There is little, if anything, more tragic in life than the death of a child. As a father, I've been fortunate to avoid this traumatic experience. As a psychotherapist I have had the duty to bear witness to this loss many times over the years. And as a historian I have discovered many child deaths in my own family.
It is important that these children are remembered and their stories told.
This is Michael Anthony Karr (1954-1964). As the grandson of William Karr (1888-1976) and Angeline (Chardoulias) Karr (1896-1984), Michael is my 2nd cousin 1x removed.
Angeline was the younger sister of my great grandmother, Maria (Chardoulias) Halvangis (1894-1951). Michael's parents were Anthony Karr (1927-1979) and Alice Edith (Johnston) Karr (1927-2007). In all Anthony and Alice would have 8 children. From oldest to youngest they were: Angie, Bill, Michael, George, John, James, Therese, and Mary.
Here is a family photo of Anthony, Alice, and their four oldest children. Michael is on the left, wearing a grey coat and hat.
Here is another photo of him in the same coat and hat. I believe that is his brother George next to him.
And a more formal studio sitting with the four oldest Karr siblings. That is Michael wearing the bowtie.
The baby in this next photo, being held by Angie, is James Karr, born in 1962. Michael (third from the left) appears to be about 8 or 9 here.
A bit about James (the baby). His son, Ryan Karr, recently contacted me as he was doing his own family history research. He's a very eager and talented researcher who shares my passion for family stories. I have him to thank for these photos and the back story. Michael was the paternal uncle that he never knew.
Ryan was the one who told me about Michael's death in September of 1964. Here is the newspaper clipping announcing the tragic news.
Ryan's father (James) was only two years old when his older brother was killed. Ryan also said:
"The few times that I ever met my grandma Alice she did tell me how horrible it (Michael's death) was and how it changed the family forever. Anthony died fairly young also, my father was about 18 when he passed away."
As I learned about this story for the first time I started asking my family (my mother, aunt, and uncle) what they remembered about Michael and his death. As it turns it, my grandfather, James Halvangis (1920-1973) had a special affection for his cousin, Anthony. As did my uncle Bill Halvangis (James's son).
When I shared my discovery of this story with my mother it was clear that her memory was jogged. Michael's was one of the first close family deaths that she experienced. As she recalled:
"Mickey's death was one of the more traumatic experiences. He was like a little brother to me. I remember sitting on Mike's bed helping Aunt Alice shorten his pants for the funeral and asking Aunt Alice how he would breathe when they closed the casket. It was a very emotional time for all. Everyone was just in shock."
My mom uses "Aunt" Alice as a term of respect for an older relative. In fact, mom and Michael were 2nd cousins. Their father's (James and Anthony) were 1st cousins and Alice was Anthony's wife.
It's true. Tragedies like these do change and shape families forever, even after decades have passed. As each generation comes along this impact often hides in the shadows and impacts us in ways that we aren't even aware of.
That's why it is important to tell these stories - to honor our loved ones and ensure that they aren't forgotten.
This is the 21st of 52 weekly posts planned for 2018. It was inspired by the #52Ancestors writing challenge issued by professional genealogist, Amy Crow Johnson. The challenge: once a week, for all 52 weeks of the year, write about a relative in your family tree.