Cousin Killed in Storm

A third cousin of mine, Terry Niko, was killed in a storm that hit Des Plaines, Illinois in July 1972.  The newspaper report says the storm had tornado like winds, and heavy rain.  There were funnel-like clouds that streak across the sky in a south easterly direction.  Roofs were blown off, a building was leveled to the ground, extensive damages and broken windows to buildings.  Many trees were down throughout the area.  Homes were damaged due to the high winds, flying debris, and tree branches.  It looks like Terry was the only one to lose his life in this terrible storm.

Terry niko (2)

It’s a little hard to read so I will transcribe the part about my third cousin Terry Niko.

“Police said Terry Niko 23 of 7500 Elmhurst Road, Bensenville died at Holy Family Hospital 40 minutes after he was crushed in his car by a falling tree limb in the 700 block of Graceland Ave.

According to reports Niko, alone in his car at the time was driving southbound on Graceland Ave when the large limb fell on the roof of his car about 100 feet south of Prairie Ave.  It reportedly took 8 policemen to lift the heavy limb off the car.[1]

Unfortunately, I did not know Terry, and I didn’t know of his existence until recently.  You may wonder how I found a cousin that I did not know existed.

One of the things I like to do is reverse genealogy.  You might ask, “What is reverse genealogy?” I start from the past and move to the present.  I start with what I know.  For example, I have already traced backward from myself to great-grandfather, Carl Desens, and to the 2nd great-grandfather, John Desens.  I know my 2nd great-grandfather, John Desens, had three children that lived, married, and had children.  Who were they and who are their children and grandchildren and so on?  By doing this I hope to find living second and third cousins.  I always hope to find someone who will share my interest in searching our common ancestor or may have been told family stories that I haven’t heard yet. 

Here is an example of reverse genealogy.  I start with John Desens family listed here.

johann desens

Carl is my great-grandfather, and I have searched all of his eight children.  Now I would like to search for Hanna’s children.  So I search various sources such as census, vital records, and newspapers.   After I did that, here is what I found about Hanna Desens family.

Hanna desens


I researched each of Hanna’s  children.  Here is the family of her third child Martha:

Martha R

Then I researched each of Martha’s children.  Here is the family of Martha’s third child Irene.

Martha Rosenwinkel

Now I researched each of Irene’s children.  When I got to last one, Terry Niko, I noticed that he was only 23 when he died, and I wondered why he died so young.  A search in the newspaper archive answered my question.  That is how I came to find Terry and his sad story.  May Terry rest in peace, and God Bless his family.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks topic this week is Storms.   


Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst

[1] Arlington Heights, Illinois, Daily Herald Suburban Chicago, Monday, July 17, 1972, Section 1 Pg. 3.

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