The photo of the sunset was taken the day after Thanksgiving from the deck outside my home in East Moline (IL).


I always knew that my father, John Corcoran, Jr., had 3 brothers (Harold, Edgar and Ervin) and 4 sisters: Neva, Nora, Mabel and Dora.

I actually met all of his brothers, but only 2 of his sisters and only once, in my life, did I meet my paternal grandmother (the only one of my grandparents still alive when I was born). I was told that Nora and Neva “died young,” but I never knew HOW young or when or how or why.

I was looking through an old trunk of my mother’s, looking for Christmas sweaters, actually. This was just before Thanksgiving. I found this clipping in a very old, yellowed envelope, with a mailing date of Sept. 12, 1931. The return address was L.G. Meyer, County Superintendent, West Union, Iowa, and it bore my mother’s name (Sadie A. Monson), with an address of 202 2nd Street S.E. Oelwein, Iowa.

Inside was a VERY young picture of my father (looking very thin) and this obituary:

Mrs. Walter Graves, 29, 935 Third Street West, died at 6 p.m. Wednesday in a local hospital of complications following an operation for appendicitis, Monday.  She had been a resident here for approximately two years.

Neva M. Corcoran, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Corcoran, was born in Fairbank, IA, Jan. 27, 1902.  She was graduated from Immaculate Conception School at Fairbank and Gates Business College, Waterloo. On Nov. 4, 1930, she was married to Walter Graves at Fairbank, after which they made Waterloo their home.

Mrs. Graves (my deceased Aunt Neva Corcoran) is survived by her husband, parents, four brothers (Edgar, John, Irvin and Harold Corcoran, Fairbank and two sisters, Mrs. F. P. Schuck, West Point, Iowa (Mabel), and Mrs. Charles L. Duffy (Dora), 2027 Third Street West, Waterloo.

Funeral services will be held at the home of her parents at Fairbank on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.  Burial will be in Fairbank.

End of Obituary, with no actual date on the tiny slip of paper, but, given the statement of her age as 29 and her birth year as 1902, I’m guessing that the year was, indeed, 1931 (although the envelope seemed to have no bearing on the sad news of the clipping inside).  My father, John’s birthday, was October 28, 1902, which means he was born nearly 9 months, to the day, after this older sister—if I am correct. He would have been nearly the same age as Neva, much as my daughter, Stacey,  (born 07/09/87) is about the same age as her cousin, Matt Wilson, who was born in June of 1987.

I find this stuff fascinating, not because it is interesting to anyone else, but because there was so little ever told me about anyone on the Corcoran side of my family, and I also know very little about the Dutch/Norwegian side of my family (the Monsons).

Many people write entire memoirs about their families of origin. I doubt that this will ever occur with me, the writer, because I always feel that (a) my life is not that interesting to anyone else and (b) I barely know any of the facts or details of these phantom figures who peopled my parents’ lives, so it would be difficult for anyone else to re-construct my Irish or Norwegian/Dutch ancestors.

It is awful to think of an adult  nearly 30 years of age dying of appendicitis, but it sounds like that is what happened. What a way to go!
RIP, Aunt Neva.