Warning — very long post…
Yesterday morning I emailed the photo below to my cousin Judy (technically first cousin once removed since this is a genealogy-related blog post) and asked her if she knew who the people were in the photo. I told her that on the back of the photo was written “Charles Koeser & Family Taken Jan 1st, 1946” but that I could not find a Charles Koeser whose birth year matched what this man’s birth year may have been.
Judy responded that she had the same photo and recognized the house being her great grandparents’ (my great-great grandparents’) home in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. She’d been told that the woman was Silas Koeser’s niece and the child was his great niece. (Silas Koeser is my great grandfather and Judy’s grandfather).
Later after Judy talked to her sister, Beth, she sent me an email with a link to Find a Grave for Silas Koeser that had his obituary and links to other family members’ graves. I read that email at about 12:30 this morning and fell down the rabbit hole of genealogy — not a bad place to be when you cannot sleep in my opinion.
Here’s what I found out with help from two [first] cousins [once removed] and a number of genealogy focused websites (including a new subscription to Newspapers.com).
Charles Kaiser was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 26, 1911 to Lillian Koeser Kaiser and Frederick William Kaiser. When Charles was about 5, his father, a detective with the Milwaukee Police Department, was killed in in a bomb explosion at the Central Police Station in Milwaukee. Shortly thereafter Lillian moved, with Charles and his two sisters, Adrea (aged 11) and Nyra (aged 9) back to her hometown of Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
On July 22, 1919 when Charles was about 7, Adrea and Nyra went swimming at one of Two Rivers’ beaches along Lake Michigan. According to this article from the Manitowoc Herald-News, Charles went to the beach with his sisters. According to another article on that same Find a Grave page, Nyra (misspelled Myrna in the article) was pulled under water by the undertow. Her sister noticed Nyra’s distress and swam out to save her, but both girls drown. [Personal note: my grandmother would have been nine years old at the time and very likely was among the children that went swimming that day. One thing I remember about my grandmother was her fear of water and Judy said that the drowning of Adrea and Nyra contributed to that fear which is very understandable.]
Charles and his mother continued living with his grandparents through at least 1930 according to the US Census (although the 1920 census has him listed as his mother’s husband!). He attended Washington High School in Two Rivers where he was called “Charlie” and the superlative next to his yearbook photo in 1928 reads, “His nature was composed of many moods, first serious, then comical, then both.”
By 1936 Charles had moved to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin after attending Carroll College.
Charles married what seems to be his first cousin once removed , Myrna Beth Koeser (daughter of Charles Koeser, Lillian’s uncle) on August 22, 1936. Myrna was a teacher in Two Rivers.
By 1940 Charles and Myra were living in Menominee, Michigan with their two-year-old daughter Kay. Charles was employed as an office clerk for Wholesale Oil Company.
Around 1947 Charles and Myrna had a second child, Carol (gleamed from a newspaper article of her upcoming wedding) — which explains why there is only one child in the photo.
Kay married Richard Hughes in 1954 and Carol married Gary Burton in 1968.
Myrna died November 26, 1971 in Green Bay at age 58.
Charles married Ann Fulton.
Charles died November 25, 1980 in Green Bay at age 69 in 1980.