During this time, my brother Dale, sister Nancy and I headed to Riverside Cemetery in Oshkosh to try to find Grandma & Grandpa Sullivan's graves. William Augustine and Marie Josephine Bednorz Sullivan are my Mom's parents, my maternal grandparents. I had never visited their graves.
Dale had been to the Sullivan grave site and had a vague memory of where the graves were. However, after wandering a couple of sections along the river with no results, Dale resorted to calling Uncle Gerry to ask where Grandma was buried. Besides directions - which Uncle Gerry had written down in his files (and could find in just a couple minutes of looking- Impressive!) - Gerry had stories to explain why Grandpa was buried next to Grandma - not at all a given since they had been divorced since 1936.
|Dale Hanson communing with Grandma Sullivan|
After that, Gerry told us, Augie only contacted Marie when he had a "business scheme" he wanted Marie to invest in. But Marie always knew that his only business was getting some personal spending money because he had drunk away all that he had and couldn't pay his bills. Gerry seemed to think that Grandma would give him some food money and send him on his way without getting taken in by his schemes. I wonder whether any of the children ever saw him again. I need to ask Gerry.
At the end of his life, Grandpa was living in Milwaukee. My Mom always said Grandpa fell on a radiator (the old steam kind that got really hot) and died of his injuries. A death certificate would help confirm or clarify this family story.
He died when I was 9 years old, and until then, I didn't even know of his existence. I had always thought that Al Chappa was our grandpa, and one day while I was still little, he mysteriously disappeared from Grandma's living room, never to be seen again. No one talked about him after that. Since he never interacted with us, I didn't think much about it. I didn't really have a relationship with "Grandpa Al"
"Augie's" funeral was in Oshkosh - I remember a bunch of us cousins being at Grandma's house while the adults all left in their dress clothes. I understand now that they went to Grandpa's funeral held in Oshkosh. My Mom kept the funeral card which only gives dates of birth and death. And the birth date on the card is incorrect - on purpose? According to the copy of Wm A's birth registration (in my collection), his birthdate is June 17, 1877. The year on the funeral card is 1874 and the year carved in the gravestone is 1883. Did Grandma just not know the actual year? Why did she have the stone carved 1883? We'll never know.
|Funeral card for Wm A. Sullivan|
So Grandma paid to have Grandpa's body shipped from Milwaukee, paid for the funeral, bought a grave site and headstone at Riverside Cemetery. All for a man who drained the family's resources. To me, this is a testament to the Christian charity of my Grandma. She never turned her back on the scoundrel. And it also shows the strength and good sense of my Grandma. She managed to raise 11 children, buy a house and live a comfortable life all on her own. Quite a feat in her day. Makes you wonder what kind of conversations they are having now that they are back together again, side by side under one gravestone.
|St John & St Peter streets intersection|
north of the Sullivan grave site
|View from the Sullivan grave site|
looking west toward the river
Research notes: My to-do list for fleshing out this part of our history
- find obituary for William A and Marie J Sullivan (Oshkosh library)
- interview Jerry about the funeral and Grandpa's cause of death and whether he or siblings ever saw him after the divorce
- interview Monica about funeral and cause of death and whether she or siblings ever saw him after the divorce
- find divorce papers (should be in Oshkosh); determine actual date of divorce
- find death certificate for William A and Marie J Sullivan (one in Milw, other Oshkosh)
- find Milwaukee address for Wm A
- find church where funeral was held (Oshkosh)
- find Ann and Ken Beutler graves, photograph
- Add this gravestone to Find a Grave