Friday, March 4, 2011

Hazel Vera Holbrook Remembered

I don't usually re-post cards, but I'm doing it this time, because I have new information and because this simple card was the most heartbreaking one I have ever encountered.

For a long time, this card was one of the most amusing ones I had ever encountered because of the message:

Dear Brother -  Wishing you a Happy Birthday and many more to come. Your sister (Hazel Vera)
(Wish I could see you just one minute. Maybe I wouldn't blister you.)

On a lark, I decided to search the name of Rexford E. Holbrook. I don't do this very often, because before you know it you're researching other people's genealogy and there's no end.  Interestingly enough, I found Hazel Vera before I found Rexford. Hazel was born in June, 1901, so she was 14 when she sent this card to her 7 year-old brother who was visiting a relative in a nearby town.  But what's so very tragic is that Hazel Vera died on September 28, 1915, only a month after writing this.

Rexford lived longer. I don't know when he died, but he did get married. He and Hazel are both buried in the North Volney Cemetery in Oswego County, New York. Here's the information posted on rootsweb:

1901   1915
Born:  June 3, 1901  Palermo, NY
Died:  September 28, 1915
Father:  Ephraim L. Holbrook
Mother:  Bertha Curtis
(Vital Records Fulton)

The mystery was solved when Chris Overstreet responded with this information:

I found that Hazel had just taken the Regents (New York's high school entrance exam) about a week before this postcard; then I found this:

Oswego Daily Times, Monday Evening, October 4, 1915

Hazel, 14 years old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ephraim Holbrook, died (last) Tuesday at two p.m. at Lee Memorial Hospital, Fulton, where she was operated upon the night previous for appendicitis. She had been ill about a week. A consultation of doctors was held Monday and she was taken to the hospital and operated upon. Besides her parents, she leaves a sister, Mrs. Herman Hollenbeck of Clifford, and a little brother Rexford.

Hazel was a member of the North Volney Sunday school and was baptised at the church here by Rev. Mr. Williams a year and one day previous to her death. She was also an attendant of the North Volney school.

The funeral services were held at the family home in Palermo Friday, October 1, at 2 p.m., Rev. Mr. Williams of Mt. Pleasant officiating. Burial was made in North Volney cemetery. Much sympathy is felt and expressed especially for Mrs. Holbrook who has lost her mother, her sister, and now this daughter, all in about six months.

For more old photos and memories be sure to check in with Sepia Saturday.


  1. How sad! But what a fascination trail the card opened for you...

  2. What a sad story, these stories unearthed are so often sad, but it is good to remember the people involved and reflect on them and their lives and well, life back then.

  3. Very sad story. Super postcard though, I like the gold frame.

  4. Oh yes how very tragic indeed...although your research and sharing this has brought Hazel's spirit back to life again, and she will be forever in thoughts of people she'd never even met! Amazing and sad how such simple illnesses of yesterday in today's world Hazel would have survived! Excellent post! I also can't believe how I posted mine at about 5 am this morning and there were already 20 posts! Alan has a group of true followers!Have a splendid weekend!

  5. A tragic story. The card looks very tranquil and hits Alan's theme. The story an what you found ou is more important though. I'm glad you posted it again.

  6. Fabulous research and a genuinely tragic story. Awesome.

  7. What a story, Christine. It certainly puts our little day-to-day annoyances in perspective.

  8. Wow! That is sad, but it is like you were led to the story. Thanks for sharing it with us, Christine.

  9. So cool Christine that you found all of this information out about these people from over a hundred years ago! Thank you for sharing even though it was such a tragic story.

  10. What a great postcard (love the cows) but very sad story. It hits home. I was at a funeral today for the 17-year-old daughter of a colleague.

  11. Very sad. It's amazing that the old obituary was found.

  12. That's a hidden treasure. I have found a great website for research on upstate New York which includes Mexico (how odd the winter conversations must be - How much snow in Mexico?) The website is Northern New York Historical Newspapers -
    Many newspapers from all the counties and towns and covering the 2nd half of the 19th century to very recent times. It's free and very easy to search or browse, and allows you to clip and save any page too.

  13. Thanks Mike,
    I couldn't bring myself to pay to join the newspaper archive service,but newspaper archives are such a rich source. I use the NY Times archives a lot, but this would probably be a lot more useful, because I have so many cards from upstate New York.

  14. That is indeed so very sad. At first I thought it just a lovely shot of cows with a rather strange greeting. Don't usually think of cow with best wishes. But then scrolling down was like turning over the photo I have of a woman named Vera who had just lost her son in WW2 and had her husband die. One side of the image says one thing, the other side a completely different story.

  15. how tragic that so many people used to die as a result of appendicitis...but how amazing that she now has her own on line memorial thanks to your research and this blog!

  16. Another fascinating tale. You take postcards and genealogy and twist them together to become almost an art form

  17. Your research and curiosity paid off with her sad tale. I agree it is tough to research others genealogy, our own takes up time enough and then some. When I read the blister comment I thought maybe he had chicken pox?



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