52 Ancestors: Longevity


In 1993, my parents took us on a road trip through California. We stopped in little towns, spent days at Disneyland, and visited San Diego for the first time, where my maternal grandma had grown up and still had family. I met Katherine, my great-grandmother’s youngest sister, who at the time was 95 and still lived alone. She was friendly and spry, and the last living sibling of my mom’s Grandma.

Katherine was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 17, 1897. The family moved around throughout the midwest in her childhood, and in the early 1920’s most of the family moved to San Diego, California. On September 10, 1924 she married her first husband, Ward Otto Nelson, who my grandma referred to at Uncle Ott. They would have two kids: Violet in 1926, and Benjamin in 1927. Ward died in 1933, when Katherine was 36.

Sometime in the 1940’s Katherine married her second husband, James Howell. (On the 1940 census, he is listed as her lodger.) In 1957, she lost her son Benjamin, and in 1969 her second husband died.

Sometime in the 1940’s and 1950’s, Katherine worked at the Marston Co. department store, in the fur department, one of the many members of my family who worked for the Marston family.

Katherine was the longest living of her siblings. Her sister Minnie lived to 101, the second longest.

Katherine Borchert Howell, Wilhelmine _Minnie_ Borchert Vock, Ida Borchert Gall, George Borchert

Katherine, Minnie, Ida (my great-grandmother), and their brother George, sometime in the 1960’s in San Diego.

George died in a car accident at the age of 93, while my great-grandma lived until 73. Their sister Pauline lived until 91, while their brother Hermann lived until 67 (he died of cancer, by Mom believes).

Katherine celebrated her 102nd birthday in 1999, and received a letter from President Clinton in recognition.


Letter celebrating 102nd birthday from President Clinton

Katherine died on May 25, 2000, at the age of 102.

These siblings were first-generation Americans, and lived long lives here. The sisters stayed close together in California, while George and Hermann remained in Ohio when the family moved West.

(On a side note: writing this made me realize I need to ask my mom’s cousin for more pictures of the siblings!)

So tell me, do you have any longevity on your family tree? How long did the oldest person live? Did you have a chance to meet?



2 Replies to “52 Ancestors: Longevity”

  1. Hey Meridith!
    I’m so glad you posted this picture. George is my grandfather (whom I only met once). His son, Ben is my dad. I live in northern California and would love to talk with you.

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