Monday, February 10, 2014

Claudia Overington Newman Gammon, 1925-2014

As I said in my last post, my grandmother Claudia passed away on February 8. I wanted to write a bit about her life, so here's my attempt.

My grandmother as a baby (1925)
She was born Claudia Overington Newman on June 2, 1925 in New York. Her parents were Claudia "Poppy" Overington and Glenn T. Newman.

My grandmother with her mother, on the porch at Oaklands. (1925 or 1926)

The story is that Poppy was attending Hood College, and a friend wanted to go on a date but couldn't go alone. So Poppy went with her friend, and her friend's date brought Glenn, who was at Annapolis, where I believe he was at the military academy. But Poppy missed the train back to school and didn't get back until well after curfew and so she was expelled. Facing disgrace, her family encouraged her to marry Glenn and so they were married on June 14, 1924.

By the time my grandmother was four or five years old, Glenn and Poppy had divorced. Poppy and my grandmother moved in with Poppy's parents at the Overington house, Oaklands, in Frankford, Philadelphia. Poppy worked as a stenographer at a railroad office and her parents took care of my grandmother during the day. She told me once that when she'd been learning to talk she'd started calling her grandfather Grinnie, and the name stuck. And her grandmother at some point or other became Minnie. She seemed to have happy memories of her childhood at Oaklands.

Claudia at the beach in Atlantic City with her grandparents (1929)

Jumping rope in the driveway at Oaklands

August, 1931
When she was eight years old, her mother married Edgar Jones, known as Casey. They continued to live at Oaklands for some time. By 1940 Poppy was working as a secretary for security brokers and Casey was a salesman for a manufacturing company. My grandmother grew up in a mansion with servants. She attended services in a church her ancestors had helped to found. Her grandparents regularly took her to the beach at Atlantic City, New Jersey. Her childhood was one of decaying privilege, as the family fortune was nearing exhaustion by the time she was born. Her grandfather had failed to pay his taxes and the city arranged that he could keep his property as long as he was alive, but once he passed away they would take the house. He lived until 1950, and by the time the house was torn down in 1953 it was in such an advanced state of disrepair that I have to assume that its condition and subsequent condemnation was due to the family's inability to keep it up, or perhaps they did not care to since they knew they wouldn't be staying.

My grandmother in her graduation dress (1942)
At any rate, my grandmother graduated from Frankford High School in 1942 and went away to Albion College in Michigan to study biology. While she was there, a bunch of new Army recruits were there for a ten week training program. There she met one from Los Angeles - my grandfather, Howard Gammon.

My grandparents outside the house where my grandfather was stationed at Albion College (1943)
In 2011 my father and I interviewed my grandmother about a few things using my cellphone as a recorder. She'd already had her stroke and had difficulty focusing but she was delighted to talk about how her parents met, and how she and my grandfather had met and gotten married. She got roped into a blind double date much like her mother had. "I was horrified," she said. "I had to go out and go, of all things, on a scavenger hunt and things like this with an absolutely blind date - somebody in the army that I didn't know from Adam!"

I'm not sure of the exact story but at some point or other they got engaged, I believe before my grandfather got shipped off to a military base in California. My grandmother went with her grandmother to a department store to buy her wedding dress, which was made of cotton. They got the dress pressed at a Chinese laundry. My grandmother had wanted a petticoat to wear under the dress but couldn't find one so she called up her college roommate, who was in Chicago. Apparently rationing wasn't as strict there so my grandmother took the train out there to visit and picked up a petticoat.

June 3, 1944 in Roswell, NM
I know my grandmother took a train out to Roswell, New Mexico, where she met up with my grandfather and his mother and they got married. I think my grandfather got shipped out to Hawaii after the wedding and then came back to her. They lived in a lot of places throughout their marriage until 1958. They had a daughter, Mary, in 1947, then another, Jeanne, in 1948. I learned on the day she died that she'd had two miscarriages after that. She had named one of those babies Ruth. My father Jim was born in 1953, the youngest of the family.

My grandparents and their three children in the middle, with my grandfather's parents on either side (early 1950s)
They lived for some time in Chardon, Ohio and later on Runyon Avenue in Piscataway, New Jersey. In 1960 my grandfather opened his own business, Gammon Technical Products, which was based out of Newark, NJ originally, then in Brielle and finally in Manasquan, NJ. They raised their three children. My aunts eventually moved to Chicago, where they lived until recently, when they moved back to NJ. My father stayed in New Jersey, where he met my mother. My grandparents went with them when they eloped in Bel Air, Maryland.

At my parents' wedding (1974)
The period of my grandmother's life I was around to witness is actually the time I know the least about. She and I never had much of a relationship. So I will leave you with her obituary, as published by the Asbury Park Press:

Claudia Overington Newman Gammon, 88, passed away peacefully at home Saturday, February 8. She was raised in Philadelphia and attended Albion College. she married Howard M. Gammon in 1944. Howard went on to fly in WW2 and they lived in several places before settling in New Jersey in 1958. 
Claudia was an active member of St. Mary's by the Sea Episcopal Church and volunteered for many civic organizations over her life including past president of the Manasquan Woman's Club and the Manasquan Thrift Store for the VNA. She loved to read and travel. 
Claudia is survived by her husband of almost 70 years, Howard M. Gammon; 3 children, Mary and Jeanne Gammon of Spring Lake, their foster daughter, Lovi of Elgin, IL, and Jim Gammon and his wife Wanda, and her 2 grandchildren, Jimmy and Sandi, all of Wall Township. 
Visitation will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12 at O'Brien Funeral Home, Route 35, Wall Township. Funeral Service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 at St. Mary's by the Sea Episcopal Church in Point Pleasant Beach. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the St Mary's by the Sea "Table Fund". For more information or to send condolences, please visit

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Memorial Services for Claudia Overington Newman, m. Gammon (1925-2014)

My grandmother Claudia passed away around 3:15am yesterday, February 8. I will be writing a full post soon, when I have time to write about her life and add photos, but I wanted to make sure my followers know, as her mother's family, the Overingtons, have been a favorite subject on this blog.

There will be a visitation on Wednesday, February 12 from 3-6pm at O'Brien Funeral Home on Route 35 in Wall Township, New Jersey.

A memorial service will be held at her church, St. Mary's by-the-Sea, in Point Pleasant, New Jersey on Thursdays, February 13 at 2pm.

Claudia has left instructions to request that in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the St. Mary's-by-the-Sea fund for the homeless.

She is survived by her husband of almost 70 years, Howard Gammon of Wall Township, NJ; daughters Mary and Jeanne Gammon of Spring Lake, NJ; son and daughter-in-law Jim and Wanda Gammon of Wall Township, NJ; and two grandchildren, Jimmy and Sandi Gammon, also of Wall Township.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

John W. Perdue's Unlucky Family

Some time ago I went to Iowa on a graveyard tour of my ancestors. In that time, my mother and I visited so many graveyards and hunted down so many graves that a few were bound to fall through the cracks and of course there were some I didn't know to look for until after we went home. John W. Perdue falls into the latter category.

John Perdue married Ora May Morrison, whose mother was Lydia Josephine Gammon - my great-great-grandfather's sister. I have a photo album in my collection with Ora's name carefully written on the inside cover. It helps me date it between 1902 and 1904, but I'll get back to that in a minute. Before today, I thought that John and Ora moved from Iowa to Kentucky and had four children, the eldest of which was Roy, born in 1904.

John & Ora's marriage certificate (My photo; Ringgold County Courthouse)
When I found out he was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, I put in a request on for a volunteer to take a photo of his gravestone for me. (By the way FindAGrave is a fantastic resource with tons of dedicated and amazing volunteers across the country). It took a while to come back to me, as they often do, and I completely forgot I'd made the request. The notification email came in telling me the request had been fulfilled by a volunteer and it sat in my inbox for days before I took the time to look at it and save the photo to my family tree.

When I went to reconcile the vital data, I ran into a few problems.

I put in Ora's death date from the stone without giving it much thought, and then realized that one of the census records I had saved to her couldn't be right - it was from fifteen years after she'd died. This led me to discard the whole idea of Kentucky and the three younger children. Ora and John's son Roy was on their tombstone, so I added his death date too. The tragedy began to emerge.

Ancestry immediately calculated Roy's age at death for me - he was only nineteen. I got a number of hints for state census records and began saving them to him and browsing for his parents. It was only then that I realized his mother was missing from them. I went to check her death date, remembering it was much earlier than her husband's, and realized that she died on January 10, 1904 - just five days after her son's birth.

I went back and checked her marriage to John, wondering how likely it was that they had more children. They were married on March 10, 1902, so the odds are pretty low that they had another child. Even if they did, it probably died in infancy because there's no record of another child.

Poor John Perdue. He married Ora May when she was 20 and he 23. Not two years later, what should have been a joyful occasion - the birth of their first child - turned tragic when Ora died five days later, probably due to complications. John was left a widower with an infant to care for. He never remarried, and appears in all the census records alone with his son Roy. That is, until Roy's untimely death at age nineteen in November, 1923. John didn't make it another five years from there. He passed away at age 50 in June, 1928, and was buried with his wife and son.

The gravestone that told their story.
Photo: Barbara McCully
I realize there is nothing happy to gather from this story, but I don't think I often write about the sad things and I felt that I should. A good portion of what genealogists learn is bound to be sad, and those stories deserve to be told, too. John has no descendants to remember him, so I will take up the role.

I suppose if there is a moral, it's pay attention to dates. I have a tendency to gloss over specific dates - it's an occupational hazard of working with things that usually come in ranges - but in this case actually looking at the dates changed the personal meaning of this photograph drastically. And if nothing else, now I know the window in which Ora must have made her photo album because she was a Perdue for less than two years. If only I could figure out how the album came into my hands...

Reference Links:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fearless Females, March 4: The Gammon-McKee Wedding

Yesterday I posted about Carrie Bernice McKee, the great-grandmother after whom I was named. Today I'm going to write about her wedding. She married my great-grandfather James Mathias Gammon on November 6, 1921.

On their wedding day, on the porch:

Their wedding was at her father's house, 1815 Westmoreland Boulevard, in Los Angeles, California. It was a gorgeous, huge Craftsman that still stands.