Sentimental Saturday – Happy Birthday, Mom!

I am sharing photos from my collection along with a brief explanation about when and where the photos were taken, if known.

Tomorrow, October 4th would have been my mother’s 85th birthday had not cancer interfered and cut her life off at the much younger age of 63.

Anna (Anne) Margaret (O’Neill) Hadden was on October 4, 1930 in Detroit, Michigan, United States. My mother’s parents, J. Graham O’Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley with their first child Ed, had moved to Detroit from Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1929 as there was work available and waiting for my grandfather. My mother and her younger brother Bill as a result were both born in Detroit. The family moved back to Toronto in 1937 when my grandfather’s mother Margaret (Graham) O’Neill passed away.

My mother never did completely lose her ‘Michigan accent.’

Anne (O'Neill) Hadden with her granddaughter Lisa Hadden and her husband Lewis Hadden in 1991

Anne (O’Neill) Hadden with her granddaughter Lisa Hadden and her husband Lewis Hadden in 1991

The photo above was taken by Yours Truly following my daughter’s first communion. The photo was taken inside Holy Redeemer Church in Pickering, Ontario.

My mother never missed a milestone event in the lives of her grandchildren for whom, she once explained to me, she had the “God given right to spoil.”

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Sentimental Saturday – A Wedding Anniversary

I am sharing photos from my collection and offering a brief explanation about what I know about the photos.

Today, September 26th would have been my parents 62nd wedding anniversary. On Saturday, September 26, 1953, Anna (‘Anne’) O’Neill married Lewis Hadden in St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The photo below of my parents on their wedding day was taken at the wedding reception, which was held at the Guild Inn in Scarborough, Ontario. Strangely enough, The Guild Inn was the former estate home of my wife’s second cousin, twice removed Rosa (Breithaupt) Spencer. My parents were married for 40 years prior to my mother’s death in 1994.

Anna and Lewis Hadden on their wedding day, September 26, 1953

Anna (O’Neill) and Lewis Hadden on their wedding day, September 26, 1953

Sentimental Saturday – Carol And The Panda

Carol is my aunt, my father’s only sister.

This photo is undated but appears to be from the mid-1950s. The photo was taken in the living of my grandparent’s home on Darrell Avenue in Toronto and I suspect it may have been taken by my father during one of our visits to see my grandparents when I was very young.

Carol Hadden with her stuffed panda bear, mid-1950s

Carol Hadden with her stuffed panda bear, mid-1950s

It may be a bit blurry in the above photo, but it is quite clear in the original, in the lower right corner there is a magazine on the couch. It is a copy of “For Men Only.” At the time this photo was taken, the magazine was not pornographic in nature. That would come much later in the magazine’s twenty or so years lifespan. No, in the mid-1950s, the magazine contained fictionalized and sometimes lurid stories of adventure. I don’t know who the magazine belonged to and I may never ask.

Remembering The Events of 9/11 And My Cousin, NYFD Lt. Michael Warchola

The events of that horrific day are indelibly marked in my mind as is the case with most of us. Yet, from the relative safety of my office in Canada, it was too easy to feel somewhat distant and removed. After all, I really didn’t know anyone in New York City at the time.

As I scrambled about the office at work that Tuesday morning, my secretary told me that she heard on the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. “That’s awful,” I said to her in passing, assuming that a small private plane had somehow been unable to avoid clipping the building.

I had no idea of the magnitude of  the events that were unfolding.

Much later in the day, when all the meetings were done, when I had a chance to sit in front of a television and watch the news reports, only then did I understand the tragedy and devastation.

And that awful day hit home when I discovered that I lost a cousin that morning.

A second cousin I had never met.

My cousin was Michael Warchola, or ‘Mike,’ as he was known.

Lt. Michael Warchola, NYFD, Ladder Company 5

Lt. Michael Warchola, NYFD, Ladder Company 5

Mike was five years older than me, born February 20, 1950 in Brooklyn, New York.

After Mike graduated from high school in Brooklyn, he shuffled off to Buffalo where he graduated from university in 1976.
Although he had a teaching certificate from university, in 1977 Mike joined the New York Fire Department like his older brother Dennis had done some time earlier.
After 24 years, Mike had risen to the rank of Lieutenant in the Fire Department. Perhaps more importantly, he had just two shifts to complete before retirement. The paperwork was all done and travel awaited. The first trip was going to be to Australia.
On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, Mike was the officer in charge of NYFD Ladder Company 5. Mike and his team of firefighters answered the call. They not only responded to the World Trade Center site, Mike lead his team into the North Tower.
Mike knew that he couldn’t save everyone but he was determined to make a difference and save one life. He made it to the 40th floor where he assisted someone, a “civilian,” experiencing chest pains. He was on his way back down, on the 12th floor, when the evacuation order for all firefighters was given.
On the 12th floor landing of the North Tower ‘B’ stairwell, Mike was continuing to help his ‘civilian,’ a young woman experiencing chest pains. When that call went out to the emergency responders to evacuate the building, Mike was seen by other firefighters still tending to the woman, promising that he would soon also evacuate.
Then the unthinkable. At 10:28 a.m.
Like the South Tower before it, the North Tower collapsed. Somehow, fourteen people in the ‘B’ stairwell survived the collapse. Mike was heard over the NYFD radio following the collapse, “Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is Ladder Company 5, mayday. We’re in the B stairwell, 12th floor. I’m trapped, and I’m hurt bad.” Mike was able to call out two additional maydays but his would-be rescuers were unable to reach him due to impassable debris.
On Friday, September 14th, the body of my cousin, Lt. Michael Warchola was recovered from that debris. He was carried out of the rubble by surviving members of NYFD Ladder Company 5.
The world had lost one of it’s heroes.
Learning that a cousin, one of my cousins, was there, on that infamous day and, that he died saving the lives of others in his role as a ‘first responder’, a role he undoubtedly loved and worked hard at, makes the tragedy of the day hit ‘home’ that much harder.
I never met Michael but wish I had had the chance. I have learned from a number of tributes posted about Michael that he enjoyed history, especially stories of the strange and bizarre, a passion reputed to have developed from reading British tabloid newspapers at his grandmother’s house. Michael was a Golden Gloves boxing champion who went to university in Buffalo around the same time I was in university in Toronto, just a 90-minute drive away. Mike and I both graduated from university in 1976 and we shared a common ancestry leading back to Greenock, Scotland.
Each year, as the 9/11 date rolls around, as I watch the inevitable television documentaries that capture the events of that day, I cannot help but think of my cousin and feel profound sadness for the loss of his life yet also feel profound pride knowing that Michael Warchola is part of my family.

Back To School

Around these parts, it’s the first day of school.

And it’s back to school for me as well. I am making a concerted push towards finally completing my program with the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. It has taken me longer than I had planned but I expect to have the last of the forty courses completed by the early Spring of 2016.

But ‘back to school’ day also brings back a lot of memories. My own first days back to school were many years ago but who can forget having some new clothes and school supplies.

My most vivid memories of first days of school though are related to my children, especially my first born, my son John.

Shortly before his fifth birthday, we registered John to begin school. We celebrated his achievement of being of school age. We bought him new school clothes and a new backpack in which he could carry his daily snack to school for his half-day kindergarten class.

But, and this was a big but for me, I still thought he was too young and little to go to school on his own.

Yours Truly with my son and first daughter about a  year before my son started school

Yours Truly with my son John and eldest daughter Lisa out for a walk at the Scarborough Bluffs, about a year before my son started school

Not wanting to erode his self-confidence, at least not anymore than normal parenting might, I came up with a solution. Each morning, when I was working a later shift, I helped John get ready for school. His Mom and I made sure he had a good snack for is busy day, well, half-day. I then escorted John to the school bus pick-up spot, conveniently located on the street at the end of our property. I would wish my son well as he boarded the bus and I would watch as he made his way down the bus aisle and found a seat. I waved as the bus pulled away and John would wave back.

I then would quickly run to our car and would follow the bus to the school where I would park some distance away from the bus drop-off area so as to remain out of my son’s sight. And I would watch to make sure he got into the school yard safely. And, I would wait for the school bell to watch John line up with his classmates and enter the school under the watchful eye of their teacher.

My late wife thought I was nuts. I thought I was just being a Dad.

Sentimental Saturday – Becoming A Big Sister

I’m posting photos from my collection of family photographs on Saturdays with a brief explanation of what I know about each picture.

When my daughter Lisa became a big sister in 1988, she took on her new role with gusto. In the photo below, Lisa intently observes and no doubt was supervising her new little sister Jenna learning to hold and drink from a ‘sippy’ cup.

Yours truly took the photo in the kitchen area of the Pickering home that we owned at the time. The sister bond that is evident in this photo continues to be even stronger today.

Jenna and Lisa Hadden, 1988 (photo by Ian Hadden)

Jenna and Lisa Hadden, 1988 (photo by Ian Hadden)

When More Than One Newspaper Is Needed – The John M. Foy Fatal Auto Accident

Newspaper reports and articles often provide rich texture about the lives of our ancestors. Newspapers not only informed our ancestors of world and civic events they were living through but they served as the social media for generations who would not know about the events in the lives of family, associates and neighbours due to time, distance and restricted transportation opportunities. The local newspaper kept them up-to-date with the social life of their community.

I have recently dedicated some time to deepening my research into my wife’s California ancestors. While most of that research was targeted at Ellen’s grandmother Martha ‘Mattie’ Diona Knox and her parents Thomas Elliott Knox and Amy Squires, I devoted some time to looking at the Squires family.

John Squires is Ellen’s 2X great grandfather. John and his wife Mary James were both born in England. It was also in England that they married and had their eight children – four boys and four girls. In 1873, John and Mary packed up the kids and sailed from Liverpool to New York City where John found work as a bricklayer. Sometime during the 1870’s, the family made its way to Berkeley, California where they put down roots. John worked as a brick mason and eventually rose to some prominence through civic duty as the tax collector for Berkeley.

The children of John and Mary did well in California and each of their four daughters married prosperous, successful men. Oldest daughter Emily married Charles Wiggin, a successful electrical company manager. Amy married Tom Knox, a pioneer vineyard proprietor and civic leader. Emma married John Foy, son of a San Bernardino pioneer, civic leader and wealthy capitalist. The youngest daughter Olive married Frank Naylor, who became President of the First National Bank of Berkeley.

In the early twentieth century, the family was living the ‘American Dream.’

That dream was shattered however on a pleasant Friday afternoon in July 1915.

Newspapers in Oakland and San Francisco scrambled to report on the tragic events of that Friday, July 2nd. The newspapers in more distant San Bernardino were also interested in reporting due to the pioneer family connection of John Foy. But just like today’s social media, it took some time and multiple newspaper reports for the story to out.

The Oakland Tribune, July 2, 1915, reported in large front page headlines “Two Killed, Three Are Hurt In Auto Accident On Dublin Boulevard Today.”  The Tribune story reported that John M. Foy, former Secretary of the State Harbor Commission and capitalist was killed along with his mother-in-law Mrs. John Squires in an auto accident. All of the newspaper reports got that part right. It was the remaining details that would have caused anxious moments for the Squires family members.

The auto accident victims as depicted in the July 3, 1915 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle

The auto accident victims as depicted in the July 3, 1915 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle

Some reports had only four passengers in the auto at the time of the accident; others correctly reported that their were five passengers. One of the passengers, John Foy’s son Frederick, either 9-years or 10-years old at the time, depending on the report you read, was described as being “probably fatally hurt.”

Through a minimum of eight different newspaper reports, the following story emerges:

John Macy Foy was driving his ‘machine’ along the Dublin road, enroute to Livermore, California to visit Tom and Amy Squires Knox. John had four passengers in the car with him: his wife Emma and their son Fred as well as his mother-in-law Mary James Squires and his sister-in-law Emily Squires Wiggins. As they neared Dublin, California, John was unable to navigate a sharp curve in the road and lost control of the vehicle which then rolled down an embankment. John Foy and his mother-in-law Mary Squires were killed instantly.

Young Fred Foy, likely seated in the back seat of the car, probably with his mother Emma and his aunt Emily, was initially reported as being near death. It was later reported that he suffered a broken leg and probably internal injuries leaving him in a precarious condition in a Livermore hospital. Finally, it was reported that he suffered a sprained ankle and an abrasion to his knee.

The Squires sisters, Emma and Emily, were reported as having having “escaped with slight injuries.” It was later reported that they were badly bruised in the car accident.

Thomas Knox was the first family member to arrive at the accident scene to provide assistance. He escorted the victims back to nearby Livermore where they were joined by Frank Naylor.

Funerals for John Foy and Mary Squires were held in Berkelely, California on Monday, July 5th. An inquest jury later determined that the deaths resulted from an “unavoidable accident” and that the deaths were “due to shock caused by spinal injuries.”

The lesson to be learned – keep digging. That first, maybe juicy story may not provide the whole picture but only one angle on the story of your family. The truth of a story sometimes takes a bit of time to emerge.