Ever have that one relative whose story that you just can’t get out of your mind? I have several of those relatives like that but one that stands out for me is my 4th great aunt, Emma Drake Leist Herman. February of last year, I wrote about what I knew of her story which included the suicide of her last husband, Henry Herman, who drank carbolic acid they morning after they had a fight. As incredible as that tidbit was, Emma’s story continued to be fascinating as her death certificate revealed she died at 8 pm on 2 June 1916 at age 39 from shock with a contributory cause as lightning. What was she doing outside in a storm at 8 pm? Color me fascinated!
I searched online for the longest time to find an obituary for Emma but couldn’t find one for her. Her children, from her first husband George Leist, were young when she passed so I knew that one of them hadn’t arranged for an obit to be published. Though her parents had already passed, she had many siblings still alive at the time of her death. I flipped through multiple newspapers in my obituary search, and while I did find article after article about the sudden storm that did massive damage in Central Ohio the night she died, I found no indication of her…. until the other day.
There it is then. I can only imagine that the lightning must have stricken the tree and bounced off, hitting her. Neither the article nor her death certificate, indicate that she was struck by a falling tree or anything. I think it’s intriguing that she was in a lumber camp, which was probably the worst place to be since you’re not supposed to take shelter in a storm under a tree. This particular storm seemed to have caused mass chaos all over the area with multiple reports of dead farm animals being struck by lightning, house fires set by strikes, roof damages from high winds and so on. It must have been quite a wicked storm.
I don’t know WHY I had to know so much about her story. Perhaps it was that she was practically my same age when she died or maybe I sympathized with her being a divorced, single mother at one point in her life, taking care of her five children by working as a laundress from her home. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been in 1910. Quite obviously, she seems to have some terrible luck with love, and marriage, too… who can’t relate to that?
Examining her death certificate, I saw that she was buried in Forest Cemetery in Circleville, Ohio. She didn’t have an entry in Find a Grave so I made her one and then requested a photo. I later received a terribly sad note that while the cemetery office confirmed she was interred there, she didn’t have a headstone. Though I do not know the family dynamic happening at the time of her death, with 7 siblings alive at the time of her death, you think they could have pooled money together for a small marker if nothing else. Everyone needs remembered… with Emma (and several others in my line), I feel like I’m the only one who thinks of her or cares to remember the incredible life she lived.
So I made Emma this little graphic to have in place of her own headstone. I just didn’t want to see that generic Find a Grave emblem next to her name. She deserved better – they all do. If you have an unremembered “Emma” in your tree too, feel free to snag this little goodie and use it.
Perhaps now I know the circumstances of her death and have done what I can to memorialize her online, I can let her rest finally and move onto tracking down her children.