Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sunday's Obituary - Discovering Nana through Maurice Blum's Obituary

What a handsom man he was!
I never had the pleasure of meeting Maurice Blum and he's not a relative of mine, but I wanted to share his obituary because he is special to me and my family.  How you might ask?  His wife, Hazel Blum nee Hill, was all I ever knew of a grandmother.  My paternal grandmother, Florence Tabor nee Bronsavage, died a decade before I was born and my maternal grandmother, Mary Ann Brown nee Quirk, died 2 years before I was born.  I love both of them, but I never had them in my life.  Hazel was my surrogate grandmother.

I've mentioned Hazel in previous posts, but nothing really concrete.  I never really knew much about my "Nana".  She taught my sisters and I how to knit and crochet.  She loved watching soap operas while she did her yarn-work.  She embroidered and cross-stitched and even reupholstered the covers on some dining room chairs with her needlework.  She lived in the house next door to us.  It was a house that she grew up in and lived her entire life.  It was the house she eventually shared with her husband, Maurice Blum.

I had always wanted to find out more about Nana, but like many things, I procrastinated and never followed through until I got a lovely email and phone call from a sweetheart named, Debbie, that came across one of my posts on Nana.  I'm not going to tell Debbie's story here.  She's going to be writing a book about it and when it's out I'll let you all know so you can see for yourself, but Debbie asked for some information on my Nana and I was so disappointed to admit that I knew little of value about a woman I loved I started some research.  Research for me to find out more about the woman that meant so much to me and research for Debbie because I was touched by the connection her family had with Hazel and Maurice Blum.

So having just returned from a trip to Pennsylvania I'm going to share the information I found starting with Maurice's obituary today.  Maurice died a year before I was born, but Nana mentioned her husband frequently.  Like a typical 11 to 14 year old, the information just never really made and impression and apart from his name and a couple other details I can remember nothing.  It's really a shame because, as you'll see, he was an extremely impressive man.  So much so that his death made the front page of the Hazleton Standard Speaker.

Hazleton Standard Speaker, 21MAY1971, pg 1
"Dr. M.L. Blum, Prominent Civic Worker, Is Dead

Dr. Maurice L. Blum, local optometrist and one of the community's most active civic workers and leader in veteran affairs, died at 11 a.m. yesterday in the Hazleton State General Hospital following a lengthy illness.

Dr. Blum, who resided at 701 W. Diamond Ave., was a veteran of World War One, and was a charter member of American Legion Post 76, which he served as commander in 1928, and for many years as chaplain of the veterans' organization.

Dr. Blum served for 22 years as head of the National Firm's Division for the annual campaigns of the Hazleton Chapter of the American Red Cross.

He also served as general chairman of the United Fund Campaign, and headed divisions in other years.

Dr. Blum served as chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, was a past president of the Hazleton Lions Club and served in various capacities with the Hazleton Tuberculosis and Health Society, the Anthracite Council of the Boy Scouts of America (now part of the Penn Mountain Council), and other local organizations.

Arranged Programs
21MAY1971, pg 14

For many years he arranged programs for patients in the White Haven State Sanitarium and continued the service for the White Haven State School and Hospital.

He was also one of the organizers and an active member, until his illness, of the committee of veterans in the Greater Hazleton Area who visited hospitalized veterans in St. Joseph and the State General Hospitals.

In July 1965, Dr. Blum was selected to a life membership in the American Optometric Association, and prior to that honor was awarded life membership in the state organization and in the Anthracite Optometric Association in 1960.  He aided in the organization of the anthracite group in September 1929, and served as its secretary-treasurer for 25 years.

State Chairman

In October, 1931, he was general chairman of the State Optometric Association Convention, which was held in Hazleton, at which time he was selected to serve a two-year term as secretary of the state organization.

In May, 1954, the Regional Association held a special dinner marking Dr. Blum's 25 years of service as secretary-treasurer, during which he was awarded a plaque for that service.

He has been the recipient of numerous local awards, among which were the designation of "Outstanding Citizen" by the Greater Hazleton Jaycees in 1957.  He was also recognized by the American Legion, the Boy Scouts of America, Salvation Army, Heart Association, White Haven State School and Hospital, Greater Hazleton Veterans' Association; Unico Club and the Community Chest.

American Legion Post 76, in April 1969, awarded Dr. Blum a life membership for his outstanding service to the organization [sic].

Dr. Blum is survived by his wife, the former Hazel Hill, and ane [sic] sister, residing in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Services Sunday

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Sunday from the Temple Beth Israel, with Rabbi Abraham Ruderman, spiritual leader of the Temple officiating.  Interment will be in Beth Israel Cemetery.

Viewing will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Joseph and Mary Fierro Funeral Home.

Pallbearers, all members of the Hazleton Lions Club, will be President David Schwarz; Third Vice President Louis Fierro, and Past Presidents Carl Ambrosio, Edward Scarp, Angelo Sist and Peter Forliano."

I read this and all I could think was, "WOW".  I never imagined that Nana was married to such a man.  She was so quiet and reserved...shy even.  I could hardly picture her at his side at these events, but perhaps that wasn't expected at the time.  I read this obituary and realized that Nana's life must have been so different than what I imagined...or was it?  I wish I had paid attention to all her stories.  She and Maurice never had children so who is there to remember them now?

FOLLOW UP - It didn't take long after posting this that something occurred to me...there's no age or date of birth for Maurice.  All that great information and it isn't mentioned.  It's not impossible to find clues to a birth for him (military records, burial, SSDI) but it was just plain surprising that with all the great information in there nothing on his birth.  Heck...very little on his family in general!

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