52 Documents in 52 Weeks #26 – Elaine Struss-Feret’s Memory Card

Person of Interest: Elaine Marie (Struss) Feret
Relationship: 1x cousin 1x removed

Source Citation: Elaine M. Struss-Feret Memory Card, 2016; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2017.  Elaine M. Struss-Feret paper memory card created by Morgan Funeral Home in Netcong, NJ, for funeral services. Lists full birth and death dates.

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-8-30-52-pmDocument Description: Memory or prayer or holy cards have been around for a long, long time. The earliest known example is a hand-colored woodcut print of St. Christopher from 1423.[1] As more modern printing techniques came into use, hand-coloring gave way to lithography. Then, as printing became even cheaper in the 1900s, these cards became widely distributed to friends and family members at the funeral homes that attended the deceased. The fronts of the cards generally feature either a picture of the deceased or some sort of religious, especially Roman Catholic, imagery or sayings. The backs generally have the person’s name, sometimes their birth and death dates in varying degrees of completeness, and a prayer or poem. This card is 2-1/2″ by 4″ in measurement and printed on both sides. The front of this card is full-color. There are full birth and death dates for Elaine listed.

memory-card-elaine-m-struss-feretDocument Scan and Transcription: Back of Card
In Loving Memory of
Elaine M. Struss-Feret
September 11, 1949
December 7, 2016

I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one,
I’d like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave an echo
whispering softly down the ways,
of happy times and laughing
times and bright and sunny days.
I’d like the tears of those
who grieve, to dry before the sun.
Of happy memories that I leave
when life is done.

Morgan Funeral Home, Inc.
Netcong, NJ

Front of Card: Printed with various images


Analysis: The funeral home was nice enough to send me a number of cards, eight in total. I’ve scanned four of them for this post to give a feel for the types of things found on the front of the cards. Sometimes the family chooses on one image, sometimes there are a variety.  Elaine’s cousin, Annie, chose a beautiful selection of flowers and sayings for the front and a joyous poem for the back to celebrate Elaine’s life.

Even if I didn’t already know that Elaine was Roman Catholic, the classic symbolism on the front of the cards would point me in that direction. The white lily is a symbol of purity and is closely associated with the Virgin Mary. The lamp (featured on two cards) symbolizes the presence of God and the existence of the soul. The wheat is a symbol of the bounty of the Earth and the connection to the Holy communion wafer. A white dove is the symbol of the Holy Spirit and the thorns are an expression of grief or sin. Along the left-hand sides of the cards are found Latin crosses, Greek letters of Chi Ro (P with the X over it), and an individual Ro all which represent Jesus as the anointed one.[2]

Additionally, this document gives you hints about what to look for next. Usually, the funeral home is the one who handles the interment which leads to the cemetery the person is buried in. Most likely the funeral home is located very close to the cemetery being used. The town in which the funeral home is located will give you a hint about what newspaper to look for a death notice or an obituary. The state will give you a hint on where to write for a copy of the death certificate.

This is an original record printed by the Morgan Funeral Home in Netcong, New Jersey, and sent to me here in Tucson. The information is both primary and secondary. Elaine’s birth date is secondary, someone had to tell the funeral home when her birthday was. Elaine’s death date is primary in that the funeral home was involved in the preparation of the death certificate and transport of the body to the funeral home on the day or next day after her death. The evidence is direct in that it answers the research questions, “When was Elaine of Netcong, New Jersey, and daughter of William Struss and Helen Repsher, born and when did she die?”


Depending on how much the funeral home or family choses to print on the card, these playing-card sized documents can be helpful in pinpointing when a person died. The minimum information that I’ve seen on the cards I have are the person’s name with a birth year and a death year or the person’s name with their death date and no birth date. Elaine’s is nice in that it list her birth and date places in their entire month-day-year format.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_card
[2] http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/a-primer-to-catholic-symbolism.htm and http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/signs4.htm

Sunday’s Obituary – Helen (Repsher) Struss – Died 23-December-1990

Relationship to me: Paternal grand aunt

Helen (Repsher) Struss‘ obituary appeared December 1990, most likely the New Jersey Herald. This is a clipping her sister Beatrice owned.


“Helen Struss” – Stanhope – Helen R. Struss, 79, died Saturday at Dover General Hospital Medical Center.  Mrs. Struss was born in Annalomick, Pa., and had lived in Stanhope for the past 77 years.  She was a homemaker and a member of St. Michael’s R.C. Church in Netcong.

Mrs. Struss was also a member of the American Association of Retired Persons Chapter 44 of Newton.  She was a life member of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Firemen of the State of New Jersey; a life member of Musconetcong Unit No. 278  of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary; and of the Ladies Auxiliary of Stanhope Hose Company No. 1.

Mrs. Struss is survived by her daughter Elaine of Stanhope; three brothers, George Repsher of Budd Lake, Adam Repsher of Stanhope and Henry Repsher of Phoenix, Ariz.; one sister, Beatrice Guerreri of Newton and many nieces and nephews.  She was predeceased by her husband, William, who died in 1955.

Funeral services will be Thursday at 8:30 a.m. from the Pichi Funeral Home, 105 Main St., Stanhope, to St. Michael’s R.C. Church in Netcong, where a Liturgy of Christian Burial will be offered at 9 a.m.

Interment will be in Stanhope Union Cemetery in Mt. Olive Township.

Friends may visit Wednesday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Stanhope-Netcong American Legion Ambulance Squad, P.O. Box 167, Stanhope, 07874.

Sepia Saturday #317: Four or Fore? No, Aunt!






These three characters are definitely getting into trouble and are taking a tumble on the inside of this beautiful birthday card given to my Aunt Sadie by her Aunt Helen.

Given today’s Sepia Saturday theme, I could talk about the fact that my sister has been employed by the United States Golf Association for a number of years. I could talk about long pants vs. short pants. But I’m going to talk about Sadie’s Aunt Helen since she didn’t get a post in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project in 2015. And she had four younger brothers that survived to adulthood, so that fits the theme.

Aunt Helen was born Helen Hildegard Repsher on 10 September 1911 in Analomink, Monroe County, Pennsylvania.[1] Analomink is a rural town in Stroud Township about 5 miles northwest of the larger town of Stroudsburg. Brodhead Creek (formerly known as Analomink Creek) runs through the town on the west side of current Route 447. Analomink is the local Native American word for “tumbling water” and the Analomink Falls are located there. The town was founded in 1848 and was originally known as Spragueville. According to Wikipedia:

At the time, the sprags, made of wood, were widely used in coal mines to lock the wheels of mining cars to prevent rolling. The term sprag was also applied to the prop used to support the roof of a mine. It was from the local production of sprags that the village’s name is believed to have evolved.[2]

She was the second daughter and second child of George Arthur Repsher and Anna Maria Karthaeuser. Sadie’s mother, Beatrice (Bea), was her older sister and the two sisters were born in Analomink before the family moved to New Jersey. Her four younger brothers, Arthur George (Art), Adam Otto (Adam), Robert William (Bob) and Henry Allen (Hank) were all born in the Stanhope/Netcong area of New Jersey.

At some point in her childhood, she was given the nickname “Toots” or “Tootie” and it stuck. (My sisters and I always called her Aunt Tootie.)

Just like all her brothers and sister, Helen attended St. Michael’s Catholic School in Netcong, Morris County, New Jersey. She was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith at St. Michael’s on 24 September 1922.[3] Toots graduated from St. Michael’s, with her 8th grade diploma, on 21 June 1925.[4]

She and Bea went to work in the silk mills in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, and they were involved in a horrific train/car crash in 1932. For the full story click here.

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She was present when her older sister Bea got married to William Strait in 1935 and served as a bridesmaid.


Back of the photo says “Bill Strait and Toots”

Helen married William [Wilhelm] Struss on 03 July 1942 in St. Michael’s Church in Netcong. Father Lange officiated the 8 p.m. wedding ceremony where William and Bea Strait served as their attendants.

With all the chaos of the second World War happening at the time, William and Helen were anxious to start their family and Toots got pregnant shortly after their marriage. I don’t think William got to experience all the joys of Toots’ pregnancy, since William was soon in the service and was shipped off to El Paso, Texas. A postcard sent on 26 October 1942 to William and Bea Strait from PV.T. W. Struss (D.M.D. / W.B.G.H.) stationed at Fort Bliss states:


“Well Bill first off all I must thank you for the work you did on my car and I am glad you took the tires I said you could have for I don’t think I’ll need them for a long time. Hope the kids and Beat and you are all well. Regards Bill.”

Their baby boy was born on 15 February 1943 but, sadly, was stillborn.[5] Toots was heartbroken. William came home safely after his service in WWII and they settled into married life. Their daughter, Elaine, was born in 1949.

A great flood hit northern New Jersey in August of 1955. Tragedy struck the Struss family when William was electrocuted on the job fixing downed electrical lines damaged by the flood. On August 25th, the boom of his truck touched live wires, traveled down the metal, and killed William instantly.[6] Helen was left widowed and with a six-year-old daughter.

All four of Helen’s brothers served in the military during World War II. When they came home, the brothers became active with the American Legion. As an offshoot of their involvement, Toots joined Musconetcong Unit No. 278 of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary. She was a lifetime member.


Helen, Adam, Hank, Art and Bob with Bea in front

Many of her family members also served in the fire department. She was a lifetime member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Firemen of the State of New Jersey. She was involved locally as a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Stanhope Hose Company No. 1.

She lived in Stanhope for 77 years and we would visit her house, especially around Christmas. Tumbling out of the car, Jill, Jenni and I would tramp up to her front door, pass through the chilly closed-in porch, and pile into the living room. There was a toy train that would travel around the base of her Christmas tree. For years, we exchanged presents with Toots and Elaine (my godmother).

Helen passed away shortly before Christmas on 23 December 1990 at Dover General Hospital in Dover, Morris County, New Jersey. She was interred in the Stanhope Union Cemetery in Mount Olive Township on 27 December 1990.[7]


The concept behind these weekly Saturday posts can be found at Sepia Saturday Intro.
Theme taken from Sepia Saturday photo: Four

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 2.45.01 PM

[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. 87; privately held by held by Jodi Lynn Strait,Tucson, 2011.
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analomink,_Pennsylvania
[3] Repsher, compiler, “Family Record of J. J. Repsher Jr. and Caroline Repsher nee Bonser”, p. 87.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Social Security Administration, “Social Security Death Index (SSDI),” Database, Rootsweb.com (http://ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com), entry for Wilhem Struss, 1955, SS no. 147-07-4543.
[7] “Helen Struss,” obituary, newspaper clipping, undated, unidentified newspaper [most likely the New Jersey Herald]; Strait family newspaper clipping, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, 2011.