Pit Stops on The Road Of Life
How I Found My Little Brother
For most of my first 57 years I had been under the impression that I'm lucky to be here. A rumor persisted that my Mom, before having me in 1946, had either (take your pick): had a miscarriage, given birth to either a preemie who died shortly after birth, or possibly even a stillborn. Mom died when I was 6 in 1953, so I never got to ask her. While my Dad lived until I was 30, he wasn't the type who'd ever discuss such matters. A half-cousin, Louise, seemed to know the most about it, but even she could only say that there HAD been such an event-no date or name of the child or even what sex it was.
For the past couple of years I've been bitten by the genealogy bug. In addition to working up my own family tree and those of close to (it seems) half the other folks in Sweet Valley PA. In connection with that I came up with the idea of "Hey-let's do a page to honor Daisy Steltz! She was a midwife who delivered over 100 babies, including my 3 older half-brothers. Daisy lived to be just 2 months shy of 100." I learned from Daisy's granddaughter, Gloris, that there'd been a fire in 1966 that had destroyed Daisyís records but that she had then, at age 82, sat down to recreate her "baby list" as best she could. Gloris sent me the list and as I began to type it up to post to the 'net, SONOFAGUN!!! My Mom's name was on it in October, 1944!!! This totally blew me away for I know I was born in Nesbitt Memorial Hospital in Kingston and couldn't begin to fathom how a midwife such as Daisy would have been involved.
Not really expecting anything positive to come of it, I sent a $3 check and the requisite form to Vital Records in Newcastle PA seeking a death certificate (DC), much as I had sought other DC's before. This time, however, I included a letter of semi-apology saying "I hope you can work with this. I don't know the child's name (if it had a name) or what sex it was. All I can give you are the parents' names, the date, and where the birth took place."
The bureaucracy outdid themselves. The DC arrived the day after Christmas. I now can tell the world that I once had a full brother to go along with my 3 half-brothers from Dadís first wife. Named on the DC only as "premature boy Hontz" , he was born at 10 PM on October 30, 1944 and died at 12:30 PM the next day, having lived just 14 and a half hours. The cause of death was cited as "premature birth at 5 and 1/2 months' gestation." He was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery the same day he died and I now have to find out exactly where the grave is, as he has no marker. In the 8-grave plot that my Dad bought in 1937, my brother could be on either side of Dad or his first wife or maybe between that wife and Dad's mom. My one half-brother who has the deed to the plot has always planned on burying me next to Dad and I've agreed. The cemetery records should show his exact location and, if he IS in the grave that I planned to use, I think I'll change my plans. Having just learned of how of my buddy's Dad's ashes were buried only "two buckets full of dirt"-deep at that same cemetery, maybe they'll agree to do the same to my ashes and put me right on top of my brother. It wouldn't cost that much more to buy a stone that'd read "Ronald E. Hontz, Curmudgeon, 1946-2XXX" and also "Baby boy Hontz, October 30-31, 1944." What the heck-after all, I am the dude who just bought a stone for my great-grandmother who'd lain in a pauper's grave in Dunmore for 118 years with only a stone reading "309" to mark her resting place.
UPDATE IN 2006: I never did find out exactly where they buried my brother but my tombstone is now in place.
In addition to my self-imposed nickname of "Curmudgeon", it is also inscribed with "Infant Brother" and his dates. Stop by and see us when you get the chance.
Ronald E. Hontz
33 Whitcraft Lane
cell phone (717) 309-1402