Saturday, February 19, 2011

Genealogical Field Trip with Cousins Howard and Dotti

If there is anything better than finding nuggets of information on your ancestors, it's finding your living cousins that are interested in your mutual line.  On my journey searching the story of my great (x2) grandmother Rose Towle, I've been exceedingly blessed to find and meet so many wonderful cousins.   I've grown especially fond of cousins Howard and Dotti Towle.  Howard's grandfather is Gerry Towle of the former "Is Los Angeles Gerry Towle 1870 New Hampshire census George Towle?" mystery.  Gerry Towle, Howard's grandfather, is my great-great grandmother Rose's brother.  This makes Howard Towle my second cousin.  Second cousin, twice removed if you wish to be technically correct.  I don't know this, by the way.  Once I get beyond first cousins, I need a Internet Cousin Calculator.  Or I have to draw a chart and start counting on my fingers and toes.

I had originally met cousins Howard and Dotti Towle back in July at Mike and Jessica's going away party.  We caught up again last October over lunch and ancestry documents over at Haven's Gastropub in Orange.  Cousin Howard is a virtual font of history on both his Los Angeles Towle line and southern California history.  Dotti is also a genealogist and has terrific stories of traipsing through brush in Ohio searching for her ancestor's graves. We had such a great time together, we decided to take a field trip after the holidays were over.  I would take them to see Gerry and Gertrude's graves and we'd see if we could find some of the early homes that the family lived in Los Angeles.  Last Thursday, we did just that.

We first headed out to Inglewood Memorial Park.  Having gone there with Teresa last fall, I knew where to find Gerry and Gertrude Towle.  At least I'd know where in the cemetery they were once we got to the general vicinity.  Inglewood Park is enormous.  

On the way, Dotti had mentioned that while we were at the cemetery she'd like to see if she could find the graves of the couple that originally owned the property of her favorite salon.  The salon is a former residence of a couple of early 20th c. married trapeze artists.  The couple had never had children and throughout their marriage they remained exceptionally devoted to one another.  The wife was performing in Europe when she met an untimely and early demise.  During her trapeze act, she had reached for the rings, one had broken, and she fell to her death.  Blind with grief, the husband commissioned an elaborate memorial at Inglewood Cemetery.  Dotti said the grave was supposed to be pretty fantastic, featuring a statue of winged angel holding a petite woman; the angel representing the husband; the woman, the wife.  I wanted to see it too but without a map and directions I wasn't holding out a lot of hope.  It took Teresa and I the better part of an hour to find Gerry Towle's grave with directions, a map, and a maintenance working helping us.  I figured we could always circle back to the cemetery office and ask them for assistance. 

Entering the cemetery and unable to remember which of the 3 roads lead to the Towle graves, I instructed Howard to take the second one.  About 100 feet in, I knew I was mistaken.  Ugh.  Apologizing to Howard, I looked up and saw a statue of large, winged angel holding a woman in his sheltering arms.  Could it be?  Yes!  Two minutes into the cemetery and we bumbled right to the grave Dotti wanted to find!  

Dotti and I got out of the truck and took a few pictures,  It is a quite an impressive memorial.

Afterward, it didn't take to long to find Gerry Towle's grave.  I remembered it was next to a pine tree and near the mausoleum where Teresa and I covertly popped the Heineken for Gerry's ceremonial pour out.  Howard had never visited his grandparent's graves so it was especially terrific to share that with him.  Dotti found some flowers the wind had tossed onto the grass so she placed them on the graves.  Perfect.

On the road we found one of the houses that Gerry and Gertrude had once lived in.  Much like my adventure in Haverhill looking for my grandparents former residences, time hasn't always been kind to these old homes.  Many of them have been replaced by highways, parking lots, and new(er) construction.  It was a treat to find a former Towle home still standing in Los Angeles, and a lovely home at that.  Never having traveled through this part of LA, I was impressed how elements of the architecture are so reminiscent of the homes found in New England.  A bit more modern in their construction but the grecian lines of the porch, the protruding, three-paned window, and the suggestion of a attic window on the roof look hauntingly similar. 

We finished our field trip with a terrific lunch (and wine tasting!) at the San Antonio Winery.  What a fabulous afternoon!   I had told Howard and Dotti that lunch was my treat since they so kindly treated me to lunch the last time we were together.  They agreed but Howard managed to pick up the check before we even ordered.  Howard is both exceedingly generous and damn sneaky.  I'll have to be doubly sneaky and on my toes when we go to New Hampshire for the genealogical cross-country field trip in the fall.

No comments:

Post a Comment