Thursday, December 3, 2015

Great-GrandmotherAnna Maria (Mary Ann) Veenker or Mrs. Herman Wilmes

Herman Wilmes, passport photo about 1920

This is grandfather Henry John "Hank" Wilmes'es father Herman Wilmes on his 1921 U.S. passport application for a return European trip ( entry for Herman Wilmes, accessed 17 Nov 2015).  Herman arrived, 24 Aug 1881 from Amsterdam, submitted his "first papers" application for citizenship on 3 Mar 1884 and was naturalized on 23 Nov 1887 in District Court in Niobrara, Knox County, Nebraska(which was accessed 3 Dec 2015 and included below). Sometimes it takes a great deal of help to find such information and it arrived in November.

Family history informed only two things about his wife, our great-grandmother Anna Maria/Mary Ann:  that Herman and William Wilmes married sisters and that Henry's mother died when Henry was very young.  Finding records other than census records and an index entry for their marriage on 26 Jan 1886 at St. Patrick's Church in Neola was unsuccessful - until this obituary provided some valuable hints. The obituary misspells the Wilmes surname as Wilmus but genealogists often say that spelling doesn't matter and that is true here.  The obituary helped identify a path to important facts anyway.  

Neola Gazette Obituary for Mary Anna Veenker Wilmes, November, 1907

Thanks to a very generous genealogist - Don Quigley, of Escondido, California, who is the husband of our cousin Sharon Doyle - we have this obituary of our great-grandmother Mary Ann Veenker Wilmes.  Don includes it on his website   Anna Maria/Mary Ann died in 1907 at 46 years old of typhoid fever in Neola or that vicinity.  The obituary's dates for their move to Creighton, Nebraska and return to Neola, Iowa where they were married are helpful.   The name Herman Von Habel also helped.  Using pieces to connect with other pieces, it was possible to confirm her parents, her full brother John, half sister Anna Catherine Veenker Wilmes (wife of William Wilmes) and half-brothers Fritz, Barney and George Veenker. Anna Catherine, Fritz, Barney and George are the children of Anna Catherine Von Habel, Jan Hendrik Veenker's second wife (he became (Henry Veenkeer in America).  I will post those civil registration entries in a future posting.  

Her parents were Jan Hendrik Veenker and Anna Gebina Bergman. I have not yet located the marriage record for Jan Hendrik Veenker and Anna Gebina Bergman but will continue to look. Anna Maria Veenker's civil registration/birth record for 8 Aug 1862 in Assen, Holland, a short distance from Groningen, follows.   Anna's brother John (recorded Jan in the Dutch civil registration entry) was born 11 Aug 1864, also in Assen. The registration entry shows her parents and we can share those great-great-great-grandparents soon, as well. Anna Gebina Bergman also died very young, probably in childbirth, for a third and unnamed child, on 8 Aug 1866. 

Civil Registration of Birth of Anna Maria Veenker Wilmes, 1862

Sadly, I have not found a photo of Mary Ann Veenker Wilmes.  This photo of the Veenker and Wilmes brothers, brothers-in-law and cousins-in-law - which was also a gift from Don Quigley.

Herman Wilmes, his brother William, bottom right) and his Veenker brothers\-in-laws

The note identifying each man does not state who wrote the names.  Both photos were provided by Don Quigley.  They are undated but assumed to be around 1920.

Herman who died in Missouri Valley in 1934 and Mary Ann (1907) are buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery, Lot 164 in Neola, Iowa.  The records of St. Patrick's Church (obtained through
Don Quigley) state that Mary was buried on November 11, 1907, by Rev. Hilary Rosenfeld.  This picture is listed on the St. Patrick's Cemetery website:  Wilmes Headstone at St. Patrick's Cemetery

Headstone of Mary and Herman Wilmes at St. Patrick's Cemetery  
Several notes:  Iowa genealogy records are very hard to obtain but they may exist.  Having already scoured the records available at the Iowa State Historical Society and the Pottawattamie County Genealogy Society without finding other records, in order to obtain death and birth certificates, it would be necessary for me to have an application form for each request notarized and pay a fee.  I have decided to do that only when necessary, and with this new information, I feel it is not a priority to do so. 

The priority is now to obtain the German records for Herman's family and the records are not as good. It may be faster and more efficient to hire a German genealogist to do that, spending on that priority instead.  There is some information available, thanks to Don Quigley on Herman's brother William, and it may help a genealogist pinpoint Herman where he was born, in Altenberge, Germany. Altenberge is on the very western border with the Netherlands, a short distance from Munster, Germany.  The baptism record for William was at Parochie Rutenbrock which I believe is a church in Germany very near the Dutch border.  I believe Don Quigley obtained it from someone in York, Nebraska. That will be included in a future post.  

Besides some untranslated Dutch entries, many records during that time period were in Latin! Google Translate has an excellent app for tablets and smartphones and it helped me distinguish birth (geboorte, for example, is Dutch for births), also marriage and death dates in Latin and Dutch (perhaps every language!).

And finally, if you have pictures or family stories to share, please post them here.  On your Facebook stream, click in the Search blue box at the top and a drop-down menu will offer the closed group My Dispersed Wilmes Family. The photos and stories do not need to be very old.  Please check your photo albums.  You may not remember what you have.  

Genealogists say that oral family history is gone within three generations so we are in a big hurry! 

This post to my genealogy blog Long Since Dispersed ( will be cross-posted to the My Dispersed Wilmes Family closed Facebook group (which simplifies reaching cousins). Soon it will be a separate Wilmes page on the Long Since Dispersed blog.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Driving Tour of Ryder Family Omaha Homes

Touring With Katy Ryder Finnegan, April, 2013

Frank T. Ryder and Ruth Harriet Gearen were married June 29, 1921, in Sioux City, Iowa, and their first son and first child James E. Ryder was born here on July 30, 1922.  The 1923 City Directory for Sioux City, Iowa shows Frank and Ruth living at 617 Rebecca Street.  My uncle James E. Ryder was born there on July 30, 1922.  My mother Mary Virginia Ryder Wilmes was born January 15, 1924, and Frances Ruth Ryder was born August 22, 1925.  The City Directory entries continue to list the Rebecca Street address until their move to Omaha which might have been shortly after Frances was born.

In April, 2013, my mother's sister Kathleen "Katy" Ryder Finnegan, her youngest daughter Kathleen Finnegan Hiatt, my husband Gene Spruck and I rode through Omaha to each of the houses Katy could remember.  My cousin Kathleen drove that day, a misty, gray spring day but one that will save the information and her memories for her family and her siblings families as Katy died on April 5, 2015, in Omaha.   

By 1925, the Omaha City Directory shows their address as 412 South 48th Street at Howard Street, in Omaha, Nebraska.  There is a family story about this house, which directly borders Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery.   Ruth was uncomfortable with the location, and they apparently did not stay very long.  The City Directory for 1926 does not include an address for them but Frank's occupation  is listed as electrician at Cudahy Packing.  The 1930 Federal Census lists their address as 215 South 35th Avenue (between Frances and Martha Streets, Omaha).  There is no photo for this address because we did not go there on the tour day.   

2322 South 33rd Street
The first house Katy Ryder Finnegan (born in 1927) could remember is 2322 South 33rd Street, confirmed by the 1931 Omaha City Directory. Katy:  "Go to the end of this street, then take a left. That is it, the white one.  Boy, you know, we thought this was a big house.  Gosh, I had forgotten.  The drug store was down there...I thought it had a porch on it."

Brick Street South 33rd Street
The streets are still brick.  This looks back north and east from the house.

Sherry:  How many grades did you go to Our Lady of Lourdes School?  Katy:  "From first grade.  Until we moved to Sioux City " (later than 1935 and by 1939 living at 1223 Morningside Avenue in Sioux City according to the City Directory for that year). 

1223 Morningside Avenue, Sioux City, IA
This picture was captured from Google Earth on June 3, 2015. This house was next door to the Rectory of the Catholic Church across Morningside Avenue.  

Katy:  "Turn left and back to 32nd Avenue. Many is the time I went up here (to a grocery store on the corner of South 32nd Avenue).  Mom would say I need a loaf of bread.  I would get that penny saver bread and I'd ask her (you know it had a wrapper  with a coupon), can I spend that on candy and she would say yes."

The 1940 census shows that they were living at 1335 South 36th Street and a census question asks where the respondent lived in 1935.  The answer to this question for the Ryders is “Same”  so it is possible that they rented this house before and after they moved back to Sioux City for a few years which the Sioux City Directory shows included the year 1939 at 1223 Morningside Avenue.  Frank's occupation at that time is listed as “Department Superintendent".

2227 Hanscom Blvd.
Katy:  "North, turn on Martha Street.  Now left here.  See how convenient it was to church and school (Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church).  Now left here.  Do you remember Higgins?  The Higgins lived right up there.  We lived in this second house.  2227 Hanscom Blvd.  I doubt that we planted that tree.

2205 Hanscom Blvd. - the Wilfongs
"Right down here was Rene's (Wilfong Garvey's) house."  Kathleen:  You and Rene were friends from grade school?      Katy: "Kindergarten.   It's 2205 Hanscom Blvd.  That was a big house."

"Look how close we were to Hanscom Park.  I never will forget Patty (her younger sister) burning her hands at Hanscom Park skating.  They had a big old stove that they threw in stuff to keep it burning.   Patty and I were skating and she went inside, you know because it was cold and her hands were wet and she accidentally put her hands on it.  And they just burned.  She cried and cried.  I didn't even bother to take off my skates and she didn't either and we ran all the way home through the snow."

Driving north towards Center Street:  "Evans and Reed ice cream store.  Both right there on Center.  People would walk there.  Ice cream and goup sundaes.  Chocolate goup.  Hanscom Park was so much fun.  The City greenhouse wasn't there then (as it is now).  This is President Ford's (memorial) house.  We walked from Our Lady of Lourdes all the way down here (from 1335 South 36th Street) after we came back from Sioux City.  That was a Joslin (George and Sarah) house (traveling north on South 36th in Field Club (Joslin's mansion on North 40th Street near Dodge Street was heavily damaged by the Easter Tornado of 1914 so the family moved to a house in Field Club at least for a time).

1335 South 36th Street
"This one with the porch (1335 South 36th Street).  It was so nice. Everybody used their porches.  They would come out and read their papers.  But you know what, I can't remember that this berm was built up that high on the other side of the street".  Perhaps the berm was erected by the Field Club Golf Course across South 36th Street to keep golf balls from striking cars. 

1009 Mercer Blvd.
The Ryders may have lived at 2227 Hanscom Blvd. until at least 1942.  In 1945, according to the Omaha City Directory, they were living at 1009 Mercer Park Blvd.  Frank's occupation is listed as Chief Engineer.  The 1948 City Directory shows that they still lived on Mercer Park Blvd.  Katy is listed as residing there and it incorrectly notes that she worked at Mutual Benefit and Accidental Insurance Co. but her employer actually was the Union Pacific Railroad at that time.

By the time the Ryders moved to 1009 Mercer Blvd., the five daughters and two sons had reached an age where many friends visited very often.  Sports of all kinds were played often on the wide driveway and the quiet street and Katy always joined in.    Katy:  "At Mercer Blvd., when a game got underway, I was out there for a long time playing basketball until Bob Wear (later her brother-in-law, Franny's husband) would poke me in the ribs.  He was an instigator (fun loving but pesistent)."  Kathleen:  Connie Wear Rensch and I talked about Bob's love of trouble-making.  Katy:  "Straight across Leavenworth Street,  Kenneys lived down here and Moylans."

Sherry:  How did you get to St. Mary's High School?  Katy:  'I had to take two street cars.  One on North 40th Street.  Rene always reminds me what one of the nuns used to say.(about being late).  Here's the Blackstone Hotel.  That was very big (a social destination).  And Mutual (of Omaha) on the right.  Ilene Ryan (Krebs) lived in one of those houses."  

"Now left.   Dad drove a Packard, dark I think.  Here are the Carberry Apartments on North 40th Street.  Mom had many friends who lived there.  Jim (Finnegan, her husband) could tell you all about Dr. Kelly.  Howells.  Langdons.  Jim could tell you.  The Austin Apartments.  The Bishop's house (was originally near St. Cecilia's Cathedral) was down here (gone now).  This was Methodist Hospital. On the corner of Cuming Street and North 38th  (now the Salvation Army)."

Sherry:  This was an elegant neighborhood in Omaha.  There is a little park on the northeast side of Walnut Hill Reservoir with a large fountain and wading pool (between North 38th and 40th on Hamilton Street which is a small city water reservoir and it is where my mother and father had their first date on the 4th of July, 1943). 

Sherry:  1009 Mercer Blvd.  I remember walking down this stone wall to go to the stores, pharmacies and soda fountains across Cuming Street.  This is the Mercer Mansion on the right.   Do you remember Dr. Sullivan (He was a physician and mentor to Jim Ryder and delivered many of us of the third generation and his picture was on Uncle Jim Ryder's office wall on Missouri Avenue in South Omaha)Katy:   "Oh yes, he was nice.  He's the one who used to chase me to give me a shot."          

Sherry:  After Grandpa Ryder died, this duplex on North 40th and Izard Street is where Grandma lived.  (No photo)   It was large, three bedrooms.  Katy:  "She liked it there."    Sherry:  I can remember the night there in 1960 before Bernie got married.  Her sisters and some nieces came over here and each of us had a job, shining shoes, folding clothes, packing for her honeymoon.  It was a great night, one of those sweet memorable family occasions.

There was a fire station right here next to the apartments.  There is Duschesne Academy (North 36th and California Streets) where Patty and Bernie went to high school. 

Katy:  "Nearys lived right down on the corner here."

Sherry:  On Cuming Street.  A drug store on the corner.  Blackstone Pharmacy.   Red leather twirl stools in the soda fountain.  We went there all the time.  Cherry Cokes.  There was a grocery store across the street there. 

3828 Cass Street
Sherry:  3828 Cass Street:   This is where you moved after you were married?  Katy:  Yes.  Jim lived in those apartments (before they were married with his mother and two sisters Geraldine and Grace).  He went to (Creighton) Prep. It is the one (Jim and Katy’s apartment) on the right, second floor.  Screened porch.  Jim's family lived across the hall on the second floor. 

Sherry:  In the late 1950's, we, Colleen, Patricia and Maureen and I, would go out the back stairway from the apartment kitchen and play in the alley.  The kitchen had a small door to the hall way where ice for ice boxes was delivered before electric refrigerators were available.  The apartment also had green and white striped wall paper in the dining room.  The alley appears to be blocked by a fence now.  There was another grocery store on the corner of California Street.  We went there often, too.  The first disc of Finnegan Family Memories DVD's shows the apartment and many other family events shot in 8mm film by Jim Finnegan.  

Sherry:  Then Grandma and Granpa Ryder moved out to Rockbrook Blvd (South 102nd Street).  A previous Long Since Dispersed post discussed the architectural kit that Frank purchased to build this home:  Building Rockbrook Blvd.

This photo is of the house that replaced their house which was a three bedroom white ranch.  It became a rose covered cottage with large yards on the south side and rear (which ran downhill to Rockbrook Creek).  It also had a driveway that ran downhill slightly into the garage, less level than shows here.  There was a narrow screened porch across the back of the garage and a door from the basement to the back patio where he had built a large stone barbeque ).   Bernie and Tommy (and Patty who was a dance instructor at Arthur Murray), all lived there for a time.  I spent a lot of time with Frank and Ruth and I remember it being built.  It wasn't done when they moved out of 1009 Mercer Blvd. and so he rented a house at Lake Okoboji , Iowa, for the summer – probably 1949 or 1950 - for Grandma and my mother and I went with her for a part of the summer. 

Katy: "The first year Tommy(her youngest brother) went to (Creighton) Prep, Grandpa bought him a scooter.   I gave Maureen (her oldest daughter)rides on it. "  

Sherry:  On the way out here to Rockbrook Blvd., I was reminded that about 1952-3, this South 90th and Center area was cornfields.  Katy:  "The city was growing and Dad wanted somewhere he could go out in his cutoff shorts and be in the yards.  He died at 67 in October, 1957.   It was peripheral artery disease.   That's what made him have to retire."

Kathleen:  He (Frank) just sort of picked up electrical engineering by himself?  Katy:  "Well, yes, and he had all of these books that he read all the time.  He didn't go to school very long (according to the 1940 census entry, he attended high school for one year)."  In a previous Long Since Dispersed post, I recalled more about Frank T. Ryder: Remembering Frank Thomas Ryder

Friday, May 8, 2015

Oh Laus! - Remembering Ruth Harriet Gearen Ryder

Ruth Harriet Gearen about 18-20 yrs.
How I loved my grandmother!  I always considered her one of my best friends.  As I wrote here in the Long Since Dispersed post about my grandfather, Frank T. Ryder, I spent a very great deal of time with my grandparents and always begged to spend even more time with them.

Since my grandmother Ruth lived for twenty years after her husband who died in 1957, I was able to spend even more time with her. There are simple, sweet memories of those times.  It was very painful to communicate with her in her last years because of the strokes she suffered after 1975 and I now wish that I had the skills to be a better friend to her then.

I knew my family well but did not know much about their lives before their life with me and my immediate and extended family. That would have been very interesting, so now I spend time trying to learn more about them. Despite all the time I spent with her, I cannot remember many conversations. One I do remember was an afternoon out with her doing errands. She asked me what I looked at first when I met someone. I told her truthfully I hadn't really thought about it and she told me for her it was  their eyes. She didn't elaborate about what it meant to her but she lived in a time when personal contact was everything. That was the basis of her first impression.

But she was not really a simple person.  She had faced many challenges and many disappointments, raised her seven children safely through the Depression, moved her family between and within two cities probably 10 times, faced the terrifying early death of her husband which left her with a very small income for the rest of her life, faced the crushing heartache of her daughter Bernie's early death and many other crises, as every family does.  She remained steady, cheerful and loving.

America was changing rapidly in the 60's, and in her 70's then, she had lived through many different eras.  I spent a great deal of time with her even then, visiting, taking her grocery and birthday card shopping and running errands, picking up birthday cookies to deliver.   Forty years before smart phones, my mother and aunts were in touch with her regularly but not daily as we have been with our parents who lived to advanced ages.  Many of the things Ruth valued and wanted to cook and sew seemed quaint then but those are precious memories now.

All precious memories except the Emeraude!  She had a number of colognes and perfumes on her dressing table but her favorite seemed to be Emeraude.  I remember my reaction to it clearly.  In fairness to her and the fragrance, I visited this website:  Yesterdays Fragrances - 1921 Emeraude by Coty  It was a popular fragrance among women her age and yet my sister Peggy and I would run the other way when she picked it up!

Ruth, probably 1950's
Ruth Harriet Gearen was born August 15, 1892, in Sioux City, Iowa, the second daughter and fifth child of James Edward Gearen and Dora Virginia Curtis Gearen.  It is not entirely clear when his father Patrick arrived in the United States or how they moved gradually west to Iowa. Their two oldest sons John Florence (1883) and William Edward (1886) were born in Chicago, Illinois but Marie (1888) was born in Iowa.  According to the City Directories for Sioux City, James was a plumber in a family-owned plumbing business that bore the name of his brother John F. (J. F. Gearen Plumbing) in Sioux City. Catherine was "at home" and, unfortunately, I have no successful research about her.

To-date, I have not located proof of Ruth's birth or baptism, but the Iowa and federal censuses, the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) and her headstone list this birth date and it is the one she used. Ruth was my maternal grandmother, mother of my mother Mary Virginia Ryder Wilmes.  Ruth died September 13, 1978, at the Mercy Care Center in Omaha, several years after her first severe stroke in approximately 1975.  

James Edward and Dora Curtis Gearen
Her Parents.  The picture at left of her parents is a copy of a copy but original framed portraits were included in my mother's family history collection which I acquired when my father died in 2013. James was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1859 to an Irish immigrant couple, Patrick J. Gearen and Catherine Crowley both from County Cork, who very likely fled aftermath of the Irish famine. County Cork and Cork City were among the hardest hit famine communities in all of Ireland.

They were married in Chicago on December 20, 1882, and a copy of their license was forwarded to me by a newly found cousin. It is an important document but it is a fuzzy copy and I will work to get a clearer version to post.

Ruth's mother was Dora Virginia Curtis Gearen who was possibly born in Virginia in February 22, 1864 (the date February 22 is known only because it is listed in Ruth's Birthday book and her note "birthday anniversary" probably indicates that might be the date but it is not certain). There are not enough records located to-date to confirm very much about Dora, including the date of her relocation to Chicago from the Virginia home of her parents in Lexington, Virginia at the time of the 1870 Federal Census, or her family's religion.  The census of 1870 names her parents John Wesley (a "tinner") and Harriet Edmonds Curtis but other than a set of military documents about her father, who was for a short time a Confederate soldier discharged early for health reasons, I have not yet successfully completed enough research about them. The Confederate service records for John Wesley Curtis were located on

James and Patrick Gearen died in Sioux City within one day of each other - January 27th and January 28th, 1923.  The story was noted on January 29th, 1923 in the Nebraska Business Journal with the headline "Pals During Their Life Succumb On Same Day".  Patrick was quite elderly in 1923, perhaps born about 1836, but I asked once about why James died so early and my aunt Katy Ryder Finnegan told me he had been suffering from pernicious anemia for some time before his death.  It would be necessary to search for a death certificate in Sioux City to confirm that.

Education.  The 1940 federal census includes "highest educational level achieved" information for each person listed.  The enumerator noted that Ruth had reached the second year of high school and that Frank had completed one year (I have not researched this any further).  We don't often think of women working during the early years of the twentieth century but Ruth had a career for at least 5 years.  The 1915 Iowa Census entry for Ruth, then aged 23, indicates that she was a stenographer. The 1920 federal census also shows her as a stenographer at a "packing plant". Almost certainly that was the Cudahy plant in Sioux City where both Ruth's older brother "Fleury" or "Florry" (John Florence) Gearen and her future husband Frank T. Ryder also worked.

Friends.  Apart from her immediate family, I know almost nothing else of her life before my life with all of them. There is an address book (discussed later) with names of women unfamiliar to me. One future project will be to research the names:  Mrs. Mabel Meyer, Mrs. Gunnar Nelson, Irene Kellogg, Mrs. Catherine Follis, Mrs. Helen Nothnagel (the only name familiar to me), Mrs. George Wissing, Mrs. Kenneth Keane, Mrs. Kate Brennan.  Almost all of them show addresses from Sioux City, Iowa, and I suppose they were childhood friends or married names of relatives.

Ruth and Frank with Ann and Jack Walsh
Marriage.   I cannot be certain that this is the wedding picture of Frank and Ruth, but it is very likely that it was close to that time if not. The other couple in the picture is Ann and her husband Jack Walsh.  Ann remained a very close friend of Ruth's for all of their lives.

Marriage Recorded by Archdiocese
The Archivist of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sioux City, Iowa has an index which notes their wedding date at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Sioux City, Iowa on June 29, 1921 (fourth from the bottom, marked by yellow x).  It appears that there are no digitized marriage record pictures and I have not yet visited the governnent offices in Sioux City to search the records.  An index entry is available through Family at Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934.  (Frank's full name at his baptism and marriage according to additional Archdiocesan records was Thomas Francis although he used Frank Thomas Ryder personally and professionally and his headstone also shows Frank T. Ryder).

Her Catholic Faith.  Ruth was a woman of great faith, born in a time of significant growth in the Catholic community in Sioux City, according to to Cathedral of the Epiphany, Diocese of Sioux City History  She was devoted the the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the Rosary, to many saints, and to her brother, the Right Reverend Monsignor Percival Patrick ("Perc") Gearen, who became the pastor of St. Cecelia's Catholic Church in Algona, Kossuth County, Iowa, five years her junior (1897-1970).

Her Family.  She was devoted to every member of her immediate family - four sisters and five brothers in these pictures.  I love the picture of Ruth and her sisters because of their dresses.  They are all drop-waisted and much shorter than their earlier photos.  Marie's headdress suggests early 1920's "Flapper" style! Before seeing this, I would never have imagined my grandmother as a Flapper! There are several other photos of the Gearen siblings grouped together like this, so they gathered often.   A separate blog post will describe the information available for her siblings.

Ruth, Mimi (Marie), their mother Dora, Marge, Grace, Babe (Lucille)

Leo Wilson, Gearens and Frank Ryder

Oh, Laus!   (Pronounced LAWS") It is no surprise, then, that her favorite expression of exasperation was one which might have been associated with Catholicism.  "Oh, Laus!"  Problems with baking, cleaning, ironing, family, television, shopping, her husband Frank calling out for her  - "Oh, Laus!"  I have always assumed that this expression was something liturgical or scriptural.  I went looking for a source and while there is nothing direct, there are some possibilities.  

First, there is the Latin translation of "Laus Deo" or Praise the Lord as defined in

Our Lady of Laus and Benoite Rencurel
Our Lady of Laus.  There is also the story of a Marian apparation (an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a living person) to a simple shepardess named Benoite Rencurel at Saint Etienne-le-Laus, France, at the foot of the Alps, sixty miles from Grenoble, over the years 1664-1718 (approved by the Vatican in 2008, a story I had not heard).  The Catholic Encyclopedia at Who is Our Lady of Laus? describes the story at length.  This dictionary, dating to approximately 1910, states:  "At the heart of the message given to Benoite is a conversion of souls which aims to bring full reconciliation with oneself, with others, and with God."

The Temperance Pledge.  I cannot say where Ruth acquired the expression "Oh Laus!" - maybe at a Catholic school, through instruction at her parish church, from her brother or somewhere else.  But we know from oral family tradition that she had taken a temperance pledge when she received the Sacrament of Confirmation as a teenager. The Iowa section of  The Church in Iowa, 1910 (the Diocese of Dubuque, of which Sioux City was a part until 1902) states that the Bishop was "an enthusiastic advocate of temperance and many temperance societies had been formed across the state".  She had followed the exhortations of her religious leaders on temperance and it is possible that "Oh, Laus" was a common or her own personal use of this story of Our Lady of Laus.  She was faithful to the temperance pledge all her life except when her son-in-law Bob Wear, Sr., would mischievously make her a Creme de Menthe on ice after an occasional dinner without telling her - and she didn't refuse it!

She remained faithful to the rosary, as well, and recited it daily.  As she was older, she would "say her prayers" in the early afternoon, remarkably, often kneeling in front of a living room chair to pray and recite the rosary.  I recall many visits to her at Cornish Heights Apartments in the early 70's and finding her in prayer (and I waited until she was finished!) or at her other afternoon past-time - the daily soap opera dating from April 2, 1956, As The World Turns.  She was a devoted fan of Lawrence Welk, as well.

After her marriage, Ruth, like her mother, was also "at home".  She baked, and cooked, and kept house.  And then, she cooked some more.

Doughnuts and Breakfast.  To the right of the kitchen stove was a coffee can. Perhaps two.  One had bacon grease and the other lard. The lard was an essential ingredient for doughnuts in the early days (also pies, I think). Three varieties - cake donuts, plain, powdered sugar or sugar-cinnamon combination. Crispy, crunchy, warm, fresh from the small round cast iron pot never too far from the stove. There were doughnut dunkers in her family, especially Frank and his oldest son Jim.  And, of course, the breakfast meats were quite good quality because they came directly from the Cudahy "packing house" where her husband was the "Chief Master Mechanic".  Bacon, sausage, Canadian bacon. Ruth was very fond of buttermilk and she continued to drink it even into the 70's for lunch, for example, with some cottage cheese and tomato slices.
Fried Mush.  There were also pancakes considered unusual today - buckwheat pancakes - one of my mother's favorites - but they were not favorites of her daughters.  And, there was fried "mush", Mother's most favorite. Water, salt, corn meal and butter.  Mixed, poured into a loaf pan, refrigerated overnight, then sliced and fried to very crisp exteriors, buttered and served with syrup.  Some modern cooks attribute the popularity of fried mush to the availability of inexpensive corn meal during the Depression years. Probably true, but it is also possible Ruth's own mother's southern roots influenced her cooking.

Shirred Eggs. When all of her family except Bernie and Tommy were married and living in their own homes, there were grumblings about the three different menus she prepared daily for Frank, Bernie and Tommy. There is only one clear memory of an item that was different for one of them. Bernie's choice for breakfast was "shirred" eggs - scrambled eggs prepared in a double boiler. Actually, most recipes for shirred eggs available online today seem to involve baking the eggs in a water bath but I have clear memory of the double boiler.

Recipes.  The first Christmas after my mother Mary died, in  2000, my sister Laura made copies of her recipe book.  I found recipes that are clearly associated with Ruth.  The date that each recipe was created is not known so it may be that ingredients and baking techniques have changed over time, making the precise directions shown here less successful today. In some cases, the recipe directions seem incomplete but they are offered here as the only ones found.

Here is the recipe as written out by her daughter Kathleen Ann Ryder Finnegan, who also loved "Mush":

1 cup Quaker yellow corn meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
3 cups boiling water

Combine corn meal, salt and the cold water.  Gradually pour into boiling water, stirring constantly. Return to boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat; cover.  Continue cooking over low heat about 5 minutes.  Slice and fry in Crisco or oil . 

This is the recipe for her Banana Bread as recorded by my mother:

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup soft shortening
2 eggs
Stir in:  3 tablespoons sour milk (probably buttermilk?)
1 cup mashed bananas
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (baking) soda
1/2 teaspoon salt 

Blend in 1/2 cup nuts
Let stand 1 hour before baking at 350 degrees for 50 minutes

Here is a recipe from my mother's collection labeled Grandma's Devils Food Cake (but I am not certain if it is Ruth's or her mother Dora's):

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 stick of margarine, put in cup and fill with boiling water
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
Stir flour with 1 teaspoon (baking) soda and 1/4 teaspoon (cream of) tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add in order above.  Bake 350 degrees until done.

And finally, this is Ruth's recipe for my sister Peggy's favorite cookie - the Refrigerator Cookies (previously called the Ice Box Cookie):

1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt 
1 cup white sugar and 1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon (baking) soda
1 cup nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

Roll in 2 rolls and chill several hours
Slice.  Bake on greased cookie sheets.  375 degrees. 

Cookies For Your Birthday
Cookies for your birthday.  Whenever possible, she made cookies as birthday gifts for every grandchild. She kept careful records of the birth dates of her grandchildren in a Birthday Book (which will be attached in full to a future post). My favorite was chocolate chip cookies made according to the back of the Nestle's Chocolate Chip bag, as I recall. Each child's cookies' gift was a small wax-paper lined coffee can (like this more modern Folgers can) - there were no special wrappings but love!  

Housekeeper.  Besides baking, she was a great housekeeper.  Each day of the week had a task,  Monday was wash day. Tuesday was ironing day, and so on. Fabrics were 100% cotton and everything was ironed.  At their Rockbrook Blvd. house, there was a basement laundry room and I remember her ironing there on a "mangle" she used to iron shirts, sheets, pillow cases, underwear. Most of the vintage mangles shown online have rollers like an old fashioned washing machine but my recollection is that it was similar to the steam presses of modern dry cleaners with a top raised by a long horizontal bar.  It is likely that her husband made or had the device made for her. There was no residential air conditioning at that time and summer ironing was and perhaps it was intended to speed her work.  I do remember (because I did it often in my own family) that each item was sprinkled to moisten it, then rolled and kept cool in a refrigerator until time to iron it.   

A Goebel-Hummel Figurine
Hummels.  Perhaps Ruth decided quickly that one way to keep a pre-schooler busy was to create a job for her.  My jobs were emptying the wastebaskets around the house daily and, if there for the weekly cleaning day, dusting the figurines. The clearest memories were "Hummel" figurines (see the Goebel-Hummel-Collectibles Guide). She received them as gifts for special occasions and as they were special, each had to be dusted with care. There are several remaining in the collections of family members, this one is in my sister Laura Wilmes Ramirez's living room.  

1970's Sewing Box
Sewing.  Most women of Ruth's generation had good if not great sewing skills.  I cannot recall her completing full womens' pattern sewing as my mother and her sister Bernie often did, but she was a good cross-stitcher and mender. These are the contents of her sewing box from the 1970's:  needles, measuring tapes, scissors, wooden spool threads, iron-on denim patches snaps, hooks and eyes, binding tapes, and needle-pointed pin cushion. I know that she continued to cross-stitch through all of the 70's, even with arthritis in her hands and after her first stroke.

Health. Her first stroke followed a terrifying and devastating event in her life, an F4 tornado which struck Omaha on May 6, 1975 (1975 Omaha tornado outbreak).  The apartment complex in which she lived was severely damaged.  Hearing the civil defense sirens, a neighbor living below her walked her down to his garden apartment level and although they were uninjured, the buildings were severely damaged.  Her daughter Frances Ryder Wear's home nearby had almost a total loss and the Wears' Cornish Heights Apartments were heavily damaged. She moved immediately to Whitehall Apartments further west on Dodge Street in Omaha but that Fall she suffered the first of the strokes. She did not really recover from the first so she moved, first to St. Catherine's Nursing Home and later to Bergan Mercy Care Center.

Ruth's Birthdays At-A-Glance Book
Birthdays, anniversaries, dates-of-death.  Dates and mail were very important to Ruth, so important that she even noted the name of her Postman - Milo A. Karnik -  in her Birthdays book  The cards she mailed to each person in her book were purchased at a Hallmark card store before the beginning of the month, handwritten with a fountain ink pen in her beautiful spidery script, then stamped and mailed weekly as the date approached. This is the cover of her book, which was included in my mother's collection of family history.  The full, scanned contents will be a separate Long Since Dispersed post soon.

Special Dinner With Flowers
Opposite Side View
Getting Together.  There were many family gatherings. Sunday dinners were standard for the years before my grandfather died in 1957. Roast chicken, mashed potatoes with white gravy, a vegetable. Homemade Clover rolls. Perhaps some fancy jello mold.  Dessert cake or pie, with ReadiWhip or occasionally homemade ice cream, of course!

The basements of both homes had large spaces that held huge dining tables and chairs for a crowd. These pictures are from a 1949 dinner at 1009 Mercer Blvd., perhaps about the time that Jim and Jeanne Walden Ryder were married or leaving for the Philippines.  Note the multiple platters of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. There is a vacant chair between my aunts Franny and Katy so I think that the picture was probably taken by Katy's husband Jim Finnegan.  The second photo shows two children near Franny, and along with the notation in my mother's handwriting of "1949" on the back, it is definitely that later year.

Birthday Parties.  Individual birthdays were cookie gift days but there was often a monthly celebration for all the grandchildren with birthdays that month.  There soon were so many children that parties were held in city parks, weather permitting - Elmwod Park or Fontanelle Park.  Each was a dynamic event! These photos are of an indoor summer 1955 party.

Rockbrook Summer 1955 (not Oct '55 print date)

Spider Man (Bob Wear, Jr.) and the girls
Of course, we took our treat bags to her house for Halloween. This photo is also at Rockbrook Blvd. and is probably earlier than the birthday party above, perhaps 1953 or 1954.  I remember the desk in the corner and the round table with the bowed legs very well. From top left, Sherry Wilmes, Ruthie Wear, Bob Wear, Jr. masked, Connie Wear, Maureen Finnegan and Peggy Wilmes masked.

My husband and I sat with Katy's lifelong friend Rene Wilfong Garvey and her daughter at the lunch following the funeral my beloved aunt Katy Ryder Finnegan in Omaha on April 10, 2015. In addition to wonderful recollections of their girlhoods, Rene told us that she spent many hours at the Ryder houses with Katy. One of her recollections was that Ruth found her husband Frank very funny and I remember that about all of the Ryders, they loved laughing!  Her daughters gathered at her house or apartment often, cooking, sewing, giving each other permanent waves, caring for their mother.

There was another family party that evening at Julie Wear and Gene Cammarotta's home following Katy's funeral.  More than half of Ruth's 26 grandchildren were there, many of their children, almost a dozen great-great-grandchildren, and several more unborn. Ruth would have been delighted to see them and to hold them and to enter each one into her treasured Birthdays book!  This story is for all of you.  I hope that you will remember that she loved her family deeply, taught them to love each other and would unquestionably loved you.

Notes and Sources
  1. All of the United States Census and state census documents mentioned here were accessed at, a paid genealogy database program.  They are also available online without cost at  I have created an extensive family tree at titled Wilmes_Ryder Family  Tree.  Periodically, access to is available free for very limited periods, especially during holidays such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, etc.  I have not yet created an extensive tree at but it is my intention to do so.
  2. The source for the news article about James Gearen and his father Patrick Gearen dying within 24 hours of each other is: The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.  Original data: The Nebraska State Journal. Lincoln, NE, USA. Database created from microfilm copies of the newspaper. Accessed May 8, 2015.
  3. Reference is made to as the source of the John Wesley Curtis (Ruth's maternal grandfather) Confederate Army documents. is a paid database and is occasionally available free for very limited periods near holidays, especially those with military associations.  Copies of the documents are saved to my tree.
  4. The marriage record information was obtained from the Archdiocese of Sioux City, Iowa, 1812 Jackson Street, Sioux City, Iowa 51105 which has an Archives:. Archives of the Archdiocese of Sioux City, Iowa.  Note that the office has limited office hours on Monday and Tuesday at this time. 712-255-7933.   I obtained the marriage index, as well as a baptismal index record for Frank T. Ryder and his older brother Arthur Benjamin Ryder from the archdiocese in 2014.
  5. Most of the photos and the Birthdays At A Glance book and the sewing box in this post were found in photo albums and a collection retained by my mother, Mary Virginia Ryder Wilmes until her death in 2000 and maintained by my father James A. Wilmes until his death in 2014. In addition to those items in my possession now, I have the framed original prints of Ruth's I have acquired them as we have packed their home in Omaha for sale.  They are all now in my home in Brooklyn, NY.
  6. Most other items are identified as to their current location or owner or linked directly to a website source.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Frank Thomas Ryder
Frank Thomas Ryder was born Thomas Francis Ryder on October 13th, 1889, in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, the second child and second son of Fred Ryder and Mary Catherine McCarthy Ryder.  He was baptized on October 24, 1889 at the Catholic Cathedral Church there and Charles Kane and Jane Scott (possibly his maternal aunt?) were his sponsors.   He died October 7, 1957, in Omaha, Nebraska, and was buried at Calvary Cemetery there.  

I spent a very great deal of time with Frank as an infant, toddler and pre-kindergarten, as I did with my grandmother Ruth Harriet Gearen, all of my Ryder aunts and uncles.  Before his forced retirement, Frank traveled often for business reasons, to Cudahy Packing plants around the country and to Mexico, but he was still a presence at home.

Most of what I remember is from the time they lived in the Rockbrook neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska, on Rockbrook Boulevard, (now a replacement contemporary home at 2306 South 102nd Street).   But after a break-in robbery in my parents’ tiny apartment in a house on Lafayette Street, we lived with Frank and Ruth for a time on Mercer Blvd. near St. Cecilia’s Cathedral.  By late 1948 my family moved to Davenport Street near Creighton University, close to them.

The house at 1006 Mercer Blvd. was a delightful and busy place.  My mother, Mary Ryder Wilmes, was the oldest of five daughters (Frances, Kathleen, Patricia and Bernadette), all of whom were still at home along with oldest son James and youngest Thomas and there was always something happening.  The picture above was taken on the front porch there, probably in spring, 1948.

Even after we moved to Davenport Street, we were back at 1006 Mercer Blvd. often.  There were many visits to and from my aunts’ friends.  Cars or motor bikes full of young people arrived and departed frequently.   Holidays were beyond wonderful and the anticipation for each was tingling.  The picture above was taken in 2012.

1006 Mercer Blvd., Omaha NE
Even after our move, we were back at 1006 Mercer Blvd. often and there was either basketball, baseball, tennis or golf in the driveway and out in Mercer Blvd., as well as hiking trips along the stone wall of the Mercer Mansion (home of the family who later developed the Omaha Old Market). Othe times, one of them would take me across Cuming Street to Blackburn’s Pharmacy for fountain Cokes or trips to the donut and lemon roll bakery on North 40th Street and Hamilton Avenue.

Ryder Family Dinner
There were very big family dinners around a giant dining table as in the picture at left.  This picture is from sometime in 1949 in the Mercer Blvd. basement.   Frank was not in this picture, which probably was snapped by the family photographer, Uncle Jim Finnegan, (evidenced by his vacant seat next to Katy in center, left). That’s probably Ruthie Wear Kuehl in Franny’s arms (left, just above Ruth Patty Ryder Quinn and Jack Quinn are next to Katy followed by Jim and Jeanne Ryder, then Bob Wear next to my parents on the lower right).  Note the huge platters of fried chicken. It must have been special as there is floral centerpiece.

We were there many Sundays for dinner, usually a roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and white gravy and green beans or a seasonal vegetable.  Later years, on Sunday afternoons at Rockbrook Blvd., there were fierce competitions during College Bowl, a 50’s television game show.  Tommy was really great at that game.

It is not an exaggeration that this family loved each other and loved being together.  They were together often, they celebrated, they helped each other, they sought each other out and they laughed all the time.   And, my aunts Katy and Patty remembered childhood visits from Frank’s McCarthy uncles.   In years before this time, there must have been visits from Ruth’s siblings and parents from Sioux City and Chicago, too, as Frank wrote the lyrics to a song he titled “When Your Wife’s Relations Come to Visit You” with the refrain “There’s No Place like Home”.  I’m very sorry that I can’t remember all the words but my aunt Katy Ryder Finnegan reminded me of some of them including references to “grease up to their elbows” and “pork chop bones” tossed in the corners, and pushing you out of your good bed.  

My father Jim (in the lower right corner of the picture above, apparently demonstrating a soft drink flavor) remembers Sunday morning trips with Frank after World War II to the Cudahy Packing plant in South Omaha where, after a bit of a wait, a box of meat and maybe shell fish would be brought out to the waiting car.  Bacon, Canadian bacon, beef, pork, and oysters, too. 

The stockyards were frenzied in the 50’s, trucks and trains unloading around the clock, and early on Sundays, the cattle trucks would start to line up on "L" Street from all over Nebraska and western Iowa, waiting to deliver their livestock to the pens of the buyers for the packers.  This web page is an excellent source for information about the Omaha Stockyards:

The Rise and Fall of the Omaha Stockyards.

I knew it was the most important part of Omaha’s economy, but the article states that directly and indirectly, the stockyards accounted for half of Omaha’s employment base. The bars lined “L” Street, too, to accommodate the waiting truckers, and they were not today’s Omaha Old Market cafes, bistros and brew pubs!  Of course, it smelled like a stockyards, too.  That was Frank’s world. 

In late 1940’s and early 1950’s post-war Omaha, veterans married and formed families fast and there was a huge housing shortage.  Contractors were very busy.  Frank helped arrange for a two bedroom house to be built for my family at 4140 Binney Street in Holy Name Parish, financed by my father’s VA or GI zero-interest mortgage loan.  My father told me that Frank had a contractor friend, Mr. Minelli, a co-worker at Cudahy, who went into the house building business and Minelli built our house.  

We called our street “Little Binney” to separate it from ”Big Binney” which ran steeply uphill from 43rd Street to 45th Street by the Servants of Mary Convent of Holy Name.  My mother and I would walk up there to catch the streetcar over to Frank’s house on Mercer Blvd.    

Frank was a generous man and may have helped find jobs for friends.  It is hard to describe what unpleasantness the jobs probably involved at the packing house (the Muckrakers and Upton Sinclair did a fine enough job with The Jungle in 1906, years before Frank worked there).  One of my uncles told me a story about showing up for a job there one day and deciding that was it.  One day.  However, a neighborhood and Cathedral High School friend of my father’s, Maury Howell, returned from the Sea Bees after World War II and went to work for Frank at Cudahy.  He worked as Frank’s assistant for many years, according to my father. 

 Ruth’s older brother, John Florence (“Florry” or "Fleury"?) Gearen (Treasurer of Cudahy, a publicly traded company and part of the S&P Index’s original 500 companies according to Wikipedia) died in January, 1946.  A Cudahy employee magazine obituary stated that his brother-in-law Frank was the chief master mechanic of Cudahy, probably the chief electrician and facilities director all in one.  He certainly didn’t have an electrical engineer’s education so his were probably self-taught skills.  The 1940 census question about highest grade completed states that he completed one year of high school.  His love of books and reading was legendary in the family and he valued education very highly.  Each of his children had one or more years of college, and his sons completed professional schools.   

I am not certain of the date or details but Frank had a heart attack and was not able to return to work.  I estimate it was in the early 50’s but, in any event, it was too early for him to retire.  In retirement, he spent a great deal of time with grandchildren.   That’s Bob Wear, Jr. reaching for the caramel apples in the picture above and probably one of Jim and Jeanne Ryder’s children in Frank’s lap in this picture.  Frank and Ruth had young guests all the time.  There are 29 grandchildren and several times that many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

2302 Rockbrook Blvd.
He loved to build things.  One of his retirement projects was building a new house – from a kit.  I clearly remember the construction of the house on Rockbrook Blvd. and peering down the construction ladder to the basement from the kitchen.   My 2013 post at:  Share A Memory - Home Building 1950's speculated about the kit Frank purchased to build the house.  The Option #17 plan shown is very close to the house floor plan as I remember it.

It quickly became a rose-covered white modern ranch house with green-striped-with-white awnings, a large side yard on the south with a patio and a huge brick or stone barbeque in the back.  The lower back yard sloped sharply downhill where Rockbrook Creek ran through the rear of the lot to Happy Hollow Country Club and Pacific Street on the north, creating a scary, tangled woods.   When the Rockbrook house construction was not yet finished and they had to move out of Mercer Blvd., he rented a house at Lake Okoboji in north central Iowa for the summer.  My mother and I spent quite a lot of time with my grandmother at the lake that summer.  I think I was only three then and I cannot recall if any of my mother’s siblings were there but I image that Bernie and Tommy were there for a while at least.   

Another project was building a television, also from a kit or as parts from electronics catalogs, according to my mother.   It had the dark green oval screen, of course, it was black and white television, and he had it on a table in the basement but I cannot recall the case.  A few years later, during the McCarthy era, probably around 1953-54, I remember that he was watching the hearings.  

Frank was a Republican, and probably because of his work at the packing house, he disliked unions.  Maybe he was interested in Senator McCarthy’s pursuit of communists because during his years at Cudahy, angry and violent labor strikes occurred around the Midwest, some involving communists.  The Great Plains Quarterly article by University of Nebraska at Omaha professor William C. Pratt in 1996) provides a scholarly background for labor relations history and part of that history was the packing house labor issues:

These issues presented difficult challenges for executives of companies like Cudahy.  Part of South Omaha was a wild and violent place in those days, and management probably had their reasons for disliking unions, just as the unions and consumers had their issues with the packing companies.   

Frank’s friends visited him at the Rockbrook house when he retired.  They would visit and drink coffee, but sometimes Frank drank Kool Aid.  There were family rumblings about Frank and that Kool Aid because he was a diabetic and as we know now, that was probably associated with his heart disease.   Of course, my grandmother was a great and daily baker for all her visitors and he was probably presented with opportunities to eat the wrong things.    He could be a little demanding of her, and the call “Oh Ruth!” frequently rang through the house.   I assume that his heart disease, forced retirement and frustration left him somewhat grumpy but I don’t have any recollection of him in that way.  There were, however, occasions when his children gave it back to him.  There were lumps of charcoal or potatoes in his Christmas stocking on a few occasions! 

Before he was sick, together, we spent a lot of time on the move.  At that time, he drove a maroon Mercury.   As I was researching his father and the Ryder families, it struck me that he was accustomed to being extraordinarily busy with his Cudahy’s job, but Frank was also used to seeing large swaths of a city every day from his job as a streetcar conductor in Chicago in the early 1900’s.  The 1910 census states that he was a conductor on a streetcar; his father and brother Benjamin were motormen so this was surface streetcar not the elevated.  He never mentioned it that I can recall, but, as I became accustomed to traveling around with him and asked for a trip somewhere, he would tell me not to have miles instead of brains in my head.
One frequent stop was a dime store in mall at Countryside Village at South 87th and Pacific Streets (Ben Franklin?).  He liked that store and I liked it, too, as it had rows and rows of unwrapped toys, clothes and hardware counters   Usually, I left with something from one of the toy rows.  He did lots of the grocery shopping because Ruth did not drive.  Armed with the weekly grocery ads from newspapers, we visited markets around town, including Steve’s on the corner of South 50th and Leavenworth Street.   It was a wood-floored grocery then, with a swinging screen front door and a butcher shop.    It wasn’t long before the chain groceries dominated and the small groceries disappeared.  Fifteen years before that, my father Jim had worked in one of those neighborhood stores (see a Look What I Found post in November, 2014). In the many decades since the ‘50’s, Steve’s has been an antiques store but I think of Frank and the grocery every time I pass.

I can’t recall how long he was sick before his death in 1957, but it was clearly a chronic condition.  I was 10 years old when he died and I remember returning home from school on an October afternoon and finding my mother crying with her head in her arms on the dining room table.  I dimly remember his wake at the Brewer-Korisko funeral home in South Omaha.  In my mother’s family history collection, I found the visitation book which brought many memories of family friends, his coworkers and relatives.  Frank’s funeral at Christ the King Church was my first experience with death and I attended the funeral Mass with my Wilmes grandparents.   It was one of my saddest days.  
My mother and her sisters Franny, Katy and Patty, really wanted family information (Bernie Ryder Strasheim died in 1966).  They even took a trip to Virginia once in the early 80’s to look for their maternal grandmother Dora Virginia Curtis Gearen’s records.  His daughters pressed Frank, but there was only the story about his brother Benjamin.

Arthur Benjamin was Frank’s older and only brother, born and baptized in Sioux City in 1884 according to the Sioux City Archdiocese Archives (his sister Anna was born in 1894 and Margaret was born in 1898, both in Illinois).  The story was simple and without dates – Benjamin was killed in a train robbery.  I found the newspaper story of his death in a “harvest holdup” in a train boxcar in 1915 in Kansas – in an Oklahoma Territory newspaper at:


Information about Frank’s father Fred will be in a separate blog post, but this story confirms that there were some issues with Fred’s absences prior to Benjamin’s death in 1915.    In Frank’s World War I draft registration in 1917, he states that he is the sole support of his mother.  The census and City Directories listings may actually provide the moves back-and-forth between Sioux City and Chicago, but the names are sometimes interchangeable or perhaps misreported by the enumerator so I can’t follow it with confidence.  Fred may have been out of the home before 1915.  He died in St. Louis, Missouri in 1923, from cancer, having lived there for seven years according to his death certificate. 

Fred’s father was Azariah Ryder, a pensioned Civil War veteran of an Illinois infantry unit who was born in Bath County, Virginia.  Fred was born in Illinois in 1861, before Azariah enlisted or was drafted into the Union Army in 1863.  Thanks to the now deceased family historian Gordon J. Ryder (distant cousin), author of The Rider-Ryder Family of Virginia (The Gateway Press, Baltimore, MD 1993), there is actually a narrative history of Azariah’s extended family.   The self-published book (book and publisher now out-of-print and business) is the result of his multi-year exhaustive search for family information.   This compilation includes extensive documentation, correspondence and personal visit narratives with relatives and individuals with knowledge of this enormous family.

There is a single copy of it at the Milstein Division of American History and Genealogy in the Schwartzman Building of the New York Public Library.    I cannot find a digitized version online.  Because the book is copyrighted, I have written to his family hoping to obtain permission to include several of the stories as he wrote about them.   

Azariah’s father along with brothers and cousins (one of them ours) crossed the Allegheny Mountains from Bath County, Virginia several times on horseback to search for land in the Midwest.   Fred’s grandfather Thomas J. and Azariah settled in McHenry County in northeastern Illinois in the 1840’s.  Thomases’ father James and his father William had probably moved to mountainous Bath County farms from Maryland or Virginia in the  late 1770’s, according to Gordon Ryder.   

Maybe Frank knew more of family history, or maybe he didn’t know much of it, or was disappointed with dysfunction.   With his daughters, at least, he did not discuss it.  Christine Quinn Hudson told me that her mother Patty Ryder Quinn had discussed his father with Frank and she remembered that Fred Ryder was very sad at a child’s (Benjamin’s?) death.   However, Frank had to have known his relatives.  Both Frank’s father’s Ryders and his mother’s McCarthys families lived as next door neighbors in Sioux City for decades as the censuses and City Directories document and Frank lived there during some times.        

I wish there had been more time to know Frank as an older girl.  It would be great to quiz him about all this as I suspect he had many stories.  I will continue to post the stories that can be discovered here in Long Since Dispersed.  Please send me stories and recollections at

There are so many details to these stories and the individual pieces of information are stored on public family trees on where you can search by name.

All of the photos used here were in the collection of my mother Mary Ryder Wilmes and with the exception of the one I believe was taken by Jim Finnegan of the family dinner and the one I took in 2012 of 1006 Mercer Blvd, I do not know who created them.