Dad’s Letters # 06

My Dad always assumed that I had a copy of my letters to him and so he often did not repeat my question. When I recently pulled out his letters that were sitting in a drawer for many years I was able to find only one of my letters to him. I may have kept the others but they were probably lost when I replaced my old computer with a new one.
Anyway, here is my letter # 4 to him which he answered with his letter # 6:

Continue reading “Dad’s Letters # 06”


Dad’s Letters # 05

In Letter # 05 Dad continues with his replies about my questions regarding his sister Elise. He began his replies in his Letter # 03 and then in Letter # 04 he explained in depth his relationship to Elise and Fran and their friends in the St Emydius Doran Club and in Company C of the League of the Cross Cadets.

Continue reading “Dad’s Letters # 05”


Dad’s Letters # 03

Dad’s Letter # 03 is the first of three letters about his sister Elise. I wrote a total of six letters to Dad during the Spring and Summer of 1994 and he replied with eight of his own. So his letters # 3, # 4 and # 5 were replies to my letter # 3.

Continue reading “Dad’s Letters # 03”


Dad’s Letter # 02

Dad wrote his second letter in the Don Dwyer Life Story Project on May 10, 1994.  This one is all about Richard Milhaus Nixon. Or at least it was supposed to be. Somehow Dad manages to throw in some space for Cal football and Major League Baseball! I started my list of questions by bringing up an old family story about some connection between Aunt Alice and Pat Nixon and then I asked him what he thought of Nixon’s Senatorial campaign of 1950 against Helen Gahagan Douglas.  For Question # 3 I asked him if he remembered the Checkers Speech that took place during the Presidential campaign of 1952 and then I asked him about the Eisenhower years followed by the 1960 Presidential campaign when Nixon ran against Kennedy. Question # 6 deals with My Dad’s Boat and his simple solution for getting rid of all of the problems in his life. Finally, I asked him what he thought of the Nixon presidency and asked him if he had any particular thoughts about the Watergate Affair.  Here’s his reply:

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Dad’s Letter # 02 page 1
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Dad’s Letter # 2 page 2

Notes on Dad’s 1994 Letter # 02

Dad’s foreword: Dad mentions that rainy day in February 1969 when my lovely bride and I were wed. Here’s a picture of my folks on that day. Richard M. Nixon became our 37th President a few weeks before our big day.

Bennette and I were married on February 14, 1969. This is a photo of my folks at the reception following the wedding ceremony.

Q # 1 — The Pat Nixon – Aunt Alice story. I heard this story of some connection between Aunt Alice and Pat Nixon many times over the years but never got the story straight. I probably first heard the story from Teen and Evelyn and maybe from Alice herself but I probably wasn’t listening too well.
Q # 2 — Nixon’s 1950 campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas for US Senator.
Nixon ran successfully for Congress in 1946 and again in 1948. In 1950 he ran for US Senator and I guess that’s when Dad first heard of him.

Q # 3 — The famous Checkers Speech:
Six weeks before the 1952 presidential election the word got out that Nixon had received more than $18,000 from supporters. Things didn’t look good for Dick. Ike was thinking of dumping him. Then the RNC decided to pay for him to go on TV and tell his story.  In what would become known as the Checkers Speech Nixon insinuated that the Democratic ticket of Stevenson / Sparkman was corrupt and full of Communists and their wives wore mink coats while Pat wore a simple cloth coat. He also mentioned that a Texas supporter sent him a black and white cocker spaniel that his six-year old daughter Tricia fell in love with and she named him Checkers and they were not going to give him back! Letters and telegrams flooded in and Nixon’s career was saved.
The half-hour speech received the most television viewers ever up to that time but over the years the speech has dropped in value in the world of popular opinion. It is even used as an example for the definition of the term “logical fallacies” (see here).
There is an excellent description of the speech in the Wikipedia article here:

Here is a video clip of the entire speech: (29 minutes, 46 seconds):

Here is a short version (the first 3 minutes and 44 seconds):

Q # 4 — The Eisenhower Nixon years (1952-60). Dad grumbled a lot during this time but I guess Eisenhower took the brunt of his criticism, not Nixon. He also didn’t care much for the people who ran the Mint during the Republican administration (see the first three names listed in Q # 5).

Q # 5 — the 1960 campaign against JFK.
Ross P. Buell was the superintendent of the SF Mint from 1953-54.
Arthur Carmichael was superintendent of the SF Mint from 1955-61 after Buell resigned.
William H. Brett was the Director of the US Mint from 1954-61 (Buell and Carmichael reported to Brett).
Other directors / superintendents of note during my Dad’s career with the Mint: Brett was preceded by Nellie Tayloe Ross who was director from 1933 to 1953 and Dad’s boss from 1944 to 53. They got along very well. Brett was succeeded by Eva Adams (1961-69) in the Kennedy-Johnson years. Eva wrote a nice letter to Dad on his retirement in 1970. I’ll publish it someday. Mary Brooks served under Nixon and Ford from 1969 until 1977. Gerald Haggerty was a good friend of Dad and my Uncle Fran. Peter Haggerty, Gerald’s father, was superintendent of the SF Mint from 1933-45. in 1935 he hired my Dad.

Q # 6 — Dad’s Boat. I believe that it was during the 1960 Presidential campaign when Dad first brought up his idea of a boat being pulled out to sea to be used for target practice. And Nixon was the first honorary passenger in his boat. Over the years many others joined Nixon, especially some of his cronies when he was President. But I really don’t remember him talking too much about the Stanford or Rams football teams. As I recall, the two athletes who were most often suggested to join Nixon on that boat were Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco.
Rickey Henderson had an illustrious 25 year Major League career (1979-2003), including 4 tenures with the Oakland A’s (79-84, 89-93, 94-95, 98). He also played for the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Padres. Rickey was the greatest base-stealer of all time and he loved to tell everybody how great he was. In fact he often talked about himself in the third person, which really irked Dad.
Jose Canseco‘s baseball career began in 1985 and ended in 2001. He played for the As from 1985 to 92 and again in 1997 and he led the majors in HRs in 1988 and 91.  Canseco’s antics off the field made headlines. Everyone knew that Jose and his teammate Mark McGuire took drugs to enhance their performances but no one did anything about it. In 2005 Canseco published a book called Juiced in which he named all the players he knew who also took drugs.
Tommy LaSorda was the manager of the Dodgers from 1976-96. Giants fans would boo him on sight. Tommy loved it!
Don Drysdale was a star pitcher for the Brooklyn / LA Dodgers from 1956 to 1969 (they also had Sandy Koufax for most of that time). He was especially effective against the Giants but he had one flaw: he couldn’t get Willie McCovey out! See
Big Willie’s Private War with Cousin Don by Robert Creamer in the July 1, 1963 edition of Sports Illustrated here.
Q # 7 — What did Dad think of Nixon as president?
Dad retired in 1970. Nixon became president in 1969. So he only had to work for a little over a year when Nixon was president.
Civil Service job: Dad received a political appointment in 1944 but after nine years in the department he was actually most qualified for the job. In 1953 the Republican administration made the position of Chief Assayer a professional Civil Service (non-political) job. I believe the assistant assayer was already a Civil Service position.
If the Chief Assayer position was changed earlier from political to Civil Service then Dad would not have had to resign when Eisenhower became president.
Watergate: I asked Dad what he thought of the whole Watergate Affair but all I got was this list of names — four famous athletes and two famous figures from his days at Cal.
Vic Bottari (1935-37), was the captain of the famous 1937 “thunder team,” the last Cal football team to win the national championship. The team finished off their sensational year with a 13 – 0 victory over Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Bottari scored both touchdowns and was awarded the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Sam Chapman also was a football star from 1935 to 37 but he also played baseball and he chose baseball over football for his career, which was mostly with the Philadelphia Athletics.
Juan Marichal was the Giants ace pitcher throughout the 1960s and a fan favorite. Known as The Dominican Dandy, some of his post-game interviews with Lon Simmons were more entertaining than the game itself!
Dad followed faithfully all the San Francisco athletes who made it to the Big Leagues including Paul Waner. The greatest of all of these athletes was Joe DiMaggio. I’m not sure why Dad singled out Waner when the guy he talked about the most was Joltin’ Joe.
Paul Waner’s nickname was Big Poison. He played for the Seals from 1923 – 25. He played in the Majors from 1926 to 45, mostly for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His little brother Lloyd was called Little Poison. For a few years Little Poison played center field for Pittsburgh when Big Poison played right.
Other San Francisco players included Frankie Crosetti (Seals from 1928-31, NY Yankee player from 1932-48, NY Yankee 3rd base coach from 1946 to 68), Tony Lazzeri, Charlie Silvera (an SI grad), Joe Cronin and Lefty O’Doul who played for the Seals and many big league teams including the NY Giants but is most famous for being the Seals legendary manager from 1935 to 51. O’Doul is credited for bringing baseball to Japan before and after the war. The uniforms of the Tokyo Giants, an organization that was born shortly after O’Doul’s Japan tour in 1935, look identical to O’Doul’s favorite New York Giants!
Ira B Cross, known as “The Doc,” was professor of Economics at Cal from 1919 to 1951. He was renowned as an expert on labor and social reform and banking. When he finally retired he also became a world expert on irises and chrysanthemums. Dad majored in Economics at Cal.
Robert Gordon Sproul was president of Cal from 1930 to 52 and the UC System from 1952 to 58. He built UC into one of the world’s leading institutions. He was known for his booming voice, his phenomenal memory and his deep attention to detail. In a 1930 speech to the Commonwealth Club of California he said “Students are getting a gold brick if they go for education to a school where there are no great teachers.” He once refused a raise in pay because it would give him a higher salary than the state’s governor and that didn’t make any sense to him.

Dad wrote his next letter a week later on May 18, 1994 and I will upload it for all to see a week from now. It’s all about his sister Elise. Stay tuned.

Dad’s Letters # 07

Dad’s letter # 7 was postmarked on September 19, 1994.
He was replying to my letter of Labor Day 1994 which was on September 5th.

note on featured image: Mabel and Elise — my Dad’s mother and sister  — on the corner of Westwood and Wildwood next to Nash’s second car, a 1933 Buick.

As usual, Dad assumes I have a copy of my letter. Here are the 17 topics covered as best as I can reconstruct:

1 — What Grandma Mabel Dwyer wore
2 — Dad’s Grandma and Grandpa Theler
3 — Dad’s Auntie Grace
4 — Mabel’s Aunt Elise and Nash’s Aunt Annie and Uncle Billy
5 — discipline
6 — My Grandma Mabel’s hobbies and interests
7 — where the Thelers lived
8 — Nash and Mabel’s blind date
9 — food and Grandma Mabel’s cooking
10 — corporal punishment
11 — Grandma Mabel’s favorite sayings
12 — Nash and Mabel’s friends
13 — Dad’s relationships with his parents
14 — Nash and Mabel’s honeymoon
15 — my Mom’s relationship with Dad’s parents
16 — Nash and Mabel’s politics
17 — Grandma Mabel’s breast cancer

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Dad’s Letter # 7, page 1
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Dad’s Letter # 7, page 2
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Dad’s Letter # 7, page 3a
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Dad’s Letter # 7, page 3b
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Dad’s Letter # 7, page 4

Notes on Dad’s 1994 Letter # 07

2. Don and Elise’s favorite babysitters: Grandma and Grandpa Theler

Emily F. Belduke Theler (aka Emma).

Emily Belduke (1854-1918) was born in Concord, New Hampshire, the daughter of Joseph Belduke (aka Bolduc) and Mary Kiely. Joseph was the son of Paul Bolduc and Emilie Dextra Lavigne and he most likely named his daughter after his mother. She was 8 years old when her mother died and 10 years old when her father moved to California with his second wife and her two kids. So what happened to Emily between 1864 and 1874 when she was 20 years old, living with her father and step mother in San Francisco, working as a clerk at Palmer Bros, and changing her name to Emma? She was probably raised by her grandmother Mary Kiely. In 1870 she was 16 years old living in a boarding house with several other young adults in Concord, New Hampshire and working as a seamstress. Then she moved to San Francisco and in 1875 when she was 21 years old she married William Theler who was then a salesman for Palmer Brothers.

In 1880 Emma was keeping house at 325 O’Farrell. In 1876 their first child, Francis E Theler, was born. Francis died one month and 19 days after he was born.
In 1882 Grace was born and Mabel was born in 1883. For most of the 1880s the Thelers lived at 2813 Bush Street (near Baker) in the Western Addition about five blocks from St Dominic’s Church where they probably worshipped.

In 1896 the Thelers moved into a new home at 5 Juri Street in St James Parish. Juri is a half-block street between 25th and 26th and San Jose and Guerrero. In 1904 the Thelers moved to 3625 25th St around the corner from Juri Street and they stayed there until Emma died in 1918 at the age of 64, a year after William passed away. My Dad attended St James elementary school on Fair Oaks Street which is about two blocks from his grandparents home on 25th. The house at 3635 25th Street is long gone but 5 Juri is still there. Incidentally, The Theler’s landlord for the entire time (22 years) they lived in the square block between 25th and 26th and Guerrero and San Jose was an Italian Swiss man named Louis (aka Luigi) Juri.  Juri came to San Francisco from Switzerland in 1853 and spent sometime in the gold mines. He then developed a dairy farm in San Francisco, opened a restaurant on Merchant Street with a brother, and got into other businesses including importing wine and liquors, developing Napa vineyards and buying property in San Francisco. He deeded a swath of that square block between 25th and 26th to Southern Pacific for their SF to San Jose railroad.

William Henry Theler, my Dad’s grandfather.

William Henry Theler (1848-1917) was born in New York City in 1848. He was the son of Johann Friedrich (aka Frederick) Theler and Agnes Kummelmann (aka Kimmel). The family lived in Hoboken, NJ in 1858-9, just across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center of today’s lower Manhattan. William arrived in San Francisco in 1868 when he was 20 years old. See (7) below for a list of where William worked and where he and his family lived.

3. My Dad’s Auntie Grace.

My Dad’s Auntie Grace, his mother’s older sister.

Grace Lillian Theler (1882 – 1961) was a seamstress and dressmaker who lived with her parents until her mother died in 1918. She then spent most of the rest of her life as a room mother at Holy Names College in Oakland. She never married.

Here are three personal stories about Auntie Grace: (1) Grace was the informant for the death certificates of both her parents and she stated that their birth names were Frederick Theler and Agnes Kimmel. It took me years to realize that these were Anglicized names and that their real names were Johann Friedrich Theler and Agnes Kummelmann!
(2) I received my First Holy Communion in 1947 when I was seven years old and we had a big family party (my cousin Jack received his First Communion on the same day). Auntie Grace pulled me aside during the party and told me that I was one of the holiest people in the whole world. She then asked me if I said a prayer for her when the priest placed the host on my tongue. Of course I simply said “No.” After the party I told my parents about this conversation and my Dad told me that I should have lied! What? I was very confused. Here I was feeling very holy and my Dad told me I should have lied to her!
(3) I attended USF for four years but by June 1961 I did not have enough credits to graduate and I had to decide what I was going to do. Should I continue college or go to work? Grace died that year and left a small inheritance to us. My Dad asked us for some input on how we should spend the inheritance and I made a case for attending a three-month course at Automation Institute so I could obtain a pretty good paying job. My idea was to then work full time and attend night school for the courses I needed to graduate. My Dad agreed to set aside a portion of our inheritance for the school tuition and a few weeks after completing the course I started to work for Kaiser as a computer programmer and operator. 35 years later I retired.

4. William’s sister and parents:
Elise Joanne Dorothea Theler (1841-1914) was my great grandfather’s half sister. She was born in Scharmbeck, Lower Saxony, Germany near the city of Bremen, the daughter of Agnes Kummelmann and Johann Friedrich Six. She migrated to the US in 1847 with her mother and soon became part of the Theler family (Agnes and Frederick were wed on August 26, 1847 at New York City’s Lutheran Church). Elise assisted her mother running boarding houses on Manhattan and Staten Islands and continued in the boarding house business after her mother died. For more details on Elise see my posting entitled The First Elise in my other blog. There are more than a dozen Elises in the last six generations of the Dwyer Family. My grandmother Mabel Elise is Elise # 2 and my Aunt Elise is Elise # 3. Her daughter Maureen Elise is Elise # 4. In June 2019 my wife and I and my sisters Betty and Marie (her middle name is Elise; she is Elise # 5) took the Staten Island Ferry to Richmond where we explored Elise Theler’s neighborhood including the church where she worshipped. The boarding house she ran on Hyatt Street a couple of blocks from the ferry terminal was demolished several years ago. See my blog entry here for the photo I took of the Statue of Liberty on that ferry trip and for more details on Elise’s neighborhood.

Agnes Kummelmann (aka Kimmelman) Theler (1826 -?) was born in Schalkau, Sachsen Meiningen, Germany. She was 15 years old when she gave birth to her daughter at a hotel in Scharmbeck. Six years later mother and daughter departed Bremen and arrived in New York on August 26, 1847. Six days later Agnes and Frederick were married at the Lutheran Church in New York City. William was born on November 1, 1848. The family lived on Manhattan and in Hoboken in the 1840s and 50s and finally settled down on Staten Island in the 1860s. On April 14, 1866 Agnes placed the following ad in the NY Herald: First Class Board can be obtained on Staten Island. Apply to Mrs. Theler, first house in Fiedler’s Park, near Quarantine Landing. Another ad in 1868: first class board Fiedler’s Park, Tompkins — eight minutes from first landing Whitehall ferry

Johann Friedrich (Frederick) Theler (1825 – ?) was the son of Christian Ludwig Theler and Ann Marie Dinklemann. He was baptized at the Evangelical Church in Hunteburg, Lower Saxony, Germany. We visited this church during our travels to Germany in 2012. See my blog post here for more details. In 1858 – 1859 he worked at a liquor store at 68 Barclay near the present-day World Trade Center and lived across the Hudson at 125 Bloomfield, Hoboken, New Jersey. I have not yet been able to find a death date for Frederick but some of the city directories for New York in the 1860s listed Agnes as a widow.

My Dad also mentions Aunt Annie and Uncle Billy. These are his father’s Aunt Annie McAuliffe, sister of Margaret McAuliffe Dwyer, and Annie’s husband, William Gleason. There will be more about Aunt Annie and Uncle Billy on this website. Stay tuned.

6. Mabel Elise Theler’s interests. Here are some of Mabel’s extra curricular activities between 1900 and 1905:

May 1900 — recitation of “Kissing Cup’s Race” by Miss Mabel Theler at the regular monthly entertainment and dance of the Native Sons of Vermont held at the Odd Fellows’ Hall.

June 1901 — the class of ’01 of Cogswell’s Polytechnical College gave its graduation dance on Monday evening. June 3, at Cotillon Hall. The committee in charge consisted
of Mattie Woipman, Mabel Theler, Aileen McCarthy. Ida Wightman, Kate Dunker, Monica Miller, Ray Reynolds, May Smith, Hazel Gilbert. Annie Atthon and Chester Stanler.

Cogswell Polytechnical College was established in 1888 and was located on 26th and Folsom Streets. In 1917 a new building was built across the street on 3000 Folsom Street at 26th St (near Bernal Heights). The building was demolished in 1984 and there is now a low-income apartment building standing there. The college was moved to Cupertino in 1985 and then to Sunnyvale in 1994 and is now in San Jose where it has been renamed Cogswell University of Silicon Valley.

May 12, 1901: elocutionary recital given by the pupils of Carrie Belle Moulton, Sherman & Clay Hall. Mabel participated in the following:
monologue “The Window Curtain” – Miss Mabel Theler;
pantomime “The Angels of Buena Vista” – several women including Miss Mabel Theler;
sketch “Aunt Sophronia Tabor at the Uproar” – Misses Lucile Otto and Mabel Theler.

October 1, 1902 recitation, Young Ladies Sodality of St Brendan’s Church, corner of Fremont and Harrison streets – vaudeville entertainment for support of a Suisun Church.

7. Where the Thelers lived. I combed through many city directories and census reports to come up with the places where William and Emma lived during their 50 years in San Francisco:
1868 — his first appearance in a city directory was in 1868 when he was listed as a bookkeeper for George H. Peck (real estate developer and millionaire) and living at S 23rd between Valencia and Bartlett.
1869 — cigars 124 Fourth; dwelling: corner of Stockton and Ellis
1869 — he was involved in two businesses this year: Wiliam H Theler & Co and Seaman and Theler.
1871 — he was working for Palmer Bros at 114 Ellis.
1872 — he was residing at 19 Annie St.
1874 — 905 Market Street (Palmer Bros); salesman with Palmer Bros
1875 — salesman w/ S. Bine; res: The Windsor (Bine had a fancy goods store at 12 Second Street; in 1876 he moved to 133 Kearney)
1876 — Palmer, Tripp and Theler,  millinary ladies’ and gents’ furnishing, 454 Minna (Joseph D Palmer and Hiram L Tripp)
1877 — P T & T fancy goods, 1026 Market
1880 — 327 O’Farrell (now Hilton Union Square), roomer; near Davis Bros where William is floor manager
1883 — Davis Bros; 1508 O’Farrell
1886 — Winter and Theler, fancy poultry
1886 — manager, Davis Bros; r. 2813 Bush (near Baker; five blocks from St Dominic’s church and school)
1890 — 2813 Bush; floor manager Davis Bros
1891 — Shreve and Theler r. San Rafael (Ezra D Shreve and William owned the San Rafael and San Francisco Express, probably a ferry service).
1893 — telephone # 496 — SAN RAFAEL & S. F. EXPRESS…Howard & Theler, 112 East.
1896 — 5 Juri St (through 1903); conductor SF and SM electric railway (through 1901)
1902 — selling cigars at 403 Washington (through March 1906)
1904 — moved from Juri Street around the corner to 3625 25th St
1910 — self employed as a manufacturer of sign letters
1917 — William died on August 5th.
1918 — Emma died on August 29th.

William’s business associates:
Joseph D Palmer is probably one of the Palmer Brothers – where William and Emma met each other.

Hiram L Tripp came to SF from NY in 1875, worked in a clothing establishment there (with William), and then moved to Santa Rosa where he was an assemblyman (1905-07) and postmaster (1908-16). Tripp owned a clothing establishment called The Toggery which was destroyed in 1906. He died in 1914 at the age of 66 (same age as William).

William was associated with the Davis Brothers for about ten years. The Davis Brothers opened their first San Francisco store in 1871. They operated the Golden Rule Bazaar from 1892 – 97. In 1897 they merged with the Emporium at 835 Market Street and then liquidated the rest of their assets later that year.

Louis Juri was a Swiss-born farmer and dairyman during the pioneer era who deeded land near the present-day corner of 25th Street and San Jose Avenue for the construction of the San Francisco-San Jose Railroad. The railway started at 3rd and Townsend and then made its way through the Mission to the Bernal Cut and then down the San Mateo peninsula. The tracks are gone now but that swatch between San Jose and Guerrero is now a diagonal park called Juri Commons. The 1910 census says his name is Luigi Juri and his address is 3627 25th St — right next door to the Thelers!  So Juri was most likely their landlord for both 5 Juri and 3625 25th St. And I have a hunch he was also involved with the cigar store where William worked between 1902 and 1906.

12. Nash and Mabel’s friends. The Drews were my grandparents’ best friends. They lived on Westgate Drive just a few blocks from Westwood Park.

My grandfather took this photo of his family and the Drews in 1921. Mabel, Elise and Don (yes, that’s my Dad at the age of 11!) are sitting on the right. On the left are George G (Gerry) Drew Jr and his sister Dorothy and their mother Sarah (1887-1968). Standing in back is George G Drew (1885-1953), my grandfather’s best friend. Gerry Drew and his wife attended my Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary party in 1986.

13. Dad’s relationship with his parents. The observant among you may have noticed that a portion of my Dad’s reply here has been redacted. He brought up a sensitive topic here that he asked to be kept confidential most likely because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially his sister Elise’s who was still alive at this time. If any family member would like to know what was redacted, just contact me personally and I will divulge the two missing sentences.


Dad’s Letters # 4

It took my Dad three letters (#3, #4 and #5) to reply to my one letter (#3) in which I listed a number of questions about his sister Elise. In his letter #3 he answered the first nine questions and in his letter # 5 he returns to my list of questions and answers all of the rest. In between he decided to write another letter to further explain life in St Emydius Parish during the 1920s and 30s with the Doran Club and the League of the Cross Cadets. And he bares his soul while describing his “colossal IC” — his inferiority complex because of his height. Here we go:

Continue reading “Dad’s Letters # 4”

Dad’s Letters # 01

The Don Dwyer Life Story project began in the Spring of 1994 soon after my Dad had celebrated his 84th birthday.  We got talking one day about his life story and I volunteered to write some letters to him asking some questions about his parents, his friends, his schools, his work, etc. A few days later he wrote his first letter, answering my initial list of questions. He wrote seven more letters in the next few months but by the end of September he tired of the project and decided to write no more.

Early in the project I came up with a list of 50 questions to ask Dad. We didn’t get all of those questions answered but he did handle most of them as he poured his heart out in these eight letters. And here’s his first letter, from April 27, 1994: Most of the questions / answers deal with his father, Ignatius D. Dwyer (1876-1952).

Continue reading “Dad’s Letters # 01”

The Search for Everett, Part Three

Half of Southern California consists of mountains and deserts. The other half is where the people live. 24 million of them in 2020. 21 million in 2003.  What used to be a land of a thousand towns and villages is now one big metropolitan area stretching from San Diego on the Mexican border to Santa Barbara 218 miles up the Pacific coast. In August of 2003 we embarked on a one-week roadtrip to see if we could find the descendants of Everett and Mabel Dwyer among those 21 millions. Well, we really did some homework before we set out, making a number of phone calls, writing a couple of letters and sending out numerous email messages before we left our home in Northern California. So we weren’t just driving blindly. But did we drive!

Continue reading “The Search for Everett, Part Three”

The Search for Everett, Part Two

I got interested in my personal genealogy back in the 90s and after retiring in January, 1997 I soon fell into the groove of visiting local libraries and archives to find the story of my Dwyers — where they lived and when they died. That was fine as long as they lived and died in the SF Bay Area. But my grandfather’s little brother Everett and his wife Mabel settled in southern California and their obituaries were gathering dust in the LA Times microfilm collection at the LA Central Library. I knew I would have to go there someday to connect the story of Everett to all the other members of The Dwyers of San Francisco. That someday finally came during the summer of 2003.

Everett James Dwyer (1884-1934). Everett changed his middle name from Aloysius to James after his father died.

Becky Munoz, one of my wife’s best friends from Guam, became seriously ill that Spring and had to be flown to LA to receive special care at Good Samaritan Hospital. And so we began to make plans. Bennette would spend some time with Becky and her relatives and I would walk over to LA Central Library just a few blocks away and get my research done.

As it turned out, Becky was to be discharged the day we arrived and so we picked her up at Good Sam and drove her and her husband Frank to Long Beach to visit some cousins and then to Oxnard where Becky would be staying with her sister for a few days before returning to Guam. The next day Bennette stayed in Oxnard with Becky and her relatives and I drove back to LA to search for Everett.

Those microfilm reels were treasure chests and I obtained a wealth of knowledge on Everett and his family. Obituaries are often considered among the most important sources for genealogical data. Almost all obituaries contain the exact date of death and usually also mention the date and place of burial. But they also almost always include the names of family members, including the married names of female children. Without that knowledge it is almost impossible to go forward and gather the genealogy for the next generation. I discovered that day that Everett and Mabel’s daughter Margaret married a fellow by the name of George Sweeney and I found their obituaries, too, as well as the names of their children. I also browsed a few city directories and phone books and found the address for George D Sweeney in Pasadena. George would become the key to open all the doors in my search for Everett. He gave me some names and phone numbers and those I contacted gave me more names, more phone numbers, more email addresses. I had no idea that my search for Everett would be so successful!

We drove home the next day and I started to work on my list of long-lost relatives and we began to plan our return to southern California to meet as many of Everett’s descendants as we could. I will tell the story of that trip in my next post — The Search for Everett, Part Three. Stay tuned.

The Search for Everett, Part One

In the summer of 2003 Bennette and I packed up and drove down to southern California on our genealogical quest of the year: to see if we could find any descendants of my grandfather’s brother Everett who moved with his family to Los Angeles more than a hundred years previously. Soon we would discover that this search for contact between North and South actually began 26 years before our trip when Dot Byrne, one of Everett’s five children and my Dad’s first cousin, wrote a letter to Dad requesting some family history information. I was still in my 30s in those days and not yet interested in my family history and never knew of this letter or my Dad’s eventual reply the following January. A couple of years after our search for Everett I went through a box of my Dad’s papers and found Dot’s letter.

Continue reading “The Search for Everett, Part One”