Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sad Shadows

Over the course of the past two weeks I learned a rather unsettling story about a distant cousin. The process of uncovering the story began when the Family History Library made images of Texas Death Certificates to 1976 available on the Internet. I spent several days downloading death certificates to add to my files and didn't really have time to digest much of the information they contained due to the sheer volume of material that had suddenly been added to my files.

Then when I found myself in Kerrville on a brief vacation weekend, I realized I was within driving distance of Hondo. My great grandaunt Fannie Lentz Rucker had lived and died in Hondo, as had her two sons and some of her grandchildren. I knew I had a good opportunity at hand to visit their graves and obtain photographs of the tombstones. No telling when I would be anywhere near Hondo again.

I spent one evening in the hotel reviewing the notes I had for the family and checking the Medina County Genweb site for information about just who was buried in Hondo and suddenly realized there was a Rucker burial in the listing for a person I did not have in my files. I started rooting around the Internet, checking census records and re-visiting the Texas death records, trying to figure out where Elizabeth Edna Rucker fit into my Rucker family. About an hour later, I was stunned at what I had found and decided to put in a call to my aunt to see what she could tell me to confirm the picture I was forming in my mind.

To begin with, Aunt Fannie's youngest son, Jedie (pronounced J.D., according to my aunt) had died at the untimely age of 30 from a self-inflicted gunshot. I knew he had been married to a woman named Alma who had left him. They had a small daughter, Ruby, who remained in the custody of her father. Whether this was due to a court order or whether her mother had abandoned her is not yet known. What I had not known before was that Jedie had remarried to Elizabeth, a young woman several years his junior. At the time of his death, Jedie's occupation was "restaurant operator".

My aunt remembered stories she had heard from my grandmother who had lived briefly with Aunt Fannie shortly before Jedie's death. Jedie had served in World War I and had suffered from the effects of mustard gas. Apparently he was subject to bouts of despondency as one of the lasting effects. To complicate the situation, it seems that his little girl was snatched by her mother one day when she was in the care of her grandmother. (The mother moved the little girl out of state and the family never heard another word about her.) This loss of his daughter hit Jedie hard and, according to my aunt, he was never the same afterward.

At this point, it is not known just what all contributed to Jedie's decision to take his own life. My grandmother was alarmed enough about his state of mind to return home to her own family rather than continue to live with her Aunt and cousin. I have not yet located the record of his marriage to Elizabeth, so I don't yet know just how long they had been married when Jedie was found in his room on September 9, 1923 , dead from a gunshot to the head.

One newspaper notice has been located thus far, indicating that there may have been financial difficulties contributing to the factors of his post-war issues and the loss of his daughter.

This was certainly a sad story already, but then I found the second part of the story. Jedie's young wife Elizabeth took her own life a mere four months later, dying from a gunshot wound to the head. She was 21 years old. Was she despondent after the death of her husband? Were there other factors influencing her decision? I am still looking for information that might help in understanding her story.

Jedie and Elizabeth are buried next to each other in the Hondo Cemetery, sharing a plot with Aunt Fannie. One can only imagine the grief that was suffered by his and her families that year.

Aunt Fannie and her eldest son Louis survived Jedie, as did Jedie's daughter Ruby. One wonders if Ruby knew what had happened to her father. Did she even know her step-mother? How did the families cope with back to back losses of such catastrophic nature?

All questions that may never be answered. One thing we can assume is that this family suffered tremendously and that two young lives were lost before their time.

Jedie Moore Rucker

Jedie's and Elizabeth's graves in the background,
Aunt Fannie's grave in the foreground

Sometimes family research takes you down a totally unexpected path.


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