Saturday, December 17, 2005

Uncle "Jay" Cornelius (1908-2005)

I received word late Friday that my great-uncle "Jay" Cornelius passed away at the age of 97.

Uncle Jay (his real name was "General") was the brother of my paternal grandfather, Floyde Cornelius Sr. There were a total of eight children in the family and collectively their lives spanned three centuries. The oldest sibling, Owen Cornelius, was born in 1889. My grandfather was the fifth-oldest sibling and was born in 1896. Jay (born in 1908) was the youngest -- and the last surviving -- sibling.

Uncle Jay was the family genealogist. In 1981, he compiled a history of the Cornelius family and called it Cornelius Roots and Shoots. He pulled together everything by hand as this was long before computers and the Internet. My own interest in genealogy was, in part, sparked by his book as well as the birth of my son Kevin in 1995. In fact, I wrote Uncle Jay in 1996 and received back a 4-page letter written in a strong hand. In the letter he wrote that he was trying to document that one of our distant ancestors fought in the American Revolutionary War -- thus qualifying all of his descendants for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

I regret that I never met him in person.

Uncle Jay is survived by his wife, Esther. They were married 64 years.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Turning 80!

November 20 was my mother's 80th birthday. We had a party for her at a local restaurant and a total of 48 friends and family attended. I checked Wikipedia to see how November 20 fared in world history. Besides the usual group of celebrities who were born or who died on November 20, it turns out that Sen. Robert Kennedy and Mom were born on the same exact day! I can't imagine turning 80 years old! Technorati tags: ,

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

New book!

Several months ago my mother was contacted by an author who was writing a book about the servicemen from the Ravenna, Nebraska area who served in the nation's wars. The author, Valerie Vierk, knew of my grandfather, Edward Kostal, who was wounded in France in World War I and my uncle, James Kostal, a pilot who was lost in a non-combat training accident off the Sea of Japan in 1953. My mother spoke to Valerie and offered her memories of both her father and brother. I have also been in contact with Valerie to supply family photographs, including some from this humble family weblog. She has also been kind enough to provide me with some photos and newspaper clippings that she has accumulated. I just received word that Valerie's book, Gold Stars and Purple Hearts: The War Dead of the Ravenna, Nebraska Area, is now available for order online. Here is the link in case someone from the Ravenna area would like to order a copy. When you get to the site, click on "Book Store," then the down arrow to see "ISBN" and then enter the ISBN number which is 1420876074. We've already ordered our copy!

Monday, November 14, 2005

E-mail subscriptions

I have several friends, colleagues and family members who read my humble blog. I either tell them about blog additions or they subscribe to the blog feed through Bloglines, My Yahoo! or some other RSS-enabled newsreader. (There are buttons on the right sidebar that let you easily subscribe to this blog.) I have now added the ability to subscribe to this blog via e-mail. Look again on the right sidebar. Just enter your e-mail address and, once you confirm the subscription, you will receive blog updates by e-mail.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

John and Agnes Glodowski

Wedding photo of my great aunt, Agnes Kostal Glodowski, to John Glodowski. Agnes was my grandfather's older sister.

I don't have records showing the year they were married. John was born in 1882 and passed away in 1939. Agnes was born in 1890 and passed away in 1985. They had a son -- John "Jack" Glodowski.

Agnes was one of my grandfather's three siblings whom I got to know. My aunts Tonnie and Albie are the two others.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"The play's the thing"

Sorry for using the quote from Act II, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Hamlet, but we found this interesting photo of my grandfather, Edward Kostal, with some family papers. It was apparently taken to publicize a play from his high school days (he attended Ravenna High School). He is standing second from left. Unfortunately, we have no idea what play it is.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


My stepson, Michael Jones, and his girlfriend, Danielle Anderson, were married last evening, September 16th. Here are some photos of the happy couple.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A young doughboy - Photo 2

My very first post on this family weblog included a photograph of my grandfather, Edward Kostal, in his Army uniform. Since then, Elaine Psota, my second cousin, sent me another photograph of Edward from the same session, but he is standing up. You can see the entire uniform of the day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Jeanette Psota

In my earlier post, I mentioned that my Aunt Emma passed away in 1919 as a young woman leaving a husband and 18-month old daughter, Jeanette Psota. This is a nice portrait of my great grandparents with Jeanette.

James Kostal family

Back Row: Antonia (Tonnie) Helebrant Stanton, Lou Helebrant, Agnes Kostal Glodowski, James Helebrant, Anna Helebrant Smaha. Front Row: Albie Kostal Psota, James Kostal, Edward Kostal, Josephine Sladovnikova Kostal, Emma Kostal Psota.

My second cousin, Elaine Psota, sent this picture to me giving me an opportunity to play with it in both Photoshop and Picasa. My sister has a large copy of this picture in its original frame hanging in her parlor and I have a smaller version hanging in my dining room.

This is my maternal grandfather, Edward Kostal, and his parents and siblings. (My grandfather is the young boy standing in the middle of the photo.) I'm estimating this photo to have been taken around 1904. My grandfather was born in 1893. The young girl on the far left is my Aunt Albie who was born in 1899. (Albie is Elaine's grandmother.)

My great grandfather, James, came over from Czechoslovakia in 1880. My great grandmother, Josephine, came over from Bohemia the same year. At the time, she was married to her first husband, John Helebrant. They had four children together and they are standing in the back row. John passed away in 1887 and she married my great grandfather in 1889. They also had four children together. My Aunt Agnes was the oldest of the second set of children. She's wearing a ribbon in her hair and standing just to the right of my grandfather in the center of the picture. My Aunt Emma is the girl on the far right. Emma was born in 1896 and died in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-19. She was married and had a young daughter, Jeanette.

  • Anna Helebrant Smaha (1881-1959)
  • Antonia (Tonnie) Helebrant Stanton (1883-1964)
  • Louis Helebrant (1884-1971)
  • James Helebrant (1886-1955)
  • Agnes Kostal Glodowski (1890-1985)
  • Edward Kostal (1893-1967)
  • Emma Kostal Psota (1896-1919)
  • Albie Kostal Psota (1899-1978)

Josephine, who was older than James by seven years, passed away in 1923. James remarried a woman named Eleanor Vacek and he passed away in 1948. They had no children together.

Friday, August 26, 2005

James Kostal - Part 2

Here's a picture of my great grandfather James Kostal. You can compare this picture to my earlier posting about him. I don't know when this picture was taken, but it would appear to be late in his life. (He passed away in 1948.) The original photograph, unfortunately, is in poor shape yielding a rather poor scan.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Posting activity

I know I haven’t added any photos since mid-July. I have a box of photos that I’ve scanned and these were the photos posted during the spring and early summer. I have more photos to scan when I can find the time. Plus, I hate to admit, I’ve been lazy!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Family portrait

Here's a family portrait of my dad's family showing my grandparents and all seven siblings. The picture was taken April 1947 at the family farm in Madrid. Standing left to right are my grandparents, my Uncle Wendell, my father, my Uncle Lowell (Lowell and Wendell were identical twins), my Aunts Elaine and Carol and my Uncle Eldon. My Aunt Sandy is on the tricycle.

I remember this photo was always prominently displayed in my grandparents' front room.

Aunt Sandy supplied me with some of the information. Incidentally, she still has the tricycle and now her grandchildren ride it.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Third wedding anniversary

Picture of my parents on their third wedding anniversary on June 15, 1952. The photo was taken in front of their friends' apartment on the near north side of Chicago. Mom is pregnant with me!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Dad and Grandpa Cornelius

Here's a picture of my father with my grandfather. He must have been on leave from the Army. Back in February I posted a picture of him with my grandmother. I assume the two photos were taken the same day.

I'm not sure why my grandfather is making such a face!

Friday, June 03, 2005

James Kostal

This is a photo of my great grandfather, James Kostal. I don't know a lot about him. He lived from 1862 to 1948 and was the second husband of my great grandmother, Josephine. Josephine had four children with her first husband -- including my Aunts Anna and Tonnie -- and then four children with James. My grandfather was the second oldest (and the only male) among the second group of four children. James and Josephine, who passed away in 1923, are buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Ravenna.

Second wedding anniversary

A few days ago I posted a picture of my parents on their first wedding anniversary. Here's a photo taken when they went out for dinner on their second wedding anniversary. According to the folder, this picture was taken on June 15, 1951 at "The Glass Hat Restaurant" in the old Congress Hotel in Chicago. I don't know if they went out for dinner on their third anniversary. Mom would have been seven months pregnant with me!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

William Seborn Cornelius

Here's an interesting picture with my great-grandfather, William Seborn Cornelius. He is sitting in a chair at the far left of the picture and I'm the shirtless little guy standing on the far right. This photo was probably taken in either 1954 or 1955 and the setting is my grandparents' farm near Madrid, Nebraska. Looks like we're eating homegrown watermelon!

My great-grandfather lived in California and came out to visit as his health allowed. He had a long, colorful life and lived almost until the age of 102. He was born in February 1861 (two months before the beginning of the Civil War) and passed away in 1962.

It would be fun to be able to talk with him!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Chamberlains

This is a photo of my paternal grandmother, May Chamberlain Cornelius, taken with two of her brothers -- Galen Chamberlain (on the left) and Fred Chamberlain. The date and location of the picture are unknown although Grandma was born in 1900 and Galen was born in 1902. Fred was born in 1894.

First wedding anniversary

Picture of my parents on their first wedding anniversary. The picture is dated June 14, 1950 which would have been the day before their actual anniversary. The photo was taken at "Eitel's Old Heidelberg Restaurant" located at 14 West Randolph Street in Chicago. They were married 52 years.

First Communion

This is a picture of my maternal grandmother, Agnes Rogers Kostal and her brother, Clarence Rogers. The writing on the back of the photograph says: "Agnes Rogers and Clarence Rogers on First Communion Day at St. Mary's in Coon Creek, Kansas." The photograph is not dated.

Edward and Agnes Kostal

This is a photo of my maternal grandparents, Edward and Agnes Kostal, after their marriage on May 3, 1922. They were married in Ravenna, Nebraska and drove to Kansas for their honeymoon. This photo was taken in Washington, Kansas.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Is six enough?

This is a picture of my father and five of his siblings. Starting with the top row is my Aunt Elaine, my father and my Uncle Eldon. In the bottom row are the twins Lowell and Wendell (I could never tell them apart) and my Aunt Carol. My Aunt Sandy was either not born yet...or was just a baby when the photo was taken.

Update (May 29, 2005, 6:37 PM CDT): I contacted my Aunt Sandy who tells me that Lowell is the twin on the left and Wendell is on the right. She also thinks this photo was taken about three years before she was born.

Floyde Wilson Cornelius (Sr. and Jr.)

Picture of my grandfather holding my dad who was born in February 1924. I'm assuming this picture was taken sometime in the summer of 1924.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

August 1959

This is a picture of my 7th birthday party in August 1959. The party took place at my grandparents' farm house in Madrid and all of the kids surrounding the dining room table are my first cousins. (I'm the one at the end of the table under the orange arrow.) My sister Sheila would have been 9 months old at the time. I believe she is in the highchair behind me to my left. There are nine first cousins in the photo and we eventually grew to a total of 18 first cousins. I'm happy to report that we are all still around. What memories!

Mt. Calvary Cemetery -- James Kostal marker

This is the marker for my Uncle Jimmy who was killed in a training accident in 1953. His body was never recovered so this is all we have.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

This is ridiculous!

My father passed away in January 2002. In April 2005, a letter addressed to my father came from the Circuit Court of Cook County. It was a jury summons for duty in May. My mother called the jury administrator and notified them of my father's death. She thought everything was straightened out. Not even close! In early May, she received the following letter:

This letter is to inform you that you have been excused from Jury Service on 05/17/2005 as a result of your request to participate in our Opt Out Program, which permits jurors who are 70 years of age and older to be excused from Jury Service on a specific court date. Your participation in the Opt Out Program applies only to the date for Jury Service noted above. Please be aware that your name will remain on the juror list and you may be summoned again for Jury Service at a later date. However, your ability to be excused from Jury Service under the Opt Out Program is always available to you, no matter how many jury summons you may receive.

Dad would have appreciated the humor in this bureaucratic buffoonery.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Mt. Calvary Cemetery -- Stanton marker

This is the marker for my great-uncle and great-aunt Edward and Tonnie Stanton. Aunt Tonnie was my paternal grandfather's half-sister and plays an important role in our family history.

She is the aunt who watched Fred Astaire as a youngster when his father would visit Ravenna and other small Nebraska towns along his liquor sales route. (My Uncle Edward -- who passed away before I was born -- owned "Buddy's Place," a tavern in Ravenna.)

My sister and I also inherited (through my mother) a lot of her antiques and furniture when she passed away in 1964.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Southwest Nebraska sunflowers

During our August 2002 visit to Nebraska, my mother and I spent quite a bit of time commuting between Ogallala (where our motel was located) and Grant and Madrid. Grant is located 20 miles south of Ogallala and Madrid is 10 miles east of Grant.

There is literally nothing but farmland between Ogallala and Grant. Several farmers are growing sunflowers as a cash crop. Some of the fields were located along the highway. I stopped and snapped several photos of the flowers including this closeup.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Lake McConaughey, January 13, 2002

I was going through some photos I took the weekend of my father's funeral in January 2002. We intentionally stayed in the Madrid area for an extra day after the funeral to see family and friends and to show my wife and son the sights and sounds of the Cornhusker State. They had never been there before so we were determined to show them around.

Since we were staying in Ogallala, we took them to see Kingsley Dam and Lake McConaughey, the big reservoir north of town. We crossed over the dam and were on the north side of the lake. There was a small area just past the dam where we turned off. It was a bright, but a windy, raw day. Something about the area intriqued me and I got out of the car and carried my digital and my video cameras with me. The way the sun was shining through the barren trees created an interesting effect. The cloud pattern combined with the blue sky appealed to me. I snapped several pictures, got back into the car and thought nothing further of it.

It wasn't until I got back to Chicago that I realized what a beautiful picture I had taken. I played around with the photo in Photoshop and discovered that the photo looks even more dramatic when changed to black-and-white. For comparison, here's the original color picture.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Madrid Cemetery -- Chamberlain marker

This is the grave marker for my great-grandparents -- George and Mary Jane Chamberlain. Their daughter, May Chamberlain Cornelius, was my paternal grandmother. George and Mary Jane built the sod house that I wrote about back in October. Click on this link for more information about George and Mary Jane.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Madrid Cemetery -- Entrance

Here's the entrance gate to the Madrid Cemetery. It acts as a lonely sentinel welcoming visitors as they pass through it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Yahoo! 360 invitations

I managed to secure an invitation to the new Yahoo! 360 community. Similar to the strategy that Google used when introducing Gmail, Yahoo! 360 members have free invitations to use for anyone who wishes to join. Let me know if you want one.

Madrid Cemetery -- Floyde and May's grave

My father passed away in January 2002. Later that summer, I accompanied my mother back to Nebraska to pick out a tombstone for his grave. The Madrid Cemetery -- where he is buried -- and the Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Ravenna -- where my mother grew up and where her family is buried -- is a virtual walking history of my two families. In fact, that is what I did -- spending several hours walking among gravemarkers looking at the names of my relatives.

Both cemeteries are very old and a number of my relatives lived and died long before I was born.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to post photos of some of the markers. This particular stone marks the graves of my paternal grandparents.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Push 'em back, push 'em back, waaaay back!

I found my father's Madrid High School football picture. I believe they played 6- or 8-man football back in his day. Doesn't appear they were on steroids either!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Maria Rogers

My maternal great-grandmother, Maria Rogers. This photo was taken during the 1940s in front of my grandparents' house in Ravenna.

Maria (pronounced Mariah) was born in Ireland in 1859. I don't know a lot about her background. She came to America in the late in the 19th century (my grandmother was born in 1898). She lost her husband who left her with a number of children to raise.

She was living with my grandparents in Ravenna when she passed away in 1946. She is buried near my grandparents' grave in the Ravenna cemetery.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


This is a photograph that was found in my uncle's possessions. It's a picture of a T-6G "Texan" training aircraft. We don't know if this is a stock photo or a photo of the actual plane in which he trained. I found several websites with information about this plane.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

"Uncle Jimmy"

This is a picture of my mother's brother, James Kostal. "Uncle Jimmy" was five years younger than my mother. He was an excellent athlete in high school and enrolled at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. He left school and enlisted in the Air Force. He was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force with the 462nd Strategic Fighter Squadron. On October 15, 1953, he was practicing carrier landings in the Sea of Japan when his plane crashed. Despite a lengthy search, his body was never recovered. I was only 14 months old when he died. I did meet him once as we have a picture of him holding me. Ironically, my mother and I were visiting my grandparents in Ravenna when the telephone call came from the Air Force notifying my grandparents of the accident. My grandfather was so shaken up that he gave the telephone to my mom. There is a small military marker with his name on it in the Ravenna Cemetery next to my grandparents' grave. He was only 23 when he died.


I'm sorry I never got to know him.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

"Deeply regret to inform you..."

Click on the picture for an enlargement.

This is a telegram my great-grandfather James Kostal received in late November 1918. My grandfather Ed Kostal was wounded in action in the Argonne Forest in late September 1918. The telegram states that he was wounded on the 30th, but we always understood that it was the 29th.

My grandfather was severely wounded in the leg and arm and left for dead on the battlefield for several hours. He eventually required several months of hospitalization and rehabilitation.

Because of limitations in the way information flowed back to the States in 1918 (no Internet, no satellite links, no cell phones, no embedded journalists!), my great-grandfather received this message nearly two months after his son was wounded. We have letters from my grandfather to his sister dated after September 30th and before November 26th (the date on the telegram). We don't know if these letters made it home before the telegram reached the family.

Ironically, the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 (ending the war in Europe) so the telegram was received after the war ended.

My mother found this telegram in late February with some old family papers. Thank God she's a pack rat!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Gmail invitations

I use Gmail (Google mail) and like it a lot. I have 50 free Gmail invitations that are available to anyone who wants one. Don't be shy, just ask.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Tommy Dorsey

My mother had her 15 minutes of fame back in August 1945. During the war, she worked as a private secretary for a captain at the old Kearney Army Air Base. The captain was in charge of ordinance and a couple other departments on the base. It was common for some of the big-name entertainers of the day to go on the road and entertain the servicemen at the various bases throughout the country.

According to the unofficial history of the Kearney Army Air Base, many big-name bands came to play at dances held at the N.C.O Club or in one of the hangars on base. Bands such as Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, The King Cole Trio and Les Brown and his Band of Renown (including singer Doris Day) played there.

Twice a week, Mom would stay on the base and play her accordion at the Officer's Club. She was a music major at the University of Nebraska and played the piano in addition to the accordion.

In August, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra was coming to play. It was customary to bring most of the musicians with the band, but also fill in with local musicians when necessary. The Dorsey Orchestra had made arrangements to use a local piano player, but on the day of the dance, the piano player was sick. The quartermaster knew that Mom could play the piano and asked her to sit in with the band. The night of the dance, Mom played with the orchestra, but just played chords instead of playing any solos. It was a fun evening, especially for a girl from a small town in Nebraska!

Mom still remembers most of the set list:

  • Jersey Bounce
  • Green Eyes
  • Can't Get Out Of This Mood
  • Blues In The Night
  • I'm Beginning To See The Light
  • All Or Nothing At All
  • Brazil
  • The Moon Got In My Eyes
  • Beer Barrel Polka
  • On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe
  • Tangerine
  • Mairzy Doats
  • It Might As Well Be Spring
  • Moonlight Cocktail
  • Sentimental Journey
  • Linda
  • Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree

Saturday, February 26, 2005

January 13, 2002

I've posted several pictures over the past few months that were taken on the farm where my dad grew up. The farm is located several miles southeast of Madrid, Nebraska in Perkins County. When I was much younger, I always looked forward to summer vacation where a kid from the Chicago suburbs could go out to a farm, chase pigs and chickens, play with his cousins and basically lose himself for awhile. I loved to walk along the treeline northwest of my grandparents house pretending I was an Indian scout searching for buffalo. I learned to shoot a rifle on the farm. I would climb onto the roof of the hog house, sit there for hours just looking at the land south of the farm. It was fun for me to sit in the pickup with my grandfather while we drove to the pasture to count his cattle. I enjoyed giving sugar cubes to his horse, Lady. Those are all great memories for a young boy to keep. Of course, we all grow up and those to whom we are close eventually pass on. My grandfather died in 1968 and my grandmother passed away in 1969. After they died, the farm was rented out to several tenants and the farm house fell on hard times. Fortunately, the land has stayed in the family and my uncle now farms the land. Sometime in the late '80s or early '90s, the decision was made to intentionally burn down the buildings. I had not been to the farmstead for over 20 years until my father passed away in January 2002. It was his wish to be buried in his hometown. A few months before he died, he told me that he never wanted to see the farm because it would hurt him too much to see his boyhood home destroyed. He accepted that it needed to be done, but he still would have been upset to see it. The day after Dad's funeral in Madrid, we drove out to the farm and I was shocked at what I saw. Nothing was as I remembered it. The house, the barn, "my" hog house and other outbuildings were all gone. The only remaining building was the grainery. It still has the farm name -- Fair Acres -- on the front. I took several pictures and this one shows it best.

Dad and Grandma Cornelius

Found this nice picture of my dad with my grandmother taken in 1943 or 1944. The photo was taken on the farm southeast of Madrid, Nebraska. On the window to the right of my grandmother is the gold star insignia that all families, with children in the service, kept on their windows.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Site update

I've received a couple of e-mails asking if I'm still updating this site. I'm planning to add some additional content over the next few weeks. After I posted my mother's Johnny Carson story, I was reminded that she also had her 15 minutes of fame sitting in with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra one evening at the old military base in Kearney, Nebraska. In short, she substituted for the piano player. I asked her to write down her recollections so I can post them here. She also came across some more family photos.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

On Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson died Sunday at the age of 79. Although not a relation, my mother did have contact with Carson while they were both students at the University of Nebraska. I spoke to her Monday and posted her story on my other blog.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

In his Sunday best

Edward Kostal, my maternal grandfather. This studio portrait was probably taken in 1915 or 1916 before his military service in World War I.

Wedding Day -- Photo Three

Mom on her big day. My sister now has this dresser in her home.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Wedding Day -- Photo Two

Photo taken at my maternal grandparents' home in Ravenna.

Wedding Day -- Photo One

My parents' formal wedding photo! They were married on June 15, 1949 in Ravenna, Nebraska

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Vitalis years

Here's another exciting picture taken in front of my grandparents' house. In this case, we were visiting my maternal grandparents in Ravenna, Nebraska. I'm holding a prayer book so I'm guessing the picture was taken as we were preparing to attend Mass. Judging from my hairstyle, the photo was taken in the mid-1960s. Not sure why my sister isn't in the picture.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Summer vacation 1963

Here's a picture of us taken during the summer of 1963 outside my paternal grandparents' farm house in Madrid, Nebraska. My sister Sheila (six years younger) is in front. The picture did not scan very well, hence the small size.

I wish I could remember being so skinny. [sigh]