My cousin John Snyder sent me the obituary of my Great-Grandmother Bertha Franks, 67, of Apple Creek, in Wayne County, Ohio.
I never knew Bertha. She died tragically decades ago, on Wednesday, September 30, 1942, a victim of a stove fire. The tragedy happened a few days earlier, on Sunday, September 27. I hate that she suffered excruciating pain for those last three days of her life before she succumbed in Kenney Hospital, Wooster.
Bertha was getting ready to do some cooking on one of those old-style coal stoves. She was preparing to light the stove. The obit says coal oil; a news story, kerosene. Bertha didn’t know there were live coals in the stove. When the coal oil or kerosene touched the live coals, the stove exploded. She was badly burned about the face, neck and arms, according to newspaper accounts. The description leaves me to believe Bertha was leaning toward the stove when the flames engulfed her. One of her daughters-in-law, Mrs. Elmer Franks, extinguished the flames.
My mother Jackie was 10 years old when her Grandma Bertha passed away. I’m familiar with a few stories about Bertha. On weekends mom and her dad Earl (everyone called him Frog) would motor in the family Ford from Rittman to Apple Creek to visit Bertha and Frog’s father Ira. Mom always had kind words about her only living grandmother (the other one, Icie Belle Kurtz, passed away in 1920, along with her maternal grandpa, David Elmer Kurtz). As I reacquaint myself with my memories, I recall mom telling me Bertha was a patient woman who put up with Ira’s drinking ways.
The obituary says Bertha had seven surviving children. Grandpa Frog was extremely close to a sister who died in 1926, just 20 or 21 years old. Not yet married, Hazel was a passenger astride a motorcycle that crashed and stole her life.
I don’t remember much about my Great-Grandpa Ira, except for this morbid fact. In doing research, I see he died in 1955 (he was born in 1876, one year after Bertha’s birth). Grandpa Frog took me to his father’s viewing. I distinctly recall him bringing me up to the casket. I was just three years old, maybe four if Ira died after November 20, my birthday. It’s one of my earliest memories. In fact, I’m a tad stunned as I write this. I thought Ira had died several years later. He was the son of Jesse Franks, who was born in 1831 and died in 1906, and Mary Ann Fox, born in 1845 and who died in 1923. Bertha Alva Montandon was born in Switzerland in 1875. A cursory look at the Ancestry website doesn’t disclose names for her mother and father.
Bertha and Ira are buried in Apple Creek Cemetery.
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