Shell was married, living in San Francisco and completed his WWI Draft Registration on 5 June 1971.  On 16 April 1918 their first and only child was born, Robert Melvin Hunter.  At one time Mom told me that she had a memory of Shell adopting Robert as a tiny baby and after a little researching today, I think that just might be the case – I found a Robert M Cochran born on the same day with the mother’s maiden name as Pease.  Could this really be true?  If she was married to Shell in June, 1917 and gave birth to Robert in April, 1918, could he really have had a different father?  Was the wife Sheldon was married to in June, 1917 really Harriett or was there another wife I don’t know about?  Or was he really not married at all and just wrote that on his registration?  Geez, so many new questions today!  I wrote about Robert here when he was killed while serving on the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor.

Maybe it was Robert’s death that tore Shell and Harriet apart or maybe it was something else – I’ll never know – but on 18 Feb 1942 Shell married my grandmother, Clara Fitzgerald Martin, in Las Vegas and became a ‘volunteer’ dad to my mom.  Mom and her mother had been on their own for some years and, in fact, Mom had lived with her great aunt and uncle for a few years while her mother was sorting things out.  But after her mother and Shell married, she returned to Fresno for high school where she met my dad, Gordon Levy.  Who knows if she would have found her way back to Fresno and met my dad if Shell hadn’t entered the scene.  And when Mom and Dad were married 3 September 1950, who else but her volunteer dad would walk her down the aisle?

Gerry_Shell Aisle

And then came grandkids for Shell and really, he was my mom’s dad and our Grandpa as far as we were concerned.  Her biological dad, Earle Martin, had started a new family and with the exception of yearly Christmas gifts, he was pretty much not a part of any of our lives.  But Shell was and we loved spending time with him and Grandma.

Clara Fitzgerald and Sheldon Hunter
Clara Maxine Fitzgerald and Sheldon Abb Hunter

At one point Shell was part of the Shaver Lake Fishing Club along with his father-in-law, Edward Francis Fitzgerald.  I asked Mom about this once and while she didn’t know if they were specifically part of any fishing club, she did remember spending a lot of time at Shaver Lake with her grandfather.  But this picture proves they were part of the club as someone wrote on the back “Shaver Lake Fishing Club”.

Shaver Lake Fishing Club
Shaver Lake Fishing Club
Date Unknown
Edward Francis Fitzgerald – standing, far left
Sheldon Abb Hunter – standing, 7th from left or right
Our favorite part of visiting Fresno was spending time on the chicken farm that Grandma Clara and Grandpa Shell owned on Olive Avenue.  I wrote a little about their chicken farming adventures here and have such great memories of helping Grandma and Grandpa on the farm.  We recently came across an article about the chicken farm.

Fresno Bee Sunday Sept 27 1959
The Fresno Bee
Sunday, September 27, 1959

Since the article is hard to read…….

When Sheldon A. Hunter of 2341 West Olive Avenue, Fresno, retired in 1955 as manager of the Fresno office of Western Union, he recalls he did not know the difference between a laying hen and a bantam chicken.

Today, the grey haired Hunter is the knowledgeable owner and operator of a 2,000 bird egg laying flock, who maintains he “never worked harder, made less or felt better.”  Hunter and his charming wife, Clara, bought the one acre layout two and a half years ago when it included only 600 hens.  They have expanded cautiously and only recently constructed a new cement floored laying house featuring the latest in wire cage operation.

Hunter, whose Western Union career covered 47 years, including 35 years in Fresno, credits feed company salesman and breeder representatives with a big hand in helping him learn the poultry business.  “We thought this would be an interesting part time occupation,” Hunter grins, “but we find there is always something to do, repair or change.  And these birds need a lot of care.  But we like the idea of keeping busy.”

Since all the Hunter eggs are sold directly from the small combination garage and egg processing room, the retired couple enjoy meeting people who stop to purchase the eggs.  Mrs. Hunter chuckles as she recalls a visit by a 10 year old neighbor girl.  “She wanted to borrow three eggs because her mother was baking a cake and didn’t have enough,” she says.  “But she assured me she would soon return them because her mother was going downtown and would buy some there.”

Along with the modest sized poultry set up, the Hunters are proud of their variety of fruit trees, ranging from figs to persimmons, a vegetable garden and boysenberry vines.

While the Hunter operation ranks quite small as compared to some of Fresno County’s sprawling commercial laying establishments, the owners keep abreast of the latest breeding developments.  They are grooming a new experimental White Leghorn strain obtained from Washington State which is said to lay larger eggs for specialized poultry men who have a market for them.

And a few photos of us in the garage/egg processing room – look at all those eggs!

Cary Levy_Sheldon Hunter_Debi Levy
Cary Levy, Sheldon Hunter, Debi Levy
c. 1960

Doug Levy Sheldon Hunter
Doug Levy, Sheldon Hunter
c. 1963

Since today is Father’s Day, it’s fitting that I share this photo of us with the two men we called “Grandpa”. 

My beautiful picture
Doug Levy, Sigmund Levy, Cary Levy, Debi Levy, Sheldon Hunter
c. 1963

Grandma and Grandpa were able to get away to attend my wedding in March, 1974.  Actually, I can’t remember if they even still had chickens back then but I do remember that it was quite an event to have them visit since they were always tied so closely to Fresno and the chickens.

Clara_Shell 1974
Sheldon Hunter and Clara Fitzgerald Hunter
9 March 1974

Grandma Clara was always so beautiful and looked so happy here but, sadly, Shell was in poor health and looked like he might have been wishing he were home in bed by this time.  I’m so glad he was able to be there, though, since just 8 months later he was gone.

Shell Hunter Obit

Even though Shell was a ‘volunteer’, when I think of my Grandpas he is one of the two that is etched in my mind.  And while we weren’t “blood” (as my family likes to say) we were his grandchildren in every way!

Sheldon Hunter Walking
Sheldon Abb Hunter
Volunteer Grandpa

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Happy birthday, Mom!

Geraldine c 1928
Geraldine Martin
c. 1928

Today would have been your 86th birthday but, sadly, another year has passed without you here to celebrate.  Lots has happened over the last year – vacations, new jobs, sporting events (the Seahawks won the Super Bowl!) and most importantly, a new great granddaughter ready to enter the world at any moment.
Let’s take a look back at your life and toast you on your birthday!

I just discovered this picture in my computer – I’m not sure how I got it because I don’t remember seeing the original.  But here you are with your grandmother, Francis Maria Brooks Martin, and your parents. 

Francis Brooks_Earle_Clara_Geraldine close up
Back row:  Unknown, Earle Martin, Clara Fitzgerald Martin, Unknown
Front row:  Unknown, Francis Brooks Martin, Geraldine Martin
c. 1930

I love this picture – you look so happy!

Geraldine c 1932
Geraldine Martin
c. 1931-1932

Who was this little dog, Mom?  You always were a dog lover!

Geraldine w dog 1945
Geraldine Martin

And this is the girl Dad fell in love with!

Geraldine c 1949
Geraldine Martin
c. 1949

And I know this was one of the happiest days of your life – your wedding day.  You were a beautiful bride!

Gordon Levy and Geraldine Martin
September 3, 1950

Here’s how I remember you from my childhood.

Geraldine c1960
Geraldine Martin Levy

And look at us with your other grandmother, Mabel Viola McAboy Fitzgerald.

My beautiful picture
Clara Fitzgerald Martin Hunter, Geraldine Martin Levy, Clara McAboy Fitzgerald
Carolyn Levy and me!
c. 1960

50 years of marriage – what an amazing feat!  We loved being with you to celebrate that momentous occasion.

Gerry & Gordon 9_3_2000
Gordon Levy and Geraldine Martin Levy
Golden Wedding Anniversary
September 3, 2000

We had such a wonderful vacation in Kauai with you in 2012 and were happy we could celebrate your 84th birthday with you.  Little did we know that would be the last time we would all be together or that it would be your last birthday.  I’m so thankful we had that time together!


Here’s to you, Mom – cheers!!!

Gerry 2012

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ashbel Waller’s will

Waller Ashbel Record of Will

I last wrote here about Ashbel Waller, my 5th great grandfather and, hopefully, my ticket into Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).  Now I’m digging through things I stashed away a few years ago and am anxious to get back to proving my descendancy so I can complete my DAR application.

Ashbel died 20 Sep 1848 in Butler County, Ohio and the Butler County Records Center was kind enough to send me quite a few documents pertaining to Ashbel’s life and death.

Here is the Record of his Will – I love the old handwriting but it is nearly impossible for these old eyes to read.  Thankfully, members Valerie Williams and Barbara Sparks have transcribed it which makes things a whole lot easier.  I've only included a photo showing a portion of the will but the full transcription follows.

Waller Ashbel Will
Old Will Book 3
Pg. 257
Butler County Records Center & Archives
Hamilton, Ohio

1848, Waller, Ashbell, Sept. 26th
In the name of the Benevolent Father of All:
I, Ashbell Waller of Butler County Ohio do make and publish this my last will and testament.  Item 1st  I direct that all my just debts and journal charges be first paid.  Item 2nd  I direct that my Executor hereafter named pay as soon as he can after my death to my daughter Ruth Thompson two hundred dollars, to my daughter Hannah Myers two hundred dollars, to my daughter Sena Moore two hundred dollars, to my son Alvy Waller two hundred dollars, to my son Salmon Waller two hundred dollars and to my granddaughter Ruth Osborn the sum of two hundred dollars.  If my Estate is not sufficient to pay all the above legacies, then each one is to have an equal proportion of what is above directed to be paid to each of them.  Item 3 The title to my farm in Liberty township is now in litigation in the Supreme Court of Butler County Ohio as a suit validated by me against Zadre W. Turner.  If by the decree in that came the Land would be directed to be recovered to me, then I direct my Executor to sell my said real estate for the purpose of meeting my debts and the above legacies.  But if the Court should merely decree to me the payment of a certain sum of money and leave the title to said land as it now is then the said money is to go towards paying said debts and legacies.  Item 4th  If there is anything left of my Estate either real or personal after paying the above legacies I direct that the whole residue thereof shall be equally divided share and share alike between Alvy Waller, Salmon Waller, Ruth Thompson, Hannah Myers, Sena Moore and Ruth Osborn.  Item 5th  I hereby nominate and appoint Cyrus Osborn to be the Executor of this my last will and testament.

In Witness Whereof I have set my hand and seal this 18th September A.D,. 1848.

A. Waller [seal]

Signed sealed and acknowledged by the testator as and for his last Will and testament in our presence who signed the same as witnesses in his presence and at his request September 18, 1848.

G.T. Bell
R.H. Cook
Otis Brown

A couple of items stand out to me:

1.  The Will was signed 18 Sep 1848 and Ashbel died just two days later.  Was he on his deathbed and dictating this to someone?

2.  At the time of his death, Ashbel was married to Jane Turner.  Was Zadre W. Turner a relative of hers?  Ex-husband?  Brother?  Son?

3.  Cyrus Osborn was the husband of Ruth Waller, daughter of Alvy Waller.

4.  The signature of Ashbel was noted with a [seal].  Was he too sick to sign his name or was he illiterate?

5.  It looks like $200 in 1848 would be worth about $5,500 today.

6.  Who were G.T. Bell, R.H. Cook, and Otis Brown?  All three are new names to me.

The most important question I have – is the fact that Ashbel names Salmon Waller as his son significant documentation for my DAR application?