Thursday, May 28, 2015

Our Lost Cousin Leonore - TBT

Mike's mom--my Grandma Grace--had a first cousin she never knew. Her name was Leonore Miller. M says "first cousin" means they each had a parent who were siblings. ("Siblings" are sort of like litter mates, only usually not with the same birthday.) He also says that since Grandma and Leonore are first cousins, he and Leonore are "first cousins once removed." The reason Grandma never knew her is that Leonore died in 1919, five years before Grandma was born.

Let me try to give you the executive summary on this: M's mother's mom was Gladys Neeld McElvy, who was born in August of 1899. She is the baby in this 1901 Neeld Family portrait:


Leonore's mom was Katie Neeld Miller, the family's second-oldest child, who was born in March of 1880--over 19 years before Gladys. She's in the top-right of the picture. Katie's only child, Leonore was born in March of 1902, so she was less than three years younger than her Aunt Gladys. The two girls grew up to be best friends and didn't really think of each other as aunt and niece.

On October 27, 1919, when she was a 17-year-old high school senior, Leonore died after a short illness. Gladys was devastated. When her first baby (Grandma Grace's sister) was born in 1921, she named her Evelyn Leonore McElvy. For a few decades there were many family members who loved and remembered Leonore, but by now they, too, have all died. None of the Neelds born after 1919 ever knew her, and sadder still, most of the ones living today have never even heard of her. The purpose of today's "Throwback Thursday" post is to try to remedy that situation a little bit.

When M's mom died, one of the treasures he found among her belongings was Aunt Kate's old photograph album. Grandma Grace had gotten it from her mom, Gladys, who had gotten it from her sister, Leonore's mother. The album is very beat up and falling apart, and many of the people in the pictures are not identified. But some of the ones of Leonore are identified--including one of her and her BFF, Gladys, lying in the grass beside the Millers' house at 802 West Henry Avenue, in Tampa (see below).

Mike also found Leonore's obituary online. It was published in a St. Petersburg newspaper, The Evening Independent, on October 29, 1919. We present that obituary here, along with several of the album photos, as a tribute to our "lost Leonore."

Note: Click on the picture to enlarge it. Then to make it even bigger (assuming you're using a PC): (1) right-click on the preview enlargement, (2) select "View Image," and (3) left-click the resulting picture. (Or you can just put on your glasses.)


Two minor points: First, the obituary refers to Leonore as a student at "the Tampa high school." Technically that school--the only high school in Hillsborough County in 1919--was called Hillsborough County High School until 1927, when H. B. Plant High School opened. The north Tampa school was then renamed Hillsborough High School. Second, the obit says the cause of Leonore's death was typhoid fever. But Grandma Grace told Mike she thought it could instead have been part of the Spanish flu pandemic, which ran from early 1918 to the end of 1920.

On Tuesday, October 28th, Leonore was buried in Royal Palm Cemetery South, St. Petersburg. Here is her grave:


When I learned all these details about Leonore, it made me think back to the big Neeld Family portrait we featured twice last month (April 23rd and April 30th ). Something about it struck me as odd at the time, and now I know what it was. Dogs can tell a great deal about people by watching their "body language" and paying special attention to their eyes. Here is that picture again:


As you might recall, it was taken by Burgert Brothers, the well-known Tampa archivists, on Saturday, May 24, 1924. The mother and baby in the very center are Gladys Neeld McElvy and 11-week-old Elsie Grace McElvy (M's mom). Notice that all of the grown-ups and most of the kids are looking at or toward the camera. A few are even trying to smile. (M says that smiling in family portraits wasn't too popular until about the middle of the century.) Next, focus on the man and woman standing just behind Gladys and baby Grace. They are Leonore's parents, Max and Katie Neeld Miller. The house in the background is their home on West Henry. It is the same house where their beloved only child died five years before. Now look closely at Uncle Max:


Any dog will back me up on this: Uncle Max's crossed arms and bowed head speak volumes. They say that despite the joy of being in the company of 37 family members, all gathered to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary, he's still grieving for the one who isn't there.


Ally Boyd said...

Makes me ponder what the family tree would look like if Leonore had lived a long life...

cleemckenzie said...

I love going through my old photos to see the family gathered at different times. It gives me a sense where I fit in this world.

Lovely post and very interesting history.

Had to pop in and say hi to you and Buddy before I take off for the month. Have some serious traveling and thinking to do.

Enjoy summer.

Anonymous said...

You’re a keen observer, Buddy, and exceptionally thoughtful to present memories and images of this lovely child –tragically lost so young – to her extended family members who never had the pleasure of knowing her. I believe dogs understand that memories never die, but are tucked away in our hearts and passed along in our DNA, if not always in our consciousness. Nice post – GOOD dog!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I can't believe she died on October 27. Wonder what Aunt Kate thought about that timing when I was born on October 27, twenty-five years later. Very interesting. Thanks for doing all the research Buddy. Great job!
Auntie Julia