Sunday’s Obituary – Robert William Wood – Died 09-June-1973

Relationship to me: husband of grand-aunt

This obituary is a newspaper clipping from my grandmother Beatrice Strait. The newspaper is unnamed and undated but it is probably from the New Jersey Herald.


“Robert Wood” – Robert W. Wood Sr., 67, of 43 Sussex St., Newton, died Saturday at home.  Mr. Wood was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and lived in Newton since 1926.  He was a member of the Newton Moose Lodge and Newton Baptist Church.  He retired three years ago, having worked in the office of Limecrest Corp. for 42 years.  He was a member of the 25-Year Club.  Surviving are his widow, Bernice; three sons, Robert Jr. and Richard, both of Newton, and Donald S. of Jacksonville, Fla.; a brother George of Edison; and 12 grandchildren.  Services will be 2 p.m. tomorrow at Smith-McCracken Funeral Home, Newton, with the Rev. Allen Davis, pastor of the Newton Baptist Church, officiating.  Burial will be in North Church Cemetery, Hamburg.  Friends may call at the funeral home today from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.


52 Documents in 52 Weeks #35 – Jodi Lynn Strait’s Scrapbook

Person of Interest: Jodi Lynn Strait
Relationship: Me!

Source Citation: Newton Steamer Co. No. 1 page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017. This scrapbook was created by Jodi Lynn Strait in the early 2000s. It contains hand-crafted (not digital) and embellished pages related to Miss Strait, parents, paternal and maternal grandparents, and paternal great-grandparents.

Document Description: This is one page out of a multi-page album that has no page numbers. This particular page highlights my Dad’s service in the Newton Fire Department Steamer No. 1 company. It has two photos, a fire truck embellishment, descriptions, photo caption, and some cropped photos. The page is 12 x12 inch in dimension and on heavy grey cardstock.

Background on scrapbooking: Over the centuries, scrapbooking has been a popular hobby. Scrapbooks can contain all sorts of things: photos, newspaper clippings, locks of hair, drawings, post cards, personal letters, genealogy tidbits, handwritten notations, greeting cards, ephemera, clues to things like religious affiliations, occupations, and memberships, and much more.

This century, the popularity of scrapbooking hit its peak in 2004 right before the economic downturn[1] caused people to spend less of their disposable income on hobbies. Paper scrapbooking, incorporating expensive papers and embellishments, became less popular as digital scrapbooking became more available.

I have photos in my files of an early 19th century scrapbook prepared on my ex-husband’s Normandin family. The page below was created by a Normandin family member and commemorates the marriage and children of Eugenie St. Hilaire and Zepherin Normandin.[2] Their pictures are at the center of the page. The hand-colored, drawn pink ribbon around the couple’s photos tells the names of their children and provides their birth dates and sometimes death dates. There is gold embellishment/ink and little nails are drawn to “hold” the ribbon onto the page.

A page from the Normandin scrapbook

Another scrapbook in the family was my Aunt Sadie’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook that her mother (my grandmother) Beatrice Irene (Repsher) Strait used to collect all the cards and gift tags that Mercedes was sent. I used this scrapbook as last year’s Sepia Saturday project.[3] Unfortunately, the paper within the scrapbook was not archival quality; it was literally flaking apart every time it was touched, moved, or opened. As such, I chose to take the items off of the pages, scan them, and store them in archival files. But first, I made sure to photograph  the whole album in it’s entirety to preserve the layout of the original and to preserve all the handwritten notations on the pages that were lost with the removal of the items.

A page from Mercedes Strait’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook

You can see the difference between the two pages with regards to content. The Normandin scrapbook is more of a genealogical record and my aunt’s is more of a memorial of things sent to Aunt Sadie. Even with the differences in content that can happen between various scrapbooks, searching them out can be worth the time and effort.

Document Scan/Transcription:
Newton Steamer Company #1
My father, William Charles Strait, Jr. served in the Newton Fire Department from around 1968 to 1980. He trained for service at the County Homestead where there was a school. The fire he remembers most was the fire that completely burned the Williams and Hibler Lumberyard and 2 neighboring houses in August 1970. Twenty companies responded to that fire. When he first joined, there were a lot of out of town fires since Newton FD covered a large area. This gradually decreased as the outlying areas got their own engines and equipment. Barn fires were common and tricky to put out.

Right: Bill drives the team pulling the antique engine used in town parades.

[Caption for group photo] Bottom Row, Left to Right: Jim Mills, Frank Sisco, Chester Zucowski, Don Lance, Chief John Garrigan, George Bird, Jr., Earl Decker, George Danley, Clarence Danley
Middle Row, Left to Right: Charly Gorkey, William Strait, “Chip” Odgen, Craig Bough, Ronnie Van Hise, Jack Blauvelt, Edmund Zucowski, Jr., Everett “Buddy” Sisco
Top Row, Left to Right: Bob Elchin, Billy Wagner, Parker “Parky” Pearson, Jack Coates, Jimmy Scabet, Ed Kragowski, Kurt DeGroat, Mr. Pelt, Dave “Roach” DeGroat

Analysis: Scrapbooking really goes hand-in-hand with genealogy. Both are a way for someone to get the story of their family into a form for others to understand or view. Scrapbooking is a visually pleasing way to do that. I used this scrapbook to gather the stories, interests, photos, and artifacts of my family into one place.

While putting the pages in the scrapbook together, I tried to pull in a lot of little details relating to the person or topic. For example, on the Steamer Company #1 page the cut outs of the badges and wool patches are actual scans (not to size) of my father’s artifacts. The group photo includes him in the uniform he wore while serving with the Steamer Company #1. I asked him about the fires he fought and incorporated that into the short narrative. The other photo shows him driving the team used to pull the antique fire engine that was used in the town parades.

On a page for my maternal grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary,[4] I have incorporated a copy of their original marriage license on a tag tied to their picture with gold thread, a photograph and corresponding newspaper article that ran in the local paper, and their marriage and 50th anniversary dates.

On a page for my paternal grandmother,[5] I tried to simulate the look of a 1920s greeting card since that’s about when the pictures displayed on the page were taken. The purple is reminiscent of her love of violets and the flowers resemble those. I included a short biography of her along with a picture of her with her parents, George and Anna Repsher. This largest photo is a school photo.

On a page for my paternal grandfather,[6] I wanted to give the viewer a feel for the sort of man my grandfather grew up to be. He was an oak tree of a man; very tall, massive hands, and stoic. A short biography is included at the bottom left. A bittersweet photo of him standing in the graveyard next to his father’s tombstone shows how young he was when he lost his father. The photo of him in winter clothes gives a feel for the types of buildings and country he experienced as a boy. The focal point of the page is a school photo.

The scrapbook from which the Steamer Company #1 page came from is an authored work. It is a unique creation based on how and what I chose to incorporate into each page. The information found on the page is a mixture of both primary (firsthand) and secondary information. My dad knew what fires he fought and shared his recollections with me. The caption on the group photo is secondary in that I’m taking my father’s word for who each person was in the fire department at the time. The evidence is indirect for the research question, “Did Bill Strait of Sussex County, Newton, New Jersey, serve in Steamer Company #1 in Newton during the 1970s and 1980s?” Yes, the page implies that he served but there is nothing directly connecting Bill to the Steamer Company, no roster or roll from the fire department is present.

Scrapbooks, like family bibles, can be anywhere. I’ve found them with family members, in historical societies, in libraries and archives, and sometimes on-line. Be creative in where you think to look for these!


Scrapbooks can run the gamut from being just of a collection of newspaper articles to being very artistic with fancy embellishments and artwork. Some are chockfull of genealogical information. Since they are usually kept with the family or the person who create them, scrapbooks can be hard to find but worth the effort to ferret out.

[2] Zephirin Normandin and Eugenie St. Hilaire, marriage page with portrait of the couple, in Marie Elmire Normandin Scrapbook, ca. 1850-1920; privately held by Mrs. Evelyn Worth, Penn Yan, Pennslyvania, 2011.
[3] Mercedes Strait’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook, pink bunny card page, 1936-1945; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017. Original scrapbook exists only in digital format now. Individual items were removed and stored in archival folders.
[4] Westra’s 50th anniversary page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.
[5] Beatrice Repsher’s violet page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.
[6] William Strait’s acorn page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.

Sunday’s Obituary – Bernice (Strait) Wood – Died 28-April-1979

Relationship to me: paternal great-aunt

This was undated, unsourced newspaper clipping that my grandmother saved, most likely from the New Jersey Herald.


Bernice Wood” – Bernice S. Wood, 70, of 43 Sussex St., Newton, died Saturday at Newton Memorial Hospital after a long illness.

Born in Lafayette, she lived in Newton all her life.  She was a member of the Newton Baptist Church, the Newton First Aid Squad Auxiliary and the American Association of Retired Persons. She was the widow of Robert W. Wood.

She is survived by three sons, Robert W. Jr. and Richard A. Sr., both of Newton, and Donald S. of Jacksonville, Fla.; a brother, Carl H. Strait of Andover Township; 12 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Smith-McCracken Funeral Home, Newton, the Rev. Allan Davis officiating.  Interment will follow in the North Church Cemetery.  Friends may call at the funeral home Monday from 2-5 and 7-9 p.m.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #30 – Ann (Ranney) Abbott’s Family History

Person of Interest: Ann May (Ranney) Abbott
Relationship: 4th cousin 2x removed (Abraham and Charlotte (Comer) Strait were Anne’s 3rd great grandparents and my 5th great grandparents)

Source Citation: Ann Ranney Abbott, “Strait Genealogy,” Strait Family descendent report, narrative and photos, 1750-2005; supplied by Abbott, Columbus, Ohio, 2005. This compilation offers only a general list of materials referenced, with no specific documentation for any piece of data. This copy contains photos, family biographies, and copies of newspaper clippings from local Ohio newspapers. Ms. Abbott passed away on 01 September 2009.[1] Current location of the original is unknown.

Document Description: Ann sent this “Strait Genealogy” to me when I corresponded with her in November of 2005 and early 2006. It is a blue, 3-hole report folder with a label on the front. (Pictured to the right.) There are seven 8-1/2 by 11 inch pages in total and she explained, “As you see, I do my genealogy a bit different. I like to read something about my ancestors so if I find interesting info I include it and hope it’s true.”[2] This is not a straight photocopy of the document as what she sent me includes some copies of photos on heavier card stock glued onto the 2nd and 4th pages. All the pages are single-sided except five and six which are on a single sheet.

Document Scan/Transcription: Since Ann has passed away and I don’t have permission from her family to share this with you, I won’t be able to show you the document in its entirety. Bummer, but it keeps me out of copyright trouble! I will provide a general description of what the document contains.

Page 1: Her first page begins with the first generation of Abraham and wife unknown coming from Holland. The six children are listed using the basic descendent report format. While family tree programs will do a nice job of automatically numbering for you, it helps to understand why things are organized the way they are. For a great book about genealogical numbering, please see Numbering Your Genealogy produced by the National Genealogy Society.[3]

She continues with the second generation and has some references listed at the bottom. They are:

  • J. Percy Crayon’s book, Rockaway Records published in 1902
  • Family files at Goshen, Orange County, N.Y. Public Library
  • Elaine M. Mason, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
  • Nancy J. Pascal, Ft. Pierce, Florida

However, Ann does not tell the reader what facts are associated with what references. This is not so unusual; J. Percy Crayon’s book does the same thing as do many home-compiled (published or not) family genealogies.

Page 2: Ann continues with the 3rd generation and has photos of James D. Strait, W. Sherman Strait, and Mary Doran Strait (mother) at the bottom of the page. The page is filled with narrative and mentions Abraham and Charlotte Comer, land deeds, the David Smith farm that the family purchased in Plain Township, Franklin County, Ohio, in 1855, and Maplewood Cemetery, New Albany, Ohio. No references are given on this page.

Page 3: The completion of the 3rd generation occurs on this page and the 4th generation begins with Dennis B. Strait, Ann’s great grandfather. There are no pictures or references on this page, just narrative about Dennis and his life.

Page 4: Continuing the 4th generation, this page has a line drawing of Dennis, a photocopy of his home, and the listing of Dennis and his wife Ann’s children are provided on this page. The line drawing of Dennis appears to be the same one found in the county history discussed last week. At the bottom,  Ann references:

  • N.A. Hist. Soc.
  • Fr. Co. Hist. Soc.
  • Josie Garner
  • family notes

Page 5: Provides the photos of Whitney Strait (top left), Cordelia (Strait) Ranney (top right), and Anna Eliza (Strait) Brooks (bottom left) along with a photo of Anna Eliza and her husband Lewis H. Brooks (bottom right). The last photo has a credit saying it is from grandson Clark Cubbage.

Page 6: This page has photocopies of what look to be clippings from mostly unidentified Ohio newspapers. All articles are about Dennis B. Strait or his children. The first clipping is dated 06 April 1891 and is a lengthy obituary with a crude line drawing most likely inexpertly copied from the fine line drawing above. The second article is a very short death notice about his daughter Dulcena. The third is a 1907 article from the one identified newspaper, the Ohio State Journal.  This article tells about a lamp explosion incident at the Dennis residence that happened 31 years ago. The fourth clipping is another obituary and dated 06 April 1891.

Page 7: This page continues with the 5th and 6th generations. It is all text and slightly confusing as it does not follow the neat presentation method of the family groups as found on page one. The bottom references the Ranney Genealogy.

Analysis: This short genealogy is a great example of an unpublished family history. I’m not sure if Ann provided her local genealogy society with a copy, gave/mailed copies to others, or where else it might reside but I am glad she shared it with me.

This is an authored work as Ann has a particular way of presenting her information that is unique to her. She chose what narratives, pictures, family facts, and references to include. She organized it and laid it out according to her own sensibilities. It is a hybrid of both original and derivative materials. Ann didn’t write the obituaries but chose to pick pieces out of them to enhance her narrative.

The information found in this compiled genealogy is either secondary or undetermined. Since there are no hard links to what facts go with what references Ann makes, there’s no way to determine the reliability or quality of the information provided. Her references to “Fr. Co. Hist. Soc.” could mean that she consulted any number of things or people at that Society. It is unknown if she was looking at vertical files, other people’s genealogies, books, letters, city directories, etc. As a good genealogist, this unpublished family history is a great jumping off point for the location of more original records. It’s a great clue book.

Depending on the multitude of research questions that can be crafted from this source, the evidence found here would be either direct (explicitly stating the answer) or indirect (needing other evidence) or negative. There’s just too much in here to classify it strictly in one classification or another.


Fortunately, for me, Ann was kind enough to share what she had on the Ohio branch of the Straits. I enjoyed reading her narratives and appreciated that she chose to include photos of the people discussed within it. The photos and narrative added to the story of the family and enriched my understanding of them.

Unfortunately, unpublished genealogies could be anywhere: historical societies, libraries, in personal files, on-line, and even languishing on some computer somewhere because some now-deceased author never chose to share it with others. Research and its results are made better when it is shared with others, discussed, analyzed and improved upon. You need to ask yourself: Where in the process am I with my genealogy? I encourage you to write up it up and get that sharing going!

[1] “Ann M. Abbott,” obituary, the Columbus Dispatch [Ohio], 01 September 2009, Online obituaries ( : accessed 27 November 2012).
[2] Ann Ranney Abbott, Columbus, Ohio, to Jodi Lynn Strait, letter, 17 November 2005, regarding Strait genealogy; Personal Correspondence, 2005; Strait Family, Strait Document Files; privately held by Jodi Strait, Tucson, Arizona.
[3] Joan Ferris Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane, and John H. Wray, Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems and Complex Families and International Kin, (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogy Society, 2008).

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #29 – Dennis B. Strait’s Biography

Person of Interest: Dennis B. Strait
Relationship: 1st cousin 5x removed (his grandparents are Abraham Strait married to Charlotte Comer, who are my 5th great-grandparents)

Source Citation: The History of Franklin and Pickaway Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of the Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers (n.p.: Williams Bros, 1880), 585.

Document Description: This is a biographical sketch within a larger body of work. Dennis B. Strait has a short biography on page 585 and he also has a lovely line drawing featured in the book along with his signature underneath. He is featured under the section titled “Biographical Sketches” starting on page 584.

Background on county histories: In the late nineteenth century, the writing of county histories blossomed as the country experienced a desire to celebrate the centennial of the country in 1876 along with a a surge in popularity of genealogy. These large tomes were published all over the country and are a wealth of information. The bi-centennial celebrated in 1976 also caused another increase in the publishing of county histories.

They contain detailed coverage of various topics including things like local histories, schools, churches, oral traditions of an area, associations, cemeteries, participants in the Civil War (or even Revolutionary), government and its structure, biographical sketches and illustrations of noted individuals, listings of public officials, descriptions/histories of long gone villages or towns, bodies of waters, business and industry data, geology of the area, lists of long-lived residents, weather, maps, roads and transportation, and much more.

Sometimes called brag or mug books, almost anyone could contribute their biography if they had the dollars to get it included. If the person was writing the biography he was contributing (or relaying the facts to a ghost writer), it was most likely favorable. No sense in publishing the dirty laundry when you could portray yourself as a fine, upstanding, industrious, and/or pious person.

Document Scan/Transcription:
Dennis B. Strait.
county commissioner, was born in the State of New Jersey, on May 20, 1824. He is the second of a family of eleven, the children of Abraham and Dulcena Strait, who removed to Franklin county in 1839. They located in Plain township, and here the mother died, not long after. The father died in June, 1862.

The education of the gentleman who is the subject of this sketch, was acquired at common schools, and was quite limited, owing to the fact that his parents were in indigent circumstances, and his being obliged, at an early age, to seek his own living. At the age of twenty years he struck out to battle with fortune, having rough but strong hands, and a brave heart to aid him. Accoumulating some means be sought and obtained the hand of Miss Ann, daughter of Caleb and Eliza Farmer, to whom he was married on November 20, 1851. Soon after he purchased one hundred acres of land in Plain township, this county; this, by industry and economy on the part of Mr. Strait, aided by his good wife, has been added to, until he now owns six hundred and twenty-five acres,

the greater part of which is under a profitable state of cultivation. His life work has been that of a farmer and stock raiser. Of the public life of Mr. Strait, the writer learns that he was first elected county commissioner in the fall of 1860, and served two terms of three years each. Upon the expiration of the second term he was appointed auditor of Franklin county, and it this capacity he served two years. In the fall of 1876 he was a third time elected to the office of commissioner, his term expiring in the fall of 1879. Politically, Mr. Strait is a firm adherent to the teachings of the Democratic Party. For the past twenty years he has been a member of the society of Free and Accepted masons.

His children are: Whitney, Cordelia (Mrs. B. Ranney), Ann Eliza, and Dulcena, and Edward L., who are deceased.

Analysis: This biographical sketch found in the Franklin county section of the book is a great source of genealogical information. We learn the following genealogy information from this sketch:

  • Dennis was born in New Jersey on 20 May 1824
  • Dennis’ parents were Abraham Strait and Dulcena whose maiden name is not revealed.
  • Dennis was one of eleven children
  • The family emigrated to Ohio in 1839
  • His mother Dulcena died shortly after 1839
  • His father Abraham died June 1862
  • Dennis married Ann Farber, the daughter of Caleb Farber and Eliza, on 20 November 1851
  • He purchased land Plain township, Franklin County, Ohio (100 acres which grew into 625 acres)
  • He was a farmer and stock raiser most of his life
  • Dennis was county commissioner from 1869 to 1874
  • Dennis was auditor of Franklin county 1874 to 1876
  • He was elected as commissioner again for a term that ran from 1876 until Fall of 1879
  • Dennis was in the order of the Free and Accepted Masons
  • Dennis and Ann had five children: Whitney, Cordelia, Ann Eliza, Dulcena, and Edward L.
  • Daughter Cordelia married a man named B. Ranney

Now that’s a pretty good start on the family of Dennis B. Strait if this happens to be the first document you ever come across. It gives you a place to look for his birth record (New Jersey), the clue that he had a number of siblings (10), an emigration to Ohio, a place to look for his mother’s death record and when (Ohio, sometime around 1839), a place to look for his father’s death record (Ohio, 1862), a place and date to locate a marriage record for him (Ohio, 1851) and the names of his children to explore further including birth and marriage records for them. Additionally, he was land owner so some deeds might provide useful information.

The source type is an authored work. As we look through the entire book, it most likely had multiple writers putting each of the sections together. The information in the book is undetermined as we can’t be sure if it is primary, secondary, or even tertiary or worse. There is a combination of direct (explicit), indirect (not explicit) and negative (not explicit or missing when it should be there) depending on the research question(s) asked.


The residence of Theo. Leonard, Sr. in Columbus, Ohio.

I’ve picked out a few of the illustrations from the book for you to peruse.

County histories are a great way to immerse yourself in life and times of your ancestors. They give a good overview of what it was like to live in the county at the time of its publication. Even if you’re lucky enough to have an ancestor that has a biographical sketch, don’t ignore the rest of the book. There may be maps with details or people pointed out that relate to your family. There may be business ads that relate to your relative’s business activities. The ancestor may be listed as a school teacher, military participant, or one of the oldest people still residing in the county. The oral traditions and geology of the county might explain why your relative got married in the county next door. It’s interesting to look at the clothing and hairstyles found in the line drawings.

Explore and don’t be afraid to learn some history!

Sunday’s Obituary – Calvin C. Degroat – Died 04-December-2011

Relationship to me: husband of 1st cousin, 2x removed

This obituary was published in The New Jersey Herald on December 5, 2011, page A-3, column 2. It can also be found online at


“Calvin C. Degroat” – Wantage – Calvin C. Degroat, 86, died peacefully at his residence surround by his family on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. Born in Wantage, he had been a resident of Wantage all of his life. He was the son of the late Ralph and Lizzy (Clark) Degroat.

Prior to his retirement, Mr. Degroat was employed for 30 years in the maintenance department of the Ames Rubber Corp., in Hamburg. A proud veteran of the United States Army, he served his country during World War II. He was awarded a Purple Heart for serving in the battle of the bulge. Most recently he enjoyed the sport of bowling with his friends and teammates at the Sparta Bowling Lanes. Last year he bowled a game with a score of 222, which helped his senior bowling league team win first place.  In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his wife, Carolyn (Strait) Degroat, and several brothers and sisters; Elizabeth Wilson, Arnold Degroat, Ruth Beemer, Warren Degroat, H. Clark Degroat, Vivian Lockburner, Florence Card, Oliver Degroat and Elsie Dunn. He is survived by his son, Dennis Degroat and his wife, Linda, of Stillwater; a sister, Louella Opellar of Hawthorne; grandchildren, Kyle and Brian Degroat, and his loving companion of the past few years of his life, Victoria Sapone.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend his graveside funeral service with military honors Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 11 a.m., at North Hardyston Cemetery (meeting directly at the cemetery in the old section).  In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory would be preferred and may be made to the Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice Charitable Foundation, 99 Sparta Ave., Newton, NJ 07860. Arrangements by F. John Ramsey Funeral Home, Franklin. To offer online condolences please go to

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #25 – Mercedes Strait’s Graduation

Mercedes Marie Strait, circa 1955

Person of Interest: Mercedes Marie Strait
Relationship: Paternal aunt

Source Citation: Mercedes Strait, Newton High School commencement program (1955); Newton Public Schools, Newton, New Jersey; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.

Document Description: This is the commencement program for Newton High School for the class of 1955. It is 8 x 15 inches and tri-folded which means there are 6 “pages” in total. The paper is medium weight and cream colored with black print. There are no embellishments, pictures, or embossing.

Document Scan/Transcription:
Front Page:
Annual Commencement Exercises of Newton High School
Wednesday Evening, June 22, 1955
High School Field
Newton, N. J.





Inside Cover:
Invocation…..Rev. Marple Lewis
Flag Salute…..Led by John Power
The National Anthem
Salutatory…..Shirley Layton
Honorary Essay…..Shirley Layton
Honorary Essay…..Saundra Fenner
Music…..Senior Ninettes & Senior Male Vocal Group
Mantle Oration…..William Decker, Barbara Henderson
Honorary Essay…..Elizabeth Boole
Presentation of Prizes…..Dr. James Johnson, Superintendent of Schools
Honorary Essay…..Jane Spangenberg
Valedictory…..Jane Spangenberg
Presentation of Class…..Frederick L. Weaver, Principal of High School
Presentation of Class Gift…..Richard W. Ayers
Awarding of Diplomas…..David Weidenhafer, President of Board of Education
Awarding of Diplomas…..Dr. J. J. Goldman, Vice President of Board of Education
Alma Mater

Listing of Class of 1955, page 1:
Class of 1955
Dorothy Carol Ackerson
Jean Louise Andre
Charles Ronald Ansbach
Harriette Penney Ayers
Richard Willis Ayers
* Nancy Roe Bain
Nancy Baltjes
Joseph Anthony Barthel
Martin James Bedell, Jr.
Donald Frederick Begraft
Mabel Elsie Belcher
Robert Leeroy Benson
Roy Rhynier Bischoff
* Sally Bixler
Frank Black
Lester Eugene Blumhagen
* Elizabeth Jane Boole
Ruric William Brandt
Ann Elizabeth Brown
Catharine Howell Buenz
* Carol Halley Christine Byrnes
Estelle Marie Kathryn Campbell
Domenick Carriera
Marion Josophine Cedzidlo
Richard Linus Celli
Edmund Livingston Chammings
Lester Eugene Chammings
Catherine Bernice Chandler
Shirley Ann Chidlress
* Russell Sage Christie, Jr.
* Dolores Frances Clayton
Frederick Dale Current
Beatrice Clare DeAngelis
William Robert Decker
Charles Walter DeGroat
Patricia Joan Delea
Herbert Joseph Demarest
Peter J. Demarest
Robert Lynn Dennis
Ronald James Depuy
Marie Annette DeVincenzi
Joseph Michael DeVita
Betty Jane Donadio
William Robert Doty
Philip Harry Dunlap
James Edward Earnshaw
Robert Leroy Earl
Mary Theresa Eldred
Mildred Beatrice Ellicks
Clarence Theadore Ellingsen, Jr.
Barbara Mildred Felk
* Saundra Ann Fenner
Kenneth Francis Fowler

The old Newton High School on Halsted Street, 1940 postcard

Marlin Henry Fulkrod
Richard Lawrence Fuller
Harold Elsworth Gibbs
* Lora Grabow
Carol Lee Graham
George Robert Gray
June Edwinna Grimm
Frank George Gromlich
* Hubert William Hagadorn
Patricia Mary Hamilton
Robert Boyden Hamm
William Flomerfelt Hamm
Geraldine Marie Hatley
Diane Lee Helmacy
Alice Jane Henderson
Raymond Charles Henderson, Jr.
Roger Lee Henderson
Gordon James Hennion
Edith May Hooey
Barbara Joyce Hopper
Carol Diane Huff
Carole Kathryn Agnes Hughes
Rosemary Kathryn Hughes
Shirley Ann Huizenga
Brian Dotey Hunt
Joyce Hussey
John Lewis Iliff
Cora Enda Jager
Niela Norene Jager
Charlotte Emma Johnson
Marie Elizabeth Johnson
Harvey William Jorgenson, Jr.
Helen Evelyn Kampka
Linford Nelson Kinney
Manfred William Klein
Listing of Class of 1955, page 2:
Ronald John Klepacky
Jean Elizabeth Kosteini
Jeanette Bertha Kosteini
Phyllis Gloria Kucinski
Maxine Helen Kuhn
Shirley Ruth Landgraff
* Shirley Evelyn Layton
Elaine Helen Lee
William Felix Lehman, Jr.
Frank Henry Lockburner
Marilyn Agnes Lundstrom
Jack Whitten McCall
George Melvin McCoy
Marilyn Jayne McKeeby
Nancy Lee Mack
Rosamond Barbara Martin
Cynthia Patricia Massucci
Virginia Lou Mertens
Anna Marie Margaret Meyer
Thomas Stone Middleton
Melvyn Miller
Andrea Mitchell
Marjorie Ann Monsanto
Hugh Theodore Mooney
Carol Mary Mosner
Theodore W. Moss
* Edwin Alfred Nelson, Jr.
Howard Edward Norback
Carolyn Adelaide Nugent
Janice Marie Paugh
Gustave Edwin Paul
Birgit Alma Pearson
Wilfred Edwin Pierce, Jr.
Duane Robert Pierson
Patricia Ann Plotts
Robert Lee Poe
* John Michael Power
Evelyn Roberta Powers
Kenneth Ralph Powers
Rayna Mabel Price
Elizabeth Frances Ramsey
Regine Marie Reuther
Rochelle Roche
William Henry Ruschmeier
Gail Patricia Ryan
Lewis Branton Savacool
* Helen Emily Schaffer
Gayle Marie Scott
Lydia Semenuk
Frederick Lloyd Seplow
Norman Card Shawger
Donald Edward Singleton
Margaret Agnes Sisco
Marilyn Marjorie Sisco
* Shirley Ann Skuba
Ronald Swayze Smith
Barbara Ann Spangenberg
* Jane Edith Spangenberg
Kathleen Marie Spaulding
Barbara Specht
Virginia Specht
Kurt David Steckley
James Grant Stevens
Janet Doris Stewart
Janet Lynn Stiansen
Mercedes Marie Strait

Mercedes Marie Strait

William Michael Strong
Betty Louise Struble
Patricia Jean Sullivan
* Carol Lee Talley
Lois Mae Titman
Elizabeth Ann Traynor
Wellington Ollie Treible
* Maud Violet Utter
Ralph Marshall VanAuken
Donald Theodore VanDeMoere
Barbara Jane VanOrden
Shirley Martha Vealey
Grant Van Vorhies
Richard John Washer
Elsie Mary Watson
Carol Margaret Elizabeth Weiss
Donald Robert Weiss
Verne E. Whitlock, Jr.
Ralph Dwight Wiley
Dennis Grifford Williams
Luise Rae Williams
Martin Morris Winfield
* Joyce Nettie Young

* National Honor Society

Alma Mater Foldover Page:
Oh! we’re from dear old Newton
The School to us most dear;
It’s the place we love the best
Finest school in East or West
So we will hail the name we all revere:
We love our Alma Mater
Of her glories we will tell.
In everything we take the lead
In sport and though and noble deed.
And so for Newton we will give our yell, Rah! Rah!

Her students all are loyal,
We’ll laud her to the sky
We’ll ever strive with all our might
To keep her honor clear and bright,
The kind of scholars we’re at Newton High.
We hear the should of victory
The thunder of her fame
In every land the world around
There are her sons and daughters found,
And so for them we’ll give a hearty cheer, Rah! Rah!

So here’s to old Newton
Loud we will sing
We’ll tell her praises true to you
In every land they’ll ring.
Then here’s to old Newton
The School we love the best,
Till every purpose be fulfilled in N. H. S.

Board of Education and listing of teachers page:
President…..Mr. David Weidenhafer
Vice-President…..Dr. J. J. Goldman
Secretary to Board…..Mr. Sydenham Palmer
Mr. Robert J. Ford
Dr. Martin Snook
Mr. John Cronin
Mrs. D. L. Spurgeon
Mrs. Charles Thompson
Mrs. Clifford Schmidt
Mr. C. Burnett Freas

James Johnson, Ed. D. ….. Superintendent
Frederick L. Weaver, Ed. M. ….. High School Principal
Paul S. Darling, Ed. M. …..High School Vice President
Helen E. Kinney …… Secretary to the Superintendent
Margaret E. Kittle ….. Secretary to High School Principal
Lena W. Howell ….. Secretary to Attendance
Gladys S. Anderson, B. C. S. ….. Commercial
Lydia Beatty ….. Modern Living
Kathryn Bedell, B. S. ….. English
Richard Bobertz ….. Manual Training
Ralph Bond, B. S. ….. Commercial
Henry Boresch, Ed. M. ….. Physical Education
Howard Bruce, B. S. ….. Commercial
A. Neill Clark, B. S. ….. Physics
Claire Club, B. S. ….. Modern Living
Elizabeth Cole, B. C. S. ….. Commercial
Margaret Connell, M. A. ….. Latin
Warren Cummings, Ed. M. ….. English
Van Davies, B. S. ….. Mathematics
Arthur Disque, M. A. ….. Physical Education
Joseph Esposito, A. B. ….. English
Wilfred Falling, B. Mus. ….. Music
Kathleen Fleck, A. B. ….. English
Frances Francisco, A. B. ….. Mathematics, Science
Gottfred Gebhardt, B. S. ….. Science
Elizabeth Goble, R. N. ….. Nurse
Louis J. Gombosi, Ed. M. ….. Agriculture
Hazel I. Gordon ….. Physical Education
Mildred Graebner, A. B. ….. French, Spanish
Mildred Griggs ….. Commercial
Roberts I. Hardin, M. A. ….. Modern Living
Alice Henry, M. A. ….. Physical Education
Marion Howe, M. A. ….. Mathematics
Barbara Jones, A. B. ….. Art
Francis Lambert, A. B. ….. History
Margaret Mary Linnen, A. B. ….. English
Margaret McCutcheon, Ed. M. ….. Library
George Marshall, A. B. ….. English, History
Frank Matteson ….. Manual Training
Carroll Mynard, B. S. ….. Band, Orchestra
Jean Pascoe, M. A. ….. Guidance
Emily Robbins, Ed. M. ….. Mathematics
Marion Quinn, M. A. ….. History
Eleanor Slack, B. C. S. ….. English
Geraldine Smith, M. A. ….. Speech, Dramatics
John Stump, M. S. ….. Agriculture
Mabel von Loon, B. S. ….. History
Robert Warden, B. S. ….. Mechanical Drawing
Michael Waskowich, B. S. ….. Science
Paul Weaver, Ed. M. ….. Chemistry
Robert Williams, M. A. ….. Mathematics

Analysis:  Mercedes Marie Strait was one of 177 students that graduated on 22 June 1955 from Newton High School, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. It is unclear if Mercedes graduated in the brand spanking new High School on Ryerson Avenue which was built in 1954 at a cost of $1.25M.[1] The former High School was located on Halsted Street (subsequently converted to a grammar school) and this was where Mercedes spent most of her high school years. I haven’t been able to determine exactly when the new High School opened so Mercedes may have never even had a class in the new building and was at Halsted Street from her freshman to senior years.

The new Newton High School, built in 1954

I’m glad I took the time to transcribe all the names on the program. One name in particular popped out at me: Donald Fredrick Begraft. Why? Well, because he’s a brother to Douglas Begraft who married Lena Westra who was a sister to Martha Westra who married Mercedes’ brother William Strait. This highlights the benefits of using the F.A.N. (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) method of researching. From this program, I found his high school graduation date, placed him in Newton (or close vicinity) in 1955, and learned his middle name.

Life is circular. Some of the same teachers that Mercedes and her brother William may have had were also my teachers! English teacher Mrs. Bedell, math teacher Mrs. Robbins, agriculture teacher Mr. Gombosi, and math teacher Van Davies were all still in education when I came through from 1980-1984. I know for sure my dad had Mrs. Robbins as a teacher. I quite liked her but Dad had other opinions since her preference for girls over the boys in the classroom was a bit noticeable.

I also noticed that home economics had been rebranded as “modern living” by 1955. I’m not quite sure what “commercial” was related to since “manual training” is also included in areas of study. Agriculture is not a surprise as Sussex County was still very rural in 1955.

In a nice bit of symmetry, I also had 177 students in my graduating class. However, I did attend high school at the building on Ryerson Avenue and many years after both High Point Regional High School, which opened in 1964, and Kittatinny Regional High School, which opened in 1975, had syphoned students from the Newton School District.[2]

This is an original document passed down to me from Aunt Sadie. It’s primary information in that it’s a listing of all the graduates, teachers, and Board of Education members in 1955 prepared by the school itself that would know specifically who was graduating and who taught the graduates. It is direct evidence (explicit) for the question, “When and where did Mercedes Marie Strait, of Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, graduate high school?” It tells us definitively that she graduated on Wednesday evening of 22 June 1955. It is indirect evidence on the relationships between Mercedes, her classmates, and her teachers. From this, we can’t tell who shared classroom time with her, who her circle of friends were, or what teachers taught her.


Why bother with a lowly high school commencement program? We’re looking for hard core vital records as genealogists, right? Well, a high school commencement program helps put your ancestor in a particular place at a particular time along with giving you some of their classmates and associates. The program gave me a middle name and graduation date for someone in the family tree I was expecting to see. Analyzing this program also piqued my curiosity enough to search out some of the school history of the Newton Public Schools. No document is too lowly to examine while doing your reasonably exhaustive search!

[2] Ibid.