52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #4 – William Henry Hunt

Relationship: 2nd Great-grandfather
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William Henry Hunt: An Original Texter

National Public Radio aired an article on April 28, 2013 about the origins of the modern telephone system. This article inspired me to find out more about my 2nd great-grandfather Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 5.44.29 PMWilliam Henry Hunt’s ability to telegraph messages to far-flung places. If you think about it, telegraphs were truly the first time people text messaged one another but instead of using a phone and thumbs they used a telegraph transmitter and wires.

In today’s world of iPhones and smart phones the technology of telegraphs seems archaic, but at the time it was ground-breaking. The invention of the electromagnet (a device in which magnetism is produced using an electric current) by British inventor William Sturgeon in 1825 precipitated the invention of the telegraph.[1] In 1830, an American named Joseph Henry sent an electric current over more than a mile of wire.[2] This current then activated an electromagnet which caused a bell to be struck.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 5.46.02 PMSamuel Morse was one of the first to realize the true potential of Henry’s work. Morse improved on Henry’s design to create what would become the foundation for a nation-wide telegraph system. Instead of ringing a bell, Morse used the electric currents to cause the electromagnet to move a marker which embossed a series of dots and dashes on strips of paper. Morse code was thus invented.

Morse gave his first public demonstration of the telegraph in 1838 but it didn’t overwhelm the crowds. It wasn’t until five years later that Congress provided the $30,000 needed to construct an experimental line from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland, a distance of over 40 miles. The first message, “What hath God wrought?” was sent on May 24, 1844 from the Supreme Court chamber to Morse’s partner in Baltimore and officially opened the lines of long-distance, near-instantaneous communication.[3] Soon, companies were rushing to string telegraph wires and connect the country from coast to coast. Telegraph lines followed the expansion of the railroad; most times they were placed right next to the tracks.

One corner of the world touched by this new technology was Branchville Junction in Sussex County, New Jersey. William Henry Hunt was a long-time station agent and telegraph operator at the Branchville Junction Station on the Sussex branch of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.[4] What events led William Henry Hunt to hold this position?

When the Civil War broke out, William was a young indentured apprentice under the tutelage of Abraham Rutan who was training him to be a blacksmith in Patterson, Passaic County, New Jersey.[5] According to an affidavit found in William’s military service file, Mr. Rutan released William “from the bonds of apprenticeship” in 1861 and William enlisted in the army at 20 years old.[6] Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 5.57.11 PMHe was not unhappy with his apprenticeship; he was just anxious to aid the efforts of the Union. William first tried to join a regiment from New Jersey but they were already at their limit. Instead, he had to travel to New York State to enlist. After serving as a private in Company I of the 70th Regiment of the N.Y. Volunteer infantry, William was honorably discharged on June 20, 1864 at Petersburg, Virginia. Just a short time later on September 02, 1864, William reenlisted but this time with Company L of the Signal Corps of the 1st New York Engineers with Captain Fisher’s detachment.[7] The Signal Corps during the Civil War was responsible for sending visual messages by means of flags, torches, rockets, or lights, reconnoitering, intercepting and deciphering enemy messages, and receiving and sending telegraphic messages in cooperation with the Military Telegraph Service.[8] This must be where young William was first exposed to the telegraph and learned to master Morse code.

After his second and final discharge from the army on June 30, 1865 at Richmond, Virginia, William made his way back home to Sussex County, New Jersey. It wasn’t long after this that William began working on the railroad. In his own words, William recounts his experiences:

“I entered the service of the Sussex Railroad about April, 1867, as fireman. After several years’ service as fireman, engineer, brakeman and conductor, I took charge of the blacksmith shop at Waterloo. Then the company built me a shop at Branchville Junction and I ran this shop for eleven years. Since that time I have been in charge of the station at Branchville Junction as agent and operator, where I still remain. Before long I expect to receive the gladScreen Shot 2015-01-18 at 6.00.01 PM tidings of my retirement by the company, and my highest ambition in life is to retire with honor and then go fishing until I am summoned to join my old comrades on the other shore.”[9]

A retirement announcement in the local newspaper provides further favorable reviews of William’s service with the railroad. He is described as a trusted employee with a genial disposition and one who garnered no complaints from the thousands of passengers passing through his station.

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While all of this may sound like a long and happy association with the railroad, a thorough search of his military file revealed some interesting facts about his railroad employment. Chronic rheumatism, which William swears he “contracted” during the Civil War, severely limited his ability to perform manual labor. William Busekist, a supervisor on the Sussex railroad, recounts in an affidavit:

“The first work he did when he [Hunt] first came on the road was to fire an Engine but he soon abandoned that then the company put him in a small repair shop to Waterloo on the line of the Sussex Rail Road. Our then superintendent Mr. Case took him out of that and built a small repair shop at Branchville Junction on the Sussex Road and put him there to work alone where all he had to do was to sharpen a few picks and a little other light work and turn the switches about 5 or 6 times a day and to the best of my belief and knowledge at no time was there exacted from him even half the amount of work that any ordinary man should do.”[10]

One thing William could do that didn’t require hard manual labor was operate the telegraph at the station. He used the skills learned during his military service in the Signal Corps to keep messages flowing over the lines strung all over Sussex County and beyond. Even deafness later in life did not deter him from his duties. He is described as being very deaf but having the “peculiar faculty of distinguishing messages sent over the wires to him as readily as though possessed of his hearing.”[11] Nothing in his military pension file indicates that his deafness was caused by a war injury. In fact, a number of doctors stated directly that his deafness was not service related.[12] However, his obituary states that “his hearing was badly impaired by the explosion of a cannon at the battle of Gettysburg.”[13] Whatever caused his hearing impairment, deafness was not an issue as telegraphs received can be decoded by feeling the vibrations coming in from the telegraph transmitter.

Is it possible that William passed along his telegraphic abilities to his descendants? His great-grandson William Charles Strait, Jr. was drafted into the United States Army and served as a radio telegraph/teletype operator.[14] He completed a 15-week radio teletype operator’s course at The Southeastern Signal School, Fort Gordon, Georgia, in 1962.[15] What can be certain is that William Strait’s training was much less trial-by-fire than William Henry Hunt’s training nearly 100 years earlier on the battlefields during the last years of the Civil War.

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[1] Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnet : accessed 18 May 2014), “Electromagnet: History.”
[2] Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Henry: accessed 18 May 2014), “Joseph Henry.”
[3] America’s Story (http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/reform/jb_reform_morsecod_1.html : accessed 18 May 2014), “Samuel F.B. Morse Sent the First Telegraphic Message.” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Morse : accessed 18 May 2014), “Samuel Morse.”
[4] “An Honored Veteran,” The Railroad Employee, June 1907, 6.
[5]1860 U. S. census, Passaic County, New Jersey, population schedule, Paterson, p. 7 (penned), dwelling 37, family 52, William Hunt; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011);
[6] Affidavit of Abraham R. Rutan, 08 October 1886, Hannah J. Hunt, widow’s pension certificate no. 852,451; service of William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th New York Vol. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[7] Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pension Form 3-389, 02 April 1915, Hannah J. Hunt, widow’s pension certificate no. 852,451; service of William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th New York Vol. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[8] A. W. Greely, “The Signal Corps,” Signal Corps Association (http://www.civilwarsignals.org : accessed 16 July 2013).
[9] “An Honored Veteran,” The Railroad Employee, June 1907, 6.
[10] Affidavit of William Busekist, 31 January 1887, Hannah J. Hunt, widow’s pension certificate no. 852,451; service of William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th New York Vol. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[11] “William Hunt Retired,” retirement announcement, New Jersey Herald, 17 December 1908, p. 1, col. 7; Bound newspaper stacks, Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
[12] Increase Invalid Pension Form 3-355, 26 April 1909, Hannah J. Hunt, widow’s pension certificate no. 852,451; service of William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th New York Vol. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[13] “Death of William Hunt,” obituary (28 February1918); Bound newspaper stacks, Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
[14] Form DD 214, William Charles Strait, SP4 E-4, Army, 23 June 1964. Military Personnel Records, National Personnel Records Center, Regional National Archives, St. Louis, Missouri.
[15] “William Strait Ends Signal School Course,” news article, undated newspaper clipping, circa 1962, New Jersey Herald [Newton, NJ]; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2015. Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.


 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #3 – Audrey Romine (Hunt) Strait

Relationship: Great-grandmother

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Audrey Romine (Hunt) Strait lived for many years in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey.[1] Newton is the county seat and “as the hub of a spoke-wise network of turnpikes and post roads, the village[Newton] grew into a regional center for county banks and newspapers, mail and freight distribution, commerce, education, mechanical trades and social gatherings.”[2] During Audrey’s lifetime, she would have witnessed the myriad of the changes caused by the increase in industrial factories and expansion of railroads both of which ushered Newton into our modern age.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 5.04.58 PMAudrey Romine Hunt, daughter of William Henry and Hannah Jane (Longcor) Hunt, was born on 14 March 1888 in Branchville, Sussex County, New Jersey[3] and died on 07 February 1970 in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey.[4] She married Ora Simpson Strait on 17 June 1907 in Branchville Junction, Sussex County, New Jersey.[5] Ora was born in January 1879 in New Jersey, son of Ira Wilson and Sarah Matilda (Kimble) Strait,[6] and died on 10 August 1918 in Vernon, Sussex County, New Jersey.[7] The picture to the left is Audrey and her husband Ora taken around the time of their marriage.[8]

Audrey was the youngest of five children born to parents William and Hannah Hunt.  Her siblings consisted of a sister Belle S. who was born 01 August 1869, a brother Charles Lincoln who was born 11 August 1871, a brother Samuel Wilson who was born 29 May 1874, and a second sister Nellie Garfield who was born 12 April 1880.[9]

Even though Audrey was born well after the Civil War ended, the war still influenced areas of her life. Audrey’s father William was a Civil War veteran who served in Co. I of the 70th Regiment of the N.Y. Volunteer infantry and with the 1st N.Y. Engineers regiment from 28 April 1861 to 30 June 1865.[10] In his military records William (his wording and spelling) states, “I contracted reumatism , in the trenches at Yorktown, and the palpitations of Heart in front of Fredericksburg.”[11] These ailments caused him great pain later in life. William was the station agent for the Sussex Railroad at Warbasse Junction in Lafayette, Sussex County, New Jersey and lamented the fact that he was a burden to his family and had to rely on his young son to help run the station.[12]

In 1903, the Hunt family visited Gettysburg as part of Civil War commemorations.  Before leaving for the trip, a group photo was taken by a local newspaper and shows her father William standing alongside others who served during the War of the Rebellion.[13] A family photo (below to the left) shows a well-dressed 15-year-old Audrey standing between her parents.  They are posed in front of the Major John F. Reynold’s sculpture in Gettysburg Park.   [14]

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A pair of commemorative King’s Crown style salt and pepper shakers etched with “GettysburgScreen Shot 2015-01-18 at 5.08.38 PM 1863” was purchased in Gettysburg at that time. They were handed down from Audrey to her daughter-in-law Beatrice who handed them down to her grand-daughter, Jodi Lynn Strait. The cranberry-colored cut glass salt and pepper shakers are shown in the picture above and to the right.

Audrey was 19 years old when she married to Ora Simpson Strait of Lafayette in a ceremony conducted by the Rev. E. E. Lowans at Audrey’s home.[15] Audrey and Ora Strait were the parents of the following children:

  1. Bernice Strait, born on 05 December 1908 in Lafayette;[16] died on 28 April 1979 in Newton.[17]  She married Robert William Wood.[18]
  2. William Charles Strait, born on 17 July 1910 in Lake Grinnell, Sussex County, New Jersey;[19] died on 29 May 1961 in Newton.[20]  He married Beatrice Irene Repsher on 12 October 1935 in Netcong, Morris County, New Jersey.[21]
  3. Carl Hope Strait, born on 20 December 1913 in Branchville Junction;[22] died on 07 August 2001 in Andover Township, Sussex County, New Jersey.[23] He married Sarah E. Decker.[24]

Audrey was a long-time member of the First Baptist Church in Newton and was an organist for this church.[25] She was 21 years old, and quite pregnant with her second child, when “at 8 o’clock on Sunday evening, March 6, 1910, a fire in a defective chimney flue above the furnace spread to the roof and belfry of the Baptist Church” thus burning down the old wooden-frame church.[26] The reconstruction of the First Baptist Church started in June of 1910 and was rededicated in May of 1911.[27] The new church was refurnished and given the modern utilities of the time:

“The interior of the church was trimmed with a rich dark oak, with matching pulpit furniture. The twelve memorial windows from the old church were re-used. The old seats were also utilized and new ones installed to correspond with the general furnishings of the church. The metal ceiling is of Greek design and the walls plastered in white, sea-sand finish. The vestibule is located in the bell tower, over which is a room, reached by an oak staircase, for use of the pastor, furnished by the ladies of the parish. Gas and electric lights were placed throughout the edifice.”[28]

Given that Audrey was an active member of the church, she was most likely involved in the Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 5.15.34 PMfurnishing of the room over the vestibule although probably not well-off enough to contribute financially to the purchase of the appointments. The First Baptist Church is shown at the left in a picture taken 19 November 2012 by Audrey’s grandson, William Strait.

In the short time that Audrey and her husband had together (1907 to 1918), Ora worked as a farmer performing general farm labor.[29] Before that Ora had worked as a school teacher.[30] It is unclear why he did not keep up this profession and moved to farm labor.

Family losses were heavy for Audrey in 1918. After suffering a stroke in 1909,[31] her father William Henry succumbed to his numerous ailments on 23 February 1918.[32] To make matters worse, Audrey’s young son William was suffering from scarlet fever and the house was under quarantine at the time of her father’s funeral.[33] Then just six months later in August she lost her husband Ora,[34] leaving her with three young children aged nine, eight, and four. It is unknown at this time what caused Ora’s death. It is a possible that the devastating influenza epidemic of 1918 claimed his life or perhaps the scarlet fever that his son suffered from had a hand in his passing. Locating Ora’s obituary in the local newspaper might help to answer the question of what caused his death.

Audrey’s mother, Hannah Jane, was living with her at 44 Pine Street in Newton when Hannah passed away on 28 March 1929.[35] Her mother was laid to rest next to her father in the Andover Presbyterian churchyard.[36] Her parents’ headstone is a simple one with their names and just the birth and death years listed.

Audrey made her living as a laundress in order to support her young family[37] after her husband’s death in 1918. By 1930, her sons William and Carl were supporting the family. 19-year-old William was working as a warper (someone who arranges strands of yarn or thread so that they run lengthwise in weaving) at the fabric mill and 16-year -old Carl was working as a laborer at the limestone quarry.[38] Additionally, to save household expenses, Audrey, William, and Carl were sharing the house at 44 Pine Street in Newton with Audrey’s sister Belle and her husband William Knox.[39] In 1940 Audrey was still living at 44 Pine Street with William and Belle Knox and they have taken in three children of the state.[40]

Audrey’s son William was married in 1935 to Beatrice Irene Repsher. According to her daughter-in-law, Beatrice, “Audrey was not thrilled at all with the marriage and wanted to keep William close to her.”[41] In 1940, William and Beatrice, their son William and daughter Mercedes were living at 46 Pine Street[42] which is the house next door to Audrey’s residence. Her daughter Bernice (now married to Robert Wood) was living a few blocks over at 51 Mason Street with her husband and their sons Robert, Donald and Richard.[43] Her son Carl, along with his wife Sarah and three-year-old daughter Patricia, was living at 44 Orchard Street[44] which was just around the corner from Audrey. While her sons eventually moved a little further away, Newton city directories show that she lived at 44 Pine Street from 1923 until her death in 1970.[45] The map below shows how Audrey’s family group was situated in 1940s Newton.[46]

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Carl started Strait’s Turkey farm in Andover Township in 1947[47] and soon after severed contact with his family. There was some sort of falling out between Carl and his mother Audrey, his sister Bernice and his brother William. According to Audrey’s grandson William (son of William and nephew of Carl), Carl did not attend his mother’s funeral in 1970 and the family never discussed what caused the rift.[48] Perhaps contacting Carl’s daughters Nancy Jean or Sarah Elizabeth listed in Carl’s 2001 probate file may provide some insight into this matter.

Audrey was not fortunate enough to have all of her children outlive her. On 29 May 1961, her son William passed away.[50] He was quite sick with Lou Gehrig’s disease[51] for a few years before his death. William was interred in St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Newton.[52]

Audrey passed away on 07 February 1970 at the home of her daughter Bernice in Newton.   According to her last will and testament, Audrey left all of her estate to Bernice.[53] Besides Bernice and son Carl, she left behind eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren[54] at the time of her death. She was interred in the North Hardyston Cemetery, Hamburg, Sussex County, New Jersey.[55] Along with some stylized crosses, Audrey and Ora’s headstone (picture to the right) shows their names with just their birth and death years listed. Her life was simple and straightforward, filled with people she kept close throughout her 81 years.

STRAIT Ora S. and Audrey R.


[1] “Mrs. Ora Strait,” newspaper obituary, (07 February 1970); folder: “Wood,” vertical files; Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
[2] Kevin Wright, Newton NJ: Pearl of the Kittatinny ( http://www.newtonnj.net : accessed 11 November 2012), “A Short History.”
[3] Department of Interior, Bureau of Pension Form 3-389, 02 April 1915, Hannah J. Hunt, widow’s pension certificate no. 852,451; service of William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th New York Vol. Inf., Civil War): Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[4] “Mrs. Ora Strait,” obituary, undated newspaper clipping, unidentified newspaper [most likely New Jersey Herald]; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2015.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[5] “STRAIT-HUNT,” marriage announcement, Sussex Register, 20 June 1907, p. 5, col. 5; Bound newspaper stacks, Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
[6] 1900 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Lafayette Township, ED 169, p. 1B (penned), dwelling 23, family 25, Ira W. Strait; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011)
[7] North Hardyston Cemetery (Rt. 94, Hamburg, New Jersey), Ora S. Strait and Audrey R. Hunt marker; photo taken by Jodi Lynn Strait, July 2006.
[8] Audrey and Ora Strait photograph, ca. 1907; digital image ca. 2009, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2015.  Copied from photographs in the family collection of Charlotte (Ulrich) Wood who allowed the scanning of the photo.  Originals are still in the possession of Charlotte Wood.
[9] Invalid Form 3-216, 11 October 1886, Hannah J. Hunt, widow’s pension certificate no. 852,451; service of William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th New York Vol. Inf., Civil War): Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[10] Department of Interior, Bureau of Pension Form 3-389, 02 April 1915, Hannah J. Hunt, widow’s pension certificate no. 852,451; service of William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th New York Vol. Inf., Civil War): Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[11] Letter to Pension Commissioner from William H. Hunt, 20 August 1883, Hannah J. Hunt, widow’s pension certificate no. 852,451; service of William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th New York Vol. Inf., Civil War): Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[12] Ibid.
[13] William Henry Hunt at Gettysburg photograph, ca. 1903; digital image ca. 2008, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2015.  Copied from photographs in the family collection of Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri who allowed the scanning of the photo.  The location, condition and characteristics of the original are not known.
[14] “Veterans Unite,” article, 1985 newspaper clipping, New Jersey Herald; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2011.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[15] “STRAIT-HUNT,” marriage announcement, Sussex Register, 20 June 1907, p. 5, col. 5; Bound newspaper stacks, Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
[16] Social Security Administration, “Social Security Death Index (SSDI),” database, Rootsweb.com (http://ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com), entry for Bernice Wood, 1979, SS no. 136-12-4625.
[17] “Bernice Wood,” obituary, undated newspaper clipping, unidentified newspaper [most likely the New Jersey Herald]; Strait family newspaper clipping, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2015.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.   Also: Social Security Administration, “Social Security Death Index (SSDI),” Database, Rootsweb.com (http://ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com), entry for Bernice Wood, 1979, SS no. 136-12-4625.
[18] “Robert Wood,” obituary, undated newspaper clipping, unidentified newspaper [most likely the New Jersey Herald]; Strait family newspaper clipping, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2011.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[19] New Jersey, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Birth Registrations, birth certificate (1910), William Charles Strait. Parents are listed as Ora S. Strait and Audrey R. Hunt; Digital copy with Jodi Lynn Strait, 6961 W. West Arrow, Tucson, AZ 85757.
[20] St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery (Woodside Avenue or Rt. 206, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey), William and Beatrice Strait marker; photograph taken by Jodi Lynn Strait, July 2006.
[21] Marriage certificate for William Strait and Beatrice Repsher, church issued certificate, family papers collection, 1935; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2011.
[22] Social Security Administration, “Social Security Death Index (SSDI),” Database, Rootsweb.com (http://ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com), entry for Carl H. Strait, 2001, SS no. 136-16-1618.
[23] “Carl Strait,” obituary, newspaper clipping, 09 August 2001 (penned), unidentified newspaper [most likely New Jersey Herald]; Strait family newspaper clipping, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2011.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[24] “Sarah Strait,” obituary, newspaper clipping, 02 November 1986 (penned), unidentified newspaper [most likely New Jersey Herald]; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2011.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[25] “Mrs. Ora Strait,” obituary, undated newspaper clipping, unidentified newspaper [most likely New Jersey Herald]; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2011.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[26] Kevin Wright, Newton NJ: Pearl of the Kittatinny ( http://www.newtonnj.net : accessed 13 November 2012), “A Short History.”
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ibid.
[29] 1910 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Sparta, ED 182, p. 1A (penned), dwelling 7, family 9, Ora Strait; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011)
[30] 1900 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Lafayette Township, ED 169, p. 1B (penned), dwelling 23, family 25, Ira W. Strait; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011)
[31] “Comrade William H. Hunt,” news article, Sussex Register, 21 October 1909, p. 8, col. 2; Bound newspaper stacks; Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
[32] “William H. Hunt,” obituary, newspaper clipping, 28 February 1993, New Jersey Herald [Newton, NJ]; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2011.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[33] “Death of William Hunt,” obituary (28 February1918); folder: “Hunt,” vertical files; Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
[34] North Hardyston Cemetery (Rt. 94, Hamburg, New Jersey), Ora S. Strait and Audrey R. Hunt marker; photo taken by Jodi Lynn Strait, July 2006.
[35] Drop Report – Pensioner Form 3-1081, 24 April 1929, Hannah J. Hunt, widow’s pension certificate no. 852,451; service of William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th New York Vol. Inf., Civil War): Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[36] Andover Township Presbyterian Churchyard (Lenape Rd. and County Road 517, Andover, New Jersey), William H. Hunt and Hannah J. Longcor marker; photo taken by Jodi Lynn Strait, July 2006.
[37] 1920 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Newton, ED 135, p. 6A (penned), dwelling 65, family 66, Audrey Strait; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011)
[38] 1930 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Newton, ED 20, page 6B (penned), dwelling 148, family 153, Audrey Strait; digital image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011)
[39] 1930 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Newton, ED 20, page 6B (penned), dwelling 148, family 153, Audrey Strait; digital image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011)
[40] 1940 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Newton, ED 19-23, page 263 (stamped), sheet14A, visit 292, William M. Knox household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 07 April 2012)
[41] Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri (Newton, New Jersey 07860), interview by Jodi Lynn Strait, 23 November 2006; interview held by Ms. Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2011.  Beatrice, Audrey’s daughter-in-law, recounted her marriage day and the reaction of Audrey to the festivities of the day.
[42] 1940 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Newton, ED 19-22, page 263 (stamped), sheet 14A, visit  291, William C. Strait household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 07 April 2012)
[43] 1940 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Newton, ED 19-22, sheet 6B, visit 139, Robert Wood household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 November 2012)
[44] 1940 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Newton, ED 19-22, sheet 13B, visit 280, Carl H. Strait household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 07 April 2012
[45] R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1929-30 (New York: R.L. Polk & Co., 1929), 76.; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton Directory 1933-34 (New Jersey: R.L. Polk & Co., 1933), 90; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1935-36 (New York: R.L. Polk & Co., 1935), 90; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1938-39 (New York: R.L. Polk & Co., 1938), 95; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1942-43 (Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., 1942), 92; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1954 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: R.L. Polk & Co., 1954), 140; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1955-56 (New York: R.L. Polk & Co., 1955), no page number; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1957 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: R.L. Polk & Co., 1957), 108; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1959 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: R.L. Polk & Co., 1959), 76; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1961 (Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., 1961), 103; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1963 (Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., 1963), 106; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1964 (Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., 1964), 107; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1965 (Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., 1965), 134; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1967 (Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., 1967), 105; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1968 (Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., 1968), 100; R. L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Newton (Sussex County, N.J.) City Directory 1969 (Boston: R.L. Polk & Co., 1969), 88.
[46] Google Maps, Mercator projection map of Newton, New Jersey, 2012; Scalable size; Cropped from original image; https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=51+Mason+St.+newton+nj&ie=UTF-8 : Accessed 11 November 2012.  Used with permission under the private use rules.
[47] “Carl Strait,” obituary, newspaper clipping, 09 August 2001 (penned), unidentified newspaper [most likely New Jersey Herald]; Strait family newspaper clipping, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2011.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[48] William C. Strait (Lafayette, New Jersey), phone interview by Jodi Lynn Strait, 11 November 2012; interview held by Ms. Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2011.  William, the son of William and Beatrice Strait, spoke from personal knowledge about Carl not attending the funeral and lack of reason known for the rift between Carl and his mother.
[49] Sussex County, New Jersey, probate case files, docket no. 43718, Carl H. Strait (2001), application for probate, 15 November 2001; Sussex County Surrogate’s Office, Newton.
[50] William Strait memory card, 1961; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2011.  William Charles Strait’s laminated memory card was created for Beatrice Strait by the American Laminating Co., Albany, NY.  It has a copy of the newspaper obituary clipping encased. Typewritten “Died Mon., May 29, 1961” at the bottom.
[51] William C. Strait (Lafayette, New Jersey), interview by Jodi Lynn Strait, 15 July 2010; interview held by Ms. Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2011.  William, the son of William and Beatrice Strait, spoke from personal knowledge about his father’s illness and death.  He was present during his diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s and witnessed his death in 1961.
[52] St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery (Woodside Avenue or Rt. 206, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey), William and Beatrice Strait marker; photograph taken by Jodi Lynn Strait, July 2006.
[53] Sussex County, New Jersey, probate case files, Audrey Strait (1970), Last Will and Testament of Audrey Strait, 30 September 1969; Sussex County Surrogate’s Office, Newton.
[54] “Mrs. Ora Strait,” obituary, undated newspaper clipping, unidentified newspaper [most likely New Jersey Herald]; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2011.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[55] North Hardyston Cemetery (Rt. 94, Hamburg, New Jersey), Ora S. Strait and Audrey R. Hunt marker; photo taken by Jodi Lynn Strait, July 2006.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #2 – Beatrice Irene (Repsher) Strait

Relationship: Grandmother
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My grandmother, Beatrice Irene REPSHER, was born at the eastern edge of Pennsylvania in Analomink, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, on 18 August 1910.[1] Her father, George Arthur Repsher followed his work as a steam engine operator[2] and moved the family to Stanhope, Sussex County, New Jersey, between 1918 and 1919. Stanhope is situated next to Netcong; in fact, they are really one town separated by both a county line and waterway running through the middle. That waterway was the Morris Canal which provided George with a livelihood to provide for his growing family. His work involved loading and unloading the boats that traversed the more than 100-mile long waterway. According to the Canal Society of New Jersey:

“Through a series of water turbine powered inclined planes, locks and aqueducts built above and across rivers, the Morris Canal was the world’s biggest hill climber and with the help of mules on towpaths traversed 102 miles transporting mostly Pennsylvania coal but also iron ore and other goods across the face of northern New Jersey.”[3]

Beatrice grew up playing along the banks of the canal and the surrounding lakes busy with boats loaded with freight. She swam in the Musconetcong and Hopatcong lakes along to canal line.

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Morris Canal – Lock 1 West in Stanhope, New Jersey Left: Photo in private collection of Strait Family Right: Photo from Canal Society of NJ (http://canalsocietynj.org/L1W.html)

My grandmother was a very independent minded woman and proof of this is evident in her younger years. At eight years old she was enamored with the nuns at St. Michael’s School (a Catholic institution) in Stanhope and convinced her father that she should attend school there. She not only graduated from eighth grade [4] but then converted her parents and siblings to Catholicism. The whole family was baptized en masse at St. Michael’s Catholic Church on the same day, 24 September 1922.[5]

While Beatrice “never lacked for beaus” she was in no hurry to be married. She met William Charles STRAIT in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, where she worked in the silk mill that was one of the many industries fueling the Newton economy in the 1930s. In fact, my grandfather asked her a number of times to marry him before Beatrice finally consented and married him on 12 October 1935. [6]

Beatrice was working in the silk mill to help support her family, which now included 6 brothers and one sister. She had a twelve mile commute from Stanhope north to Newton each day. Her father purchased his very first new car around 1931-32. The family’s purchase of the car was quite an event at the time. The strong-willed, first-born Beatrice convinced her father to allow her to drive it to Newton each day. One would think that the short drive wouldn’t be particularly hazardous. However, shortly after 7 o’clock on a Monday morning in 1932 with her sister and four friends (who were also employed in the mill) in the car, she came to the Andover railroad crossing. Railroad officials said that the crossing lights were working.[7]  According to Beatrice, she stopped at the crossing but then stalled the car on the tracks. The Sussex Express on the Lackawanna Railroad was on its way to New York. The car and train met at the Andover crossing at the very same time.  CRASH!

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Both clippings are from an unidentified newspaper; clipped at time of the event in 1932 by Beatrice Repsher. Inherited in 2010 by Jodi Lynn Strait from her grandmother Beatrice Repsher.

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It is unbelievable that everyone survived the horrific crash given that at the time seat belts and air bags were a thing of the future. One newspaper article states:

“… every one of the occupants were more or less injured.   An ambulance from Newton came to assist the sufferers, but none were taken to the hospital, although one young lady suffered a broken nose, and the others were severely cut and bruised, and were cared for by a local physician.” [8]

Another describes the injuries more specifically by individual as:

“Miss Repsher sustained an injured knee. Her sister, Helen, was slightly bruised. Rose Pompy suffered a broken nose. Rose LeGera sustained injuries to her legs and could not walk. Antanna Claroff was bruised and her brother, Thomas, sustained a cut on his forehead.”[9]

The newspaper articles also provide a slightly different version than my grandmother stating that she was driving at “breakneck speed” [10] because she was trying to make it to work on time and applied the brakes too late to avoid being struck by the train. As the other survivors of the crash have now passed on and cannot be interviewed, the truth of how the crash truly happened will never been known.

My grandmother never drove again after the crash. All the while I was growing up I thought Beatrice had just not bothered to get a driver’s license. I didn’t find out until years later the true reason for her reluctance to be on the road behind the steering wheel. Even though Beatrice didn’t drive, she wasn’t going to let a little thing like a train crash stop the rest of her activities. She got married, had two children, lived a full, long life, and passed away of natural causes on 17 July 2010 in Newton just one month shy of her 100th birthday.[11]

Beatrice Irene (Repsher) Strait

Beatrice Irene (Repsher) Strait


[1] Pennsylvania Department of Health, birth certificate 1234010-1910 (1910), Beatrice Irene Repsher; Division of Vital Statistics, New Castle.
[2] Pennsylvania. Monroe County. 1910 U.S. census, population schedule. John J. Repsher. Digital images. Ancestry.com. http://www.ancestry.com : 2005.
[3] Canal Society of New Jersey, Morris Canal Locks and Planes, (http://canalsocietynj.org/mcdata.htm : accessed 20 January 2013).
[4] Beatrice I. Repsher, diploma, St. Michael’s School, 21 June 1925; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2013.  Original diploma issued by the state of New Jersey to Beatrice Repsher for the completion of eighth grade.
[5] “Family Record of J. J. Repsher Jr. and Caroline Repsher nee Bonser”; (Handwritten family group sheets, Netcong, New Jersey, 1911-1970), p. 81, 87-88, 90 and 95-96,  Repsher families.
[6] William Strait and Beatrice Repsher. Marriage Certificate. 12 October 1935. Privately held by Lynn Jodi Strait, Tucson, Arizona. 2015.
[7] “Six Hurt as Train Crushes Auto,” news article, undated newspaper clipping, unidentified newspaper; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2015.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[8] “Andover Accident,” news article, newspaper clipping, 1932 (penned), unidentified newspaper; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2015.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[9] “Auto Accident At Andover,” news article, undated newspaper clipping, unidentified newspaper; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2015.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait-Shutts from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[10] “Too Late,” news article, undated newspaper clipping, unidentified newspaper; Strait family newspaper clippings, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2015.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait-Shutts from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[11] New Jersey, Department of Health and Senior Services, Death Certificate, death certificate no. 20100035955, Beatrice I. Guirreri (2010); Copy with Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2015.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #1 – William Charles Strait

Relationship: Father
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My father’s name is William Charles Strait. He is a junior since his dad’s name also was William Charles Strait. He was born and raised in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. He’s attended school there, started a business there and still lives very close in Lafayette.

At one point in his life, my father kept honey bees.

In the 1940s and 50s, my grandfather William Charles Strait was the long-time maintenance man at St. Paul’s Abbey in New Jersey. The Abbey was a Benedictine monastery located along Route 206, just south of Newton in Sussex County. My grandfather occasionally brought my dad to work with him. My dad was also named William Charles but known as Bill or Billy when he was young. Through my grandfather, Dad was introduced to the hard-working, black-robed Benedictine brothers and priests living at the Abbey. The Strait family became close with some of the priests who made numerous social visits to their home.

At about 15 or 16 years old, Dad started taking on jobs for himself rather than just visiting the Abbey. He rode his bicycle back and forth the one mile or so from his home on Lincoln Place. He first began working in the plant nursery with Brother Nevard. Dad transplanted thousands of plants, especially in the spring, from their starter flats into larger pots.

My dad was then introduced to Father Augustin who, along with his other monastic duties, was in charge of tending the bees. That sparked my dad’s interest in the art of beekeeping.   Father Augustin taught him the basics and Dad also began making the wooden bee hive bodies for the monks to use in their hives at the Abbey.[1]

Before we continue with our story, we need a short lesson on beehives. Beehives have some distinctive parts. There is the bottom plate upon which the whole hive sits. The body of the hive contains compartments called supers. The bottom super is where the queen and her brood live and the queen excluder keeps her in this bottom section. Since the queen is Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.47.23 AMsignificantly larger than the other hive bees, the excluder works by having slats spaced just far enough apart to allow all the bees except the queen to move freely between the upper and lower supers. The upper super is used by the bees to store excess honey not used to feed the queen. Each super contains eight to ten open frames which the bees use as a base to create the honeycomb. The whole hive is covered by an inner cover and a top outer cover. The inner cover is optional, but makes it much easier to remove the top outer cover when tending the hive.

After learning what he could from Father Augustin, Dad started keeping his own hives. He ordered his first “starter” bees from Georgia. The five pound package, which came with drone bees, worker bees, and a queen bee, all with a can of sugar syrup, was shipped right through the United States Postal System. The post office employees were quick to call my dad on the phone to say, “Come get these bees out of here, NOW!” when the buzzing package arrived. Occasionally he would order a queen bee separately. In this case, a block of wood with a hole drilled in it contained the queen along with a couple of drones that would feed her during the trip.

Dad had anywhere from four to five hives in the backyard of his parents’ home at 43 Lincoln Place in Newton. He also placed some hives in farm fields at two places in Sparta, two places in Johnsonburg, and scattered some in fields around Andover. The farmers in the area, like Post’s Strawberry Farm, appreciated the placement of the hives because their crops would be pollinated while Dad benefited from the honey harvest.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.47.05 AMWhile he tended the hives Dad would wear ordinary long pants and a long-sleeved shirt tightly buttoned at the wrists and neck. The traditional beekeeping suit, shown at the left, looks a lot like a hazardous material suit and my dad chose only to wear one specific part of it, the bee veil. This is a hat, with netting hanging from the brim, and it covered his head and neck and protected his face from stings. Dad didn’t mind getting stung on the hands occasionally but firmly believed that getting stung on the face was nasty business. He would sometimes use gloves but mostly went bare-handed.

There are several thousand bees in any given hive whose sole purpose is to take care of all of the queen’s needs. My dad’s skills with bees included the ability to tell whether the hive was “queen right.” My dad would lift top cover and carefully listen to the hive activity. A hive that has a problem with the queen sounds quite different from a hive that is working in harmony. When he found a hive with an inadequate queen, he opened the bottom super, located the queen, destroyed her and placed a new queen in the hive. Things were then off and running again.

There are different species of bees with different characteristics including honey production, temperament, tongue length, color, and hardiness. My dad preferred the Italian bees because they were cleaner, better honey makers, and less temperamental than other choices.Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.46.52 AM

Per the Bee Source website:

Italian honey bees, of the subspecies Apis mellifera ligustica, were brought to the U.S. in 1859. They quickly became the favored bee stock in this country and remain so to this day. Known for their extended periods of brood rearing, Italian bees can build colony populations in the spring and maintain them for the entire summer. They are less defensive and less prone to disease than their German counterparts, and they are excellent honey producers. They also are very lightly colored, ranging from a light leather hue to an almost lemon yellow, a trait that is highly coveted by many beekeepers for its aesthetic appeal. [2]

As opposed to the Caucasian bee:

A. m. caucasica is a race of honey bees native to the foothills of the Ural Mountains near the Caspian Sea in eastern Europe. This stock was once popular in the U.S., but it has declined in regard over the last few decades. Its most notable characteristic is its very long tongue, which enables the bees to forage for nectar from flowers that other bee stocks may not have access to. They tend to be a moderately colored bee and, like the Carniolans, are extremely docile. However, their slow spring buildup keeps them from generating very large honey crops, and they tend to use an excessive amount of propolis -the sticky resin substance sometimes called “bee glue” that is used to seal cracks and joints of bee structures-making their hives difficult to manipulate.[3]

The sticky “bee glue” is exactly what caused my dad to use Italian honey bees in his hives. He didn’t like the fact that the Caucasian bee hives were harder to pry apart since they would plug up any hole, crack or unused space with the surprisingly sticky propolis. While lifting heavy, honey-laden supers the last thing he wanted to deal with was a hive that was also hard to get apart. So, Italian bees it was.

A standard-sized super body is nine and ½ inches high and a hive usually consists of two of these. These supers can produce 80 to 95 pounds of honey and honeycomb in a year.   This makes for some heavy lifting which is why my dad preferred the ¾ bodies which are only 7 and ⅞ inches high and are 25 pounds lighter when full. When the hives got completely full of bees and honey, the bees would swarm. In order to prevent this, Dad harvested the honey, rotated the bottom super to the top, placed the queen back in the bottom, and occasionally moved the location of the hive to a spot more conducive to honey production.

At his busiest, Dad processed about one ton of honey a year. Some came from his hives but he also handled honey from the New Jersey state bee inspector. He had two large tanks in a workshop that stored the honey while it was being packaged for sale in bear-shaped bottles.

In 1966, I arrived on the scene, and my sister arrived shortly after in 1968. About that the same time my father gave up his part-time beekeeping when he started his own construction business based out of his workshop behind our house at 9 Merriam Avenue in Newton. He needed to concentrate on his fledgling business and couldn’t devote the time needed to the bees.  Dad says, “I sold the whole shebang to the state bee inspector, Jack Mathenias.” Jack must have supplied my dad with honey afterwards because I remember growing up with the cute little bear bottles as a staple in our kitchen cabinets.

I smile and think about Dad raising bees every time I pass a honey bear bottle on a grocery store shelf.

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[1] William Charles Strait (Lafayette, New Jersey), interview by Jodi Lynn Strait, 18 August 2013; notes on oral conversation privately held by interviewer, Tucson, Arizona, 2013.
[2] The Bee Source, “The Different Types of Honey Bees,” http://www.beesource.com/resources/usda/the-different-types-of-honey-bees : 2013
[3] Ibid.
[4] William Charles Strait, interview, 18 August 2013.

James Bruce Shutts II

05 January 1951 – 02 January 2015

Bruce’s sister, Christine (Chris), called me early this morning to tell me that Bruce had passed away after a few days of hospice care. We’d been divorced for a couple of years but she was kind enough to let me know personally. This is just a small post to let people learn a little bit about him.

Bruce as baby with dad

Bruce as a baby with his dad

He was born James Bruce Shutts II in Biloxi, Mississippi, at the Air Forse Base Hospital to parents James Leslie and Barbara Jean (Gilroy) Shutts. Everyone called him Bruce. He was the oldest of five siblings who came along in various places. Sister Karen was born next in Elmira, NY; sister Paula was born in Springfield, OH; brother Jim was born in San Antonio, TX and sister Christine was born in Elmira, NY.  So when you asked Bruce what his hometown was he would say, “I don’t really have one, we moved so much. But probably Elmira.”

Barb's Bunch

Bruce (in the back) with his mom and siblings

He was a chef by training and worked for years in the restaurant/food service industry. Even when it was just the two of us, he cooked like there were 42 people coming to dinner.

Bruce with his daughters

Bruce with his daughters

Bruce met and married Cathy Peelle. They had three girls together: Felicity, Cecelia and Adelle. Christmas at his mom Barb’s house was quite an occasion.

After Bruce and Cathy parted ways, he met and married Mary Biroscak in Elmira, New York.  Mary already had two young boys, Mike and Steve, both of whom he adopted as his own.  Bruce and Mary had two boys of their own, Paul and James (Gil).

Paul and Gil at Gettysburg

Paul and Gil at Gettysburg

Bruce and I were married in 2001.  We didn’t have any children together but had eleven years together. We traveled all over Arizona from the Chiricahuas to the Grand Canyon and Canyon De Chelly.

Bruce loved crossword puzzles and was quite good at them. The Sunday Times crossword was his favorite but all the daily ones got finished too. He could also whoop just about anyone at Trivial Pursuit. He was so good his sister Karen would often accuse him of cheating.

Over the years, he got to see his children get married (Paul as recently as 2014) and start their own families. There are a passel of grandchildren already here and I’m sure more that he won’t get to meet. He lost his dad, James Leslie Shutts, in 1989. He lost his mom, Barbara Jean Gilroy, in 2011.

He was a long-time car-racing fan, especially the open-wheeled cars like Formula One and Indy. Bruce met two prominent figures on the racing scene, race car driver Mario Andretti and racing team owner Paul Newman.

Bruce’s Mario Andretti Story:

Scenic Watkins Glen is located just south of Seneca Lake in the New York Finger Lakes region. The Watkins Glen International Racetrack is located nearby. The beautiful road course hosts NASCAR races along with vintage car races. Bruce met Mario Andretti in 1979, the year after Mario won the Formula One World Championship. Bruce, his brother Jimmy, and Jimmy’s friend Scott were camping at Watkins Glen and enjoying the racing. Bruce and Scott were walking around with a bottle of bourbon when an angry Mario walked by after being eliminated from the race. They asked him if he wanted a swig. Mario took a sip and promptly announced he had better bourbon in his trailer. So off to Mario’s trailer they went!

Boys with RX7 and Mary 2

Paul and Gil with Bruce’s RX7

Bruce’s Paul Newman Story:

Tucked in the far western corner of Massachusetts, where Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York meet, is the beautiful village of Williamstown. It was there that Bruce met Paul Newman in 1982 at the top-rated hotel called the Orchards where he was working as the Director of Food and Beverage Services.  Paul was staying at the Orchards during a visit to Williamstown to see his wife, Joanne Woodward, who was starring in the Glass Menagerie at a local theatre. Paul had called down to the kitchen for room service to order some beer. Bruce took the beer up to the room and asked Paul if he could ask him a question.  Paul responded that he didn’t want to talk about movies. Bruce said no, he wanted to talk to him about his car racing.  That was the right thing to say. Paul invited him to sit down and they chatted about racing while having a beer together.

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Bruce’s Saabrina

Bruce also enjoyed his own cars and owned any number of Saabs, pickups, a VW bus, and assorted others during his lifetime.

Boxer dogs were another of his favorites. They weren’t the only kind he owned but definitely his favorite breed.

Trooper with puppy Ilsa

Trooper with puppy Ilsa

He wasn’t faultless. He like his cigarettes and vodka. Sometimes, a bit too much. He started smoking when he was 16 and tried to quit any number of times.

Bruce had a kind heart and great sense of humor. He leaves behind his siblings: Karen, Paula, Jimmy and Chris; his daughters: Felicity, Cecelia, and Adelle; his sons: Mike, Steve, Paul and Gil; and many grandchildren.Barbs older bunch 2

With that, I’d like say to Bruce tonight, “Say hello to your mom for me. Hug your dad. Pet Trooper, Tegan and Lola for me. Just know that I loved you.”