Monday, May 9, 2016

Uncle Leo the Artist

Everyone has a unique family and one of the people who made my husband's family unique was the artist/author, his Uncle Leopold Paul Dauwer (born Leopoldus Gislenus Dauwer*).
Uncle Leo
Uncle Leo was born in Grammont, Belgium in April 1904 to Marie (Van der Beeken) and Camielle Geslenus Dauwer. He was the 2nd of five children, there was also William, Martha, Dorothy (Rose) and Alice. Only he and his brother were born in Belgium.
Uncle Leo's Belgian Birth Certificate
According to Uncle Leo's naturalization paperwork he was a young child of three when he arrived in America on the ship the Ivernia which left from Liverpool England. He wouldn't become naturalized until he was 25 years old. During the time his parents arrived in America it was expected that immigrants would assimilate to the American way quickly. I'm sure his parents worked hard to learn English and make a living.
Ivernia passenger list from 1907 (

Leo went on to meet Irene Robbins and soon married her probably sometime around 1924. They had at least three children. Eventually they moved to Plymouth in a beautiful location on the cliffs.
According to city directories he was a shipper. He must have enjoyed drawing and writing through the years because many of his family were blessed with his drawings.

Eventually he went into write two books, I "Remember Southie" in 1976 and "Boston's St. Patrick's Day Irish" around 1980. His art definitely had a distinct style.

Sadly Uncle Leo passed in May, 1981. Even though I never met Uncle Leo I've felt I have known him all these years because my in laws have always remembered him fondly to us. His art and books are an amazing legacy to leave his children, grand children, nieces and nephews for generations to come. Thanks Uncle Leo!

*Thank you to Rasmus Dahlqvist for providing me w/Uncle Leo's Belgian birth certificate from the Belgian archives!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Frank Griffin - Tragedy Happens in All Families

Every family has a tragedy and ours is no exception. There are many many tragedies in our family tree, too countless to name.  These included mothers who left small children behind because they died from TB, others who were hospitalized and died away from their families, young military casualties who died for their country and infant deaths from nameless diseases.  This particular tragedy happened almost 79 years ago and involved my maternal grandmother's brother, Frank Griffin (b. 1912, d. 1937), who died in a terrible car wreck in South Boston.  He was young, in his mid-20s.  He had married to a woman, Irena Babel, who he met while working at Boston City Hospital.  Frank moved on to a city job in the Sewer Department and he was killed while driving.  Below are the actual headlines, story and obituary for Frank Griffin.

After you read the transcription below and look at the 4 photos I've included from the Boston Globe, I have a few thoughts about this incident.

Front Page of Boston Globe - Evening Ed. - Sept 28, 1937
Boston Globe Article Transcription about Frank Griffin, September 28, 1937

Machine Skids Through Rail

Frank M. Griffin, Father of 3, Plunges to Death

Frank M. Griffin, 35, of 29 Whipple av, Roslindale, A City of Boston Employee, was drowned today when a beach wagon, owned by the city and operated by Griffin, plunged through the guard rail on the Dover-st bridge and plummeted into the murky waters of Fort Point Channel.

Griffin was seen to appear on the surface twice by horrified witnesses of the tragedy before he sank to his death on the channel bottom.

A search for a second body was made after witnesses expressed the belief that there were two persons in the car when it made its fatal plunge.

Believed to Be Alone

Police grappling irons and a fireboat diver were unable to find any evidence that there was a second victim.  A check at the sewer division, where Griffin was employed, disclosed that all employees were accounted for.  Police now believe witnesses were

Auto Plunge – Continued on Page 10

 Page 10 of Boston Globe - Evening Ed. - Sept 28, 1937

Photo on page 10 - Close up -
Boston Globe Article
Auto Plunge – Continued from the First Page

mistaken and that Griffin was alone in the vehicle.

About an hour after the beach wagon skidded on the rain-wet car tracks and ripped away 15 feet of railing on the draw, the body of Griffin, father of three children, was recovered.

Registration plates on the car, which had been hauled out of the water a short itme before, furnished the clew to the victim’s identity.  Officers were sent to the City Hospital to break the news of the tragedy to the victim’s wife, Mrs. Irene Griffin, who is a nurse there.

The accident, arrousing intense excitement in the district, brought police boats, fire apparatus, cruising cars and a traveling crane of the Boston Elevated Railway to the Scene.

Skids on Rails

Traffic over the bridge was suspended, the draw was opened and a special detail of police was sent into the area to hold back the hundreds of spectators who gathered to watch the frantic attempts at rescue.

Witnesses told police they heard despairing cries as the car, ripping away a lengthy section of railing, hurtled 20 feed to the channel.

Roland H. Allen, 239 Auburndale av, Auburndale, who was driving directly behind the beach wagon, said that the car went into a skid on the rain-wet rails of the street car tracks and careened into the bridge railings.  He thought that the beach wagon was not traveling faster than 20 or 25 miles an hour at the time.

Allen stopped his machine and ran to the bridge rail.  The beach wagon was enriely submerged, a few widening ripples showing where it had struck the water. 

The noise of the crash spread the alarm.  Within a few minutes a fleet of police cruising cars had gathered at the bridge head and the boats of the harbor police were on the way.

Try to Raise Car

Supt Edward W. Fallon was at the scene in time to direct the efforts of police seeking to locate the submerged vehicle.

About 10 minutes after the accident, a police grappling iron struck the roof of the sunken car and efforts were made to attach a line to it.  The Boston Elevated crane was stationed on the bridge, close to the rail, in readiness to raise the machine from the channel bed.

Those who could get by police lines, stood at vantage points near the bridge, watching in tense excitement the efforts of the rescue crews.

Police said that the beach wagon, as 1937 model, was crossing from the intown to the South Boston side of the bridge when the accident occurred.

Fully a score of persons, motorists and pedestrians were horrified witnesses of the tragedy.  They said it happened to quickly that everyone was too stunned to render assistance to the man who appeared on the surface for a brief moment before sinking to his death.

Tried to Jump

Witnesses told police that the beach wagon went into a skid just as it crossed the draw.  The car came to rest in the slime of the bottom on the South Boston side of the main ship channel.

Allen, the Auburndale man, was in the best position to see the tragedy.  “It was terrible,” he said.  “I shall never forget it.  The whole thing happened so quickly that I find it hard to believe now that it actually occurred.

“The poor fellow at the wheel made an attempt to jump clear as the car luched into space.  I think he must have struck his head and was unconscious when he came to the surface the first time.”

The draw tender, William Delano, confirmed Allen’s opinion.  “I’m sure he was unconscious,” Delano said.  “I grabbed a life preserver and tossed it to him as soon as his head came to the surface.  He went down again without a struggle or a move.”

Reappeared Twice

Another witness, Herbert Scott, 35 Watertown st, Wollaston, said that Griffin reappeared twice before he went down for the last time.  His statements were corroborated by William Towner of Rogers av, Dedham.

Onlookers were outspoken in their praise of police and firemen.  In addition to Supt Fallon, Fire Commissioner Edward F. McLaughlin, Chief Samuel Pope and Deputy Chief John F. McDonough were among the first at the scene.  Under their personal supervision the work was carried out with speed and efficiency.

Police of the intown and South Boston Divisions handled the traffic situation.  Capt Joseph M. MacKinnon of Station 6, assigned Sergt James Culleton to deal with the traffic at the South Boston end of the bridge.

Victim Ex-Orderly

Griffin was employed in the sewer department division of the Public Works Department.  He was transferred to this branch after entering the service of the city as an orderly at the City Hospital.  There he met the young woman he later married.

He was attached to the cement testing laboratory of the sewer division in the old Franklin schoolhouse on Washington st, near Dover st, in the South End.

The automobile he was driving is used by the sewer division for the transportation of employees and materials.

Associate Medical Examiner William H. Waters viewed Griffin’s body at the scene before it was placed aboard the police boat Edwin U. Curtis to be taken to the Northern Mortuary.  Cursory examination indicated, he said that death was due to drowning, although injuries may have been suffered in the plunge. [end of transcription]

My Thoughts

Now that you have read the transcription I can tell you the thoughts that came to mind and I supposed I need to research around the area to figure out why people didn't jump in the water to help him.  It was about a 20 foot drop and it was at the end of Sept when it was still warm.  Why didn't these onlookers, despite their shock of seeing the incident happen, help him?

Secondly, you cannot always believe what the newspaper says - it mentions that he is a father of three children.  Most of our family believes this was an error - not sure if they added this for drama or to get more readers.  There is no evidence of any children.

I need to credit to my cousin, Tom Griffin, Sr., who told me about Frank back in 2012.