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Monday, July 30, 2012

Charlene Elsie Kleager Foreman - the answer

Last post I asked who was Charlene Kleager Foreman?

Well, she is related to Joseph William Kleager (my great uncle, brother of my grandfather Frank August Kleager), the oldest son of Joseph and Lesetta Mincemeyer Kleager.

Joseph William married Halle Ellen Renick in Missouri in 1906, and they had 3 children: James Joseph "Jim", Clara Lisetta and Bertha Josephine. (Notice we are keeping with the "Joseph" theme there!).

Unfortunately, the mother Halle died a few months after Bertha's birth in 1911 of valvular insufficiency. That left Joseph a widower with three children under the age of three.  I don't know who helped with the children, though I am sure Joseph's family did.  Lesetta Mincemeyer Kleager raised a lot of children!

Joseph married and Iva E. Ernie in 1914.  I only know that because of a marriage license, I have no idea what happened to her; if she died, or they were divorced. No one in the family has talked about it.

Joseph married again in, 1917 to Josephine Jost in Missouri.  About 1921, they moved to Lancaster County, Nebraska near where his brothers Frank and Edward had already located, to farm.

There still seems to be some mystery here.  Is she a child of Joseph William Kleager with his second wife Josephine - Joseph was been 56 at the time of her birth and Josephine 45, not impossible but tricky.  Or, was she a grand daughter of Joseph, the daughter of one of his daughters, Clara or Bertha?

I sent to Nebraska Vital Records for a birth certificate, and none could be found!  That is curious.  Why is there no birth certificate?

JoAnn Munden (who is a Drewel, not a Kleager, but grew up in the same area around Lincoln) said her sister Virginia remembers when she was small going to visit Kleagers, (not sure which ones), and there was a little girl a few years younger than her.  She told that the girl (not sure it was Charlene, but the timing fits) "sang like Texas Mary, a famous singer".

Then Virginia said I should ask my Dad, as Virginia seems to remember that it was my Dad (a M.D.) may have been one of the first to say that Charlene had cancer.  Virginia seemed to think Charlene was the girl with the beautiful voice who died of cancer.

My Dad, who would be Charlene's first cousin, told me in a phone conversation that he remembers that Josephine was step-mother to Jim, Clara and Bertha, and maybe there were some issues with that in terms of how she treated those kids. He then said "but later there was a baby and Joe and Josephine went ga-ga over that little baby".  He thought he remembered the she was a grand daughter that they raised as their own.

He also remembers that Charlene went to a one room school near Lincoln, and for a while the teacher at the school was Kenny Kleager (my Dad's brother), and the only student was Charlene!

LaRue Kleager Bryant had a picture of Lesetta Kleager with a child, Lesetta's great-grand daughter Charlene, the grand child of Joseph Kleager.

I wrote Ron Bryant to ask his mother, LaRue Kleager Bryant (also a first cousin), if she remembered who Charlene was.  LaRue wrote back that Charlene was a grand daughter of Joseph's, and that Charlene was the daughter of Bertha.

However, the plot thickens.  There was no birth certificate, right?  But, there IS a death certificate which I received from Nebraska Vital Records:

The death certificate says she is the daughter of Joseph William Kleager and Josephine Jost!   Did they legally adopt her, or did they just raise her as their own?

Now the 1940 Census for Nebraska has been indexed, and I think the census confirmed the theory (opposite of the death certificate) that Charlene was a grand daughter.

I know this is hard to read, but the second entry is down is:
Kleager, Joseph, Head, age 61
(--------), Josephine, Wife, age 50
Jewitt, Bercha, Daughter, age 29
(--------), Charlene, Grand Daughter, age 4

The last name for Bertha (which was misspelled Bercha), is hard to read, it was indexed as Jewitt, but it could also look like Jewell.

But there is Charlene, as Bertha's daughter, with Bertha and Charlene living with Bertha's father and step-mother, Joseph and Josephine Kleager in North Bluff Election Precinct, Lancaster County, Nebraska.

Charlene's life is a sad tale all around.  She married Wayne Foreman, had a infant son, Kenneth Wayne Foreman, who was born and died in 1953, when Charlene was 18.  Charlene developed a "choriocarcinoma", which is a cancer originating from a fetus or pregnancy (so possibly from pregnancy of the baby that died), and then 9 months later died, at age 19, from the choriocarcinoma.

The baby is buried in the same cemetery as Charlene, Lincoln Memorial Park.  That is the same cemetery where my grandparents, Frank August Kleager and "Eleanor" Sophie Drewel Kleager Weise are buried.  It was the headstone for Charlene that set me on this quest to discover who she was, and how she was related!

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