Nice Uncle Ralph

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  topic this week is “Nice”.  The first person that came to mind was my grandmother’s brother Ralph.  Uncle Ralph died when I was 16 years old so I got to know him.  I loved him and thought he was the nicest person I had ever known.  I still think that.  I wrote about him a couple of years ago and decided to repost it.  Here is his story.


Uncle Ralph

Ralph C. Bowers was born 18 June 1897 to Eva Reinhardt and Robert Bowers in Chicago, Illinois[1].  He was my grandmother’s brother and my great uncle.  I remember Uncle Ralph as kind and reserved with a great sense of humor.  I can still hear his laugh even after all these years without him.

I was told by grandma that when he was young he contacted TB and was in a sanitarium for a while.  He had a hard time keeping jobs until he got a job at R. R. Donnelly in Chicago working the night shift.  The night shift was what he needed.  Apparently, he was not a morning person and the night shift worked for him.  For as long as I knew Uncle Ralph he worked at Donnelly.

Uncle Ralph married for the first time to Helen Treppa when he was forty six years old.[2]  He and his wife (Aunt Helen) would come to my Grandmother’s house for holidays and some Sundays in between the holidays.  Sometimes they would come to my parent’s house too.  I always liked going to their house in Chicago.  Sometimes we would just decide at the last moment to go visit Uncle Ralph and Aunt Helen.  We would go there unexpected and always got a warm welcome.  Aunt Helen would put out a spread of lunch meats and breads.  It always amazed me that she had all this food on hand.  It never failed they had plenty of food for unexpected company.

We would sit around the kitchen table and there was always great conversation.  Even though I was young, I loved to listen to the adults talk.  I always found it interesting.  Of course I always enjoyed the food too.  Their house was very warm and welcoming.  Aunt Helen’s sister, Martha (Marty) lived with them.  I loved Aunt Helen and Marty as well as Uncle Ralph.  Because Ralph and Helen married so late in life, they never had any children.

My mother loved her Uncle Ralph very much and after he passed away, she would say that he was her guardian angel looking after her.

Uncle Ralph passed away on 5 January 1964 from a stroke[3] and was buried on 7 January 1964 in the Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove, Cook County, Illinois[4]

If he knew I was writing about him, I can hear him say, “Oh, for the love of Mike.”

Copyright©2016 Gail Grunst


[1] Registration State: Illinois; Registration County:  Cook; Roll 1613573; Draft board: 53 U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. {database on-line}.  Provo, UT, USA;  Operation  Inc, 2005.  Original Data:  United States, Selective Service System World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cares, 1917-1918.  Washington,  D. C. :  National Archives and Record  Administration.  M1509, 4,582 rolls.  Imaged from Family  History  Library Microfilm.

[2] Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 [database on-line].  Provo, Ut, USA: Ancestry.ocm  Operations Inc, 2008.  Original data:  Cook County Clerk, comp. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records.  Cook County Clerk’s office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008.

[3] From  his sister Helen Bowers Kaiser’s datebook.

[4] U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600’s – Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 2012.  Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave.

Maiden Aunt


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Martha is first one on the left


The topic this week for  52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  is Maiden Aunt.  I could only find one maiden aunt, and I have already written about her.  So I decided to write about someone who is not a blood relative, but was someone who I thought of as an Aunt and loved.

My grandmother’s brother, Ralph Bowers, was married to Helen Treppa.  Helen had a sister Martha who lived with Ralph and Helen.  When Uncle Ralph and Aunt Helen came to holiday or Sunday dinners, Martha was usually with them.  Martha (Marty was her nickname) paid a lot of attention to me when I was a child, and I loved the attention.  I remember her as a very sweet and quiet lady.  At the time, I just enjoyed Martha’s company and attention, and never thought about her life.  So I really don’t know very much about it.  All I really know is from researching records, and there are not a lot of records on Martha.  No surprises surfaced like a secret marriage or illegitimate children.  She must have led a very normal quiet life, just like I thought. 

Martha was born to John and Helen Treppa on 4 May 1911 in Cook County, Illinois.[1] Martha was the youngest of five children.[2] The family lived at 1441 Lill Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.[3]  When I knew Martha she lived in that same house on Lill Avenue with her sister Helen and brother-in-law Ralph Bowers.  They lived on the second floor and someone else lived downstairs.  In 1940 her brother John and his family lived on the lower level[4] and sometime later they moved and then the apartment was rented out.

Martha worked as a packer for a wholesale meat company.[5]  She always seemed old-fashioned and she was the typical maiden aunt of the time.  Martha died 7 August 1992 at 81 years, 3 months and 3 days old in the state of Washington.[6]

I will always think of Martha with love and remember her kindness and quiet ways.

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst

[1] Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.  Original data:  “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878–1922.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Illinois. Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878–1922. Illinois Department of Public Health. Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

[2] Year: 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 24, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_335; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 1359

Source Information: 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.  Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA. Note: Enumeration Districts 819-839 are on roll 323 (Chicago City).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Year: 1940; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-01012; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 103-2902.  Source Information: 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.

[5] Ibid.

[6] U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2014.  Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.