Thursday, March 30, 2017


In the College Park, Maryland Branch of the National Archives, in the State Department Decimal File 367.1161/11(1930-39) I found a letter sent to the State Department by M. K. Moorhead, American Consul General Istanbul.  He was enclosing a list of American citizen buried in the Protestant cemetery, Ferikoy-Istanbu and in the British cemetery at Uskudar nearby.  Here is part of this letter:
 "A rather interesting American buried in the British cemetery at Uskudar is Ransford D. Bucknam who brought the Turkish cruiser HAMIDIEH from Cramps shipyards in Philadelphia, where it was being refitted, to Istanbul.  It appears that the Sultan Abdul Hamid became very fond of Mr. Bucknam who was captain of the American Merchant Marine and gave him the honorary rank of Admiral in the Turkish navy and also created him a Pasha.  It is reported that Bucknam Pasha during the Turkish-Italian war did very good service for the Turkish navy in breaking through the Italian blockade and also during the Balkan war very often navigated vessels in raids in the Mediterranean and other waters.  He died in 1915 of heart failure."

When researching for my book "A Fine Place of Rest: Americans Buried in the Protestant Cemetery, Ferikoy-Istanbul, Turkey" I did not come across his name as being in Ferikoy, and I only put this little blurb in my book because I wanted the entire letter accompanying the burial list sent to the State Department in 1935 by M. K. Moorhead shown.  I have since learned that Bucknam was born in Nova Scotia - and have no idea why Moorhead would list him as an American buried at a British Cemetery in Uskudar.  To be an American he would have had to be naturalized, and since I am not researching him I will probably never know.

John McFarlane, director of The Nauticapedia Project, whose vision is to celebrate and highlight the maritime heritage of British Columbia, and I "met" via the internet and exchanged what information we had on this fellow.  It is amazing how someone who was a perfect candidate for my blog "An Immortal Nobody" could have turned out to be so interesting.  In fact, he is noted on several websites and there is much speculation about, for instance, the women in his life.  As genealogists know, facts and fiction comes from strange places sometimes..

Thanks to John McFarlane for permission to reprint these photographs.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Beginning in 9th grade I determined that until I knew for sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would focus on Journalism classes.  I was lucky enough to have some good teachers and I did well.  I also made some very good friends.

By the 11th grade I was the Page Two (of four) editor, with Marty Sklar being editor and my mentor. The following year I was elected Editor and one of my Page editors was Marty's younger brother, the fellow pictured above, Bob Sklar.  Bob was a year behind me in school and obviously on the path to being Editor in his Senior Year.

The kids in the Journalism class were a close knit bunch; most of us didn't bother with study halls because there was a paper to put together and we spent that time in either in the "High Life" office or in the print shop downstairs, where we helped put the next issue of the paper to bed.

Bob and I became good buddies and became one of my page editors, too.  He was probably the happiest person I had ever met. He wasn't a silly-funny person, he just found the happy side of everything.  When I had a decision to make, I always brought Bob into the debate; he was smart, sharp and - well, the laughter you see in the picture above is the way we always saw him.  It was always his working pose, too.  Such a personable kid; a good friend and a good buddy.

Bob and I said our goodbyes in June of 1953.  His little "farewell" to me is still sitting in my yearbook, a treasure I've kept all these years.  The next year he did, in fact, become Editor of The High Life, and I went off to college.  We never met up again.

He did well for himself, a full and rich life.  He graduated in 1958 from Princeton, received a doctorate from Harvard, and among other things, "was a professor of cinema studies at New York University's Tisch School of the arts for more than 30 years," according to William Grimes of the New York Times.

I would never have known this about my buddy, except that in July of 2011, I saw an announcement of his death in Barcelona from a brain injury sustained in a bicycle accident.  Damn! I thought, my buddy is gone.  All the years from 1953 to 2011 telescoped in my brain and it was as if he still was my buddy helping me put out a good high school newspaper -- and all those intervening years not have any feeling of separation from a really neat friendship.  I am so sorry he is gone, but so happy that he made such a life for himself and a mark on the academic community..

Sunday, March 19, 2017


1923 - 1957

Shirley Lappin  was born on July 11, 1923 to Ben and Belle Mark Lappin.  She was an only child. Belle's older sister had no children, and her youngest sister, Bertha, Mark Title gave birth to Jerry in 1929 and Judy in 1933.  These cousins were all born in Los Angeles and  raised in the southern California area.  They saw each other weekly, however, when the three families gathered at the family home in Boyle Heights every Sunday for dinner.

Shirley married Sid Priegel shortly before he went into the military service during World War II.  It was while he was overseas that Shirley was diagnosed with scleroderma, which at that time was an almost unheard of disease, and except in a few cases was almost always fatal.  Scleroderma was so rare that many physicians had never seen a case of it, and Shirley allowed herself to be examined by many physicians just so they could know what scleroderma looked like.  Her case was also written up in the prestigious JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association.)   

According to family history, she was treated at Cedars of Lebanon (now Cedars Sinai) Hospital in Los Angeles and because she and her mother had agreed to let her act as a “guinea pig,” Shirley was never charged a penny for the many, many times she was hospitalized.  During the years she lived after her diagnosis, her internal organs as well as her skin slowly hardened.  All the skin on her body became taut, which drastically changed her appearance.  It was, and is, a nasty disease.

She lived for 12 years after she was diagnosed, dying on  November 12, 1957 at the age of 34. 

She was my husband Jerry's cousin. 

Monday, March 6, 2017


January 14, 1839 - November 28, 1917

OBITUARY (Newspaper and publishing date unknown).

Mrs. Olivia Gillespie [Corel] McGee

Mrs. Olivia Gillespie McGee was born in Virginia in 1838 and came to Kansas City, Mo. in 1849 via the boat line to what was then Westport Landing.  She lived around that vicinity until 1854, in which year she came to Lawrence in a vehicle drawn by an ox team and settled on the claim on which is now embraced Oak Hill Cemetery, which her family afterwards sold to the City of Lawrence for a cemetery.

She was married to John Jacob McGee in 1860, who wooed, won and married her on the present site of Oak Hill Cemetery, where she was buried.

Mrs. McGee lived in Lawrence continually with the exception of the last few years when she made her home with her sons in Kansas City, of whom there are six, and one daughter, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., her husband, W. J. Vann, being chief engineer of the Ward Line Steamship plying between New York and Cuba, West Indian and Mexican ports.

Mrs. McGee's oldest daughter, Virdilla, was married on the old home place east of Lawrence to George T. Gaumer in 1881, removed to Yucatan a year or two later and resided there until the breaking out of the Mexican reolution, when they removed to the City of Mexico, where Dr. Gaumer was engaged in biological work by the Madero regime.  She died and is buried in the City of Mexico.  Her family still reside in Yucatan with the exception of John D. Gaumer, a son, who is attending a school of electrical engineering in Milwaukee, Wis.  His son visited his relatives last summer in Lawrence and Kansas City.

Mrs. McGee was living east of Lawrence during all of the stirring border war scenes, and entered Lawrence within an hour after the Quantrill gang burned and sacked the city.  Her husband was enrolled in the Kansas militia and was in the battle of Westport, and aided to drive Price away.

One of General Lane's children was taken ill during those stirring times, removed to her home at Oak Hill, and died there.

She came from Missouri, and one of General Lane's men arrived at her home and made away with some of their horses, while she looked on perfectly helpless to prevent the robbery.  However, it is needless to state that Jack McGee got those horses back into his possession at the point of a Colt's revolver in West Lawrence.

A brother of the deceased, and the only surviving member of the family, J. P. Corel, is still enjoying good health at eight-six years of age.  He has lived here continuously since settling in Lawrence in 1854, and still resides with his son, James H. Corel, on the claim he pre-empted from the government.

Mrs. McGee's youngest son, Thos. S. McGee, is captain of a Missouri battery in the 129th Field Artillery, stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  He attended her funeral.  A large number of relatives from Kansas City and Lawrence also attended the funeral.

Mrs. McGee is survived by a daughter, Mrs. William J. Vann, Brooklyn, N.Y., and six sons, Oliver C. McGee, John J. McGee, Richard O. McGee, Kansas City, Mo.; Albert McGee, Kansas City, Kansas; Solon N. McGee, Pascoe, Washington; and Captain Thomas S. McGee, One Hundred and Twenty-Ninth Field Artillery, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.