52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #45 – William Charles Strait, Sr.

Relationship: Grandfather

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There was a social media sensation making the rounds the summer of 2014. The Ice Bucket Challenge. Perhaps you heard of it? It went viral and was all over Facebook July-August 2014. People were dumping buckets of ice and water on each other to raise awareness for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. If you got called out but then didn’t step up to do it, you were considered “in violation” of the rules and had to send the ALS foundation a check for $100.

I jumped into the fray with my Facebook post on August 16, 2014 with this:

As a granddaughter of someone who lost the futile battle against ALS in 1961, I was dismayed and ready to find this viral trend of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” a little distasteful. My father had to watch as his formally healthy dad wasted away from this horrible disease that leaves the body devastated but the mind intact. I thought, “Why not just donate the $100 to ALS and not cheap out by being doused in ice water?” But then I read the ALSA.org website and was amazed at the outpouring of support and donations that have been flowing in since this odd challenge began. Kudos to everyone that have already donated to this cause. According to the site: “Between July 29 and today, August 12, The ALS Association and its 38 chapters have received an astonishing $4 million in donations compared to $1.12 million during the same time period last year.” I never had the privilege of knowing my grandfather but if finding a cure helps someone else experience a long and happy life, I will gladly be sending me $100 in to support the search for the cure. No ice water for me.

William Charles Strait, Sr. was the only grandparent I never got to know. All of my other grandparents (Beatrice, Etta, and Albert) were long-lived but William was not; ALS took him away far too soon.

William Charles Strait was born 17 July 1910 in Lake Grinnell, Sussex County, New Jersey, to parents Ora Simpson Strait and Audrey Romine Hunt.[1] He was the middle child of three. William had an older sister named Bernice and a younger brother named Carl.

William attended Newton public schools and got more than decent grades if his 4th grade report was any indication of his past and/or future performance.Newton Public Schools Grade 4 - William STRAIT Sr.

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William Charles Strait, Newton Public Schools

Early in 1918, in February, when William was eight years old, he came down with scarlet fever. According to grandfather William Henry Hunt’s obituary: “The family of Mrs. Strait is quarantined, owing to the illness from scarlet fever of Mrs. Strait’s young son, William, and for that reason the funeral was not held at the house.”[2] Also, in September of 1918, his father, Ora passed away.

For a number of years, from 1929 to 1935, William lived with his mother at 44 Pine Street, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, and worked as a weaver in the textile mills that were operating in Newton.[3] According to his application dated 03 December 1936 for a Social Security number, 26-year-old William was working for Darlington Fabrics, Inc. located on Mill Street in Newton.[4]

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Beatrice Irene Repsher and William Charles Strait, wedding day, 12 October 1935

In 1935, after asking her number of times and being turned down, Beatrice Irene Repsher finally agreed to marry him. They tied the knot on 12 October 1935 in Netcong, Morris County, New Jersey at St. Michael’s Church by Father Edwin Lange.[5]

William began working for St. Paul’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, as a handy man doing all sorts of jobs around the beautiful campus located on Rt. 206. His experience there helped him when he and Beatrice built their house from the ground up on 43 Lincoln Place. William would often bring home building materials to work on the house after he’d already put in a full day at the monestery. Beatrice recalls living in the tar-papered space with a small heater during winter while the house was being finished. When it was finished, it was painted a bright red.

William and Beatrice had two children, one girl and one boy. Older sister Mercedes was born in 26 September 1936 and younger brother William Jr. came along shortly after.

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William Charles Strait, Sr. taking a work break

William Strait Sr. was a large man. He was tall and his hands were very big. A ring that he used to wear on one of his fingers rattles around loosely on the thumb of his son!

Sadly, around 1960, William was struck with a sickness that at the time was called by its more colloquial name of Lou Gehrig’s disease. His spirit stayed strong but eventually he was forced to quit working and needed a cane to walk. According to his son, William, it was not a pretty thing at the end when he couldn’t move but his mind was still there. ALS is a horrible disease and William’s family suffered right along with him.

William passed away 29 May 1961 at home on Lincoln Place in Newton.[6] He is buried in the St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery.

STRAIT William C. and Beatrice I.


[1] Anna (Karthaeuser) Repsher, compiler, “Family Record of J. J. Repsher Jr. and Caroline Repsher nee Bonser”; (Handwritten family group sheets, Netcong, New Jersey, 1911-1970), p. 84. Privately held by author.
[2] “Death of William Hunt,” obituary (28 February 1918);  Bound newspaper stacks, Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
[3] 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.
[4] William Charles Strait, SS no. 146-10-5034, 03 December 1936, Applicaton for Account Number (Form SS-5), Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland.
[5] Marriage certificate for William Strait and Beatrice Repsher, church issued certificate, family papers collection, 1935
[6] William Strait Memory Card, 1961; privately held by Jodi Strait-Shutts, Tucson, AZ 85757, 2011.  William Charles Strait laminated memory card for 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.

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