How come Arthur did not attend his father’s funeral?
Gussie Abramowitz (1884 – Feb. 22, 1967) and Harvey Blieden (Oct. 15, 1879 – Nov. 20, 1934) are our paternal grandparents.
(Harvey’s South African travel permit)
Harvey (Harry) was the son of Aron Bliden and Hannah Wolfson (Anna Shocket) of Wenden, Latvia, outside of Riga. He grew up in a stone structure where one side was his home and the other side was the mill his family ran. (A Picture of the mill and stone house is on the Aron and Hannah page.) He was studying to be a rabbi when his father died. He did not want to run the mill. He first travelled to London, then to South Africa, but decided to settle in the Brooklyn, NY, area where his mother and youngest sister were.
According to the US 1910 Census, Gussie arrived in the US in 1904, while Harvey came in 1906.
Gussie attended Landsmanshaften Society meetings. Landmanshaftens were clubs formed by immigrants originating from the same area and they were springing up all over NY and Brooklyn.
Harvey Bliden, also known as Harry, was at one of the same meetings that Gussie attended. They started seeing each other and were married on March 5, 1909, in Manhattan. On their marriage certificate, Harry said he was 30 yesrs old living at 38 Summer Ave., while Gussie listed herself as 23 years old, living at 48 E. 107th St.
Which brothers was he in business with? Did he give this up after he got married in 1909?
(Gussie Abramowitz and Harvey Blieden) on their wedding day)
Gussie worked as a seamstress in a sweatshop, while Harvey went to work for his new brother-in-law, Max, in his Custom Peddler’s Business.
Later, Harvey worked for the John Hancock Insurance Company as an agent. A kind, gentle man (although his children knew him to have a terrible temper), he was no businessman. He was supposed to collect money from his clients, but when they could not pay, he often put out his own money rather than lose an account.
At first they moved around Brooklyn every few years. In 1915, they still lived at 201 Stockton Street. In 1920, they had moved to 150 Thompkins Avenue. In 1930, they lived at 230 St. John’s Place.
Harvey’s Draft Card
on page 2 of the draft card Harvey was described as short, stout, with brown eyes and light grey hair
Harvey’s Naturalization Record Index
Harvey and Gussie had 5 children with 3 surviving past infancy: Arthur, Bernard, and Mildred.
When the children were small, they lived in a three bedroom tenement costing $20 a month rent. In the apartment, they had the modern conveniences of the day, such as, a coal stove, an ice box, and indoor plumbing. Their building had the usual fire escape. They could not afford a car (that new-fangled invention) so they got around by foot, bus, trolley car, or subway which cost a nickel.
During the summers, the family often went out to the country and vacationed in the Catskills. They stayed in a Kochalein, a building where each family lived in one room and everyone shared a community stove for cooking. The children would laugh when their father, Harvey, would call corn animal food, which it had been in Latvia. He had never seen people eat it before!
The Great Depression was hard on Harvey Blieden’s family. They had little money before and now things were ever harder. The children were dressed in hand-me-down clothes. Bernie worked many odd jobs to contribute to the family income. Gussie was a good cook and saw to it that there was always food on the table. The children were often sent to the butcher to wait for scraps like Skirt Steak, which was just thrown away in those days. Also, they were able to get extra milk. Miraculously, their four quart milk can actually held five quarts, so when it was filled up at the milk line they got extra!
In 1930, Harvey suffered a massive heart attack and was forced to stay at home for a few years. With his brother, Arthur, now in medical school, Bernie took on odd jobs to help out his family. Harvey and Gussie wrote regularly to their son in Cincinnati. To read the letters, to to the Arthur page.
Finally the day came when Harvey was strong enough to go back to work. He went around telling all his friends how good he felt and that the next day he’d be back at work. He arrived home from his walk and died suddenly. It was November, 1934. Arthur was not told of his father’s death until after he was buried. Since he was in medical school at the University of Cincinnati, Gussie did not want to disturb his concentration.
Harvey’s daugther, Mildred, explains in detail, the last day of her father’s life to her brother Arthur, who was away in medical school.
November 24, 1934
I don’t know what to say to you. Everything happened so suddenly that its hard to believe even now. We would have let you know in time for the funeral, Artie, but, it was no use. You would never have made it on time.
I don’t know what Uncle Harry wrote, but I’ll tell you just what I know. Tuesday, the day it happened, Papa went to see various people that day. You know, how every now and then Papa used to go to his office & other places. He did that, that day. He saw Al’s Uncle about his nose. Papa spoke to him about you trying to help you, & the doctor told him to tell you not to worry that everything would be all right. From there Papa came home & had dinner. In the afternoon he went to his office to see Breidenbach, who had written to him asking to appear as a witness against some claimant against the firm. Papa was there & agree to go the next day, Wednesday, to court. From there we went to the Dellman on Hart St. & visited them for a while. His next stop was at Mrs. Levine’s on Tompkins Ave. (You went with her son Moshe to Hebrew School). He stayed with her a while & came home. At home he met Mrs. Krales & her daughter & joked around with them for a while. After they left he had a very light supper because he wasn’t very hungry. Then he cleaned my white gym shoes because Mama told him I needed them cleaned. As usual, he sat down to play solitaire, when suddenly Mama heard him calling. In the meantime he had put his cards away & changed from the chair to the rocker. When Mama came to him he was pressing his chest. Mama was afraid to leave him, but this time he actually wanted the doctor. There was no one home except Mama & she called Mrs. Oberstein who phone for an ambulance & also the nearest doctor. They came, but it was too late to help. He died there in Mama’s arms.
Neither Bernie nor I were home, but Mama was there with him. Artie, don’t feel too badly about it, because, I was told, he didn’t suffer at all. It’s hard to be thankful for anything, but at least I’m glad that he didn’t suffer pain for hours first. It would have been terrible to have him suffer & suffer & then go. Mrs. Oberstein, the landlady, told me that it happened so quickly, it was just as if he had shut his eyes.
I got the account of what he did during the day from Mama. He first had time before he went to tell Mama what he had done thru’out the day.
Artie, it just doesn’t seem possible, but it must be true. He looked so well, he didn’t complain – wasn’t feeling ill at all recently. It just seems as tho’ he must walk in any minute. It doesn’t seem to be true.
Artie, we don’t know about your sitting Shivah. We’re asked some of the old men who come to the minion – some say you should; some say, because you’re in the hospital, you don’t have to, some say only three days. The only thing for you to do is ask an orthodox Rabbi – explain just how & what you’re doing. Of course, you’ll say Kadesh, even if the rabbi says no Shivah. Just try to do the best you can.
Don’t worry about us Arte, we’ll get along all right. Mama’s O.K. Just take care of yourself, so that when you can come home you won’t look like a wreck & frighten Mama. Please take care of yourself.
It’s hard to be thankful for anything, but, I’m glad if it had to happen that Papa didn’t suffer because I know that he hated pain & illness. He used to tell me when he was ill that he hated it. So, as awful as it is, it was, at least, not so bad for him.
Please don’t worry too much, Artie.
Harvey’s youngest sister, Reve, also writes to Arthur about what Harvey had meant to her:
Dec. 2, 1934
Dear Nephew Arthur:
No doubt by now you have heard again from Mildred. Your folks, under circumstances, are all right. There is nothing that can be done now, nor will crying or worry over the situation alter it any, so we much all bear up, for my loss was as great as yours, he being just like my father in addition to brother. (I knew no other father but him.) He just seemed to live long enough to make sure your graduate Dr. for if he hadn’t you would not have been one, always remember that. His one big ambition was to see you through. As soon as he was sure you are making it, he left us – Sad and horrible, as it is, we must all cheer up, for life always goes on, and so much we thinking of him, our dear one, in the pleasantest way. I have begun to believe he is not gone, thinking of him in the present, expecting always to see him and feel him with us. It isn’t possible any other way. Grandma does not know and I may be able to keep it from her until the spring. From the day – it was raining daily and he can’t go out in bad weather, nor was he out all last winter, she remembers that, so she is prepared for the winter not to see him. Cheer up, the living must go on living and laughing, that is the way of the world, and we are part of it, nothing we can do any more. The crying cry alone and it does no one any good. What God hath so decreed, and I suffice he has, we must accept and smile.
Love from us all.
Note: images of the original handwritten letters can be found on the Arthur page, which is under the Blieden Menu and then under Harvey’s and Gussie’s children.
In 1934, the family was living at 1377 Park Place in Brooklyn. in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. Were they renters or did they own it? The building was built in 1910. Today it is a single family residence of about 2160 square feet.
Our grandfather Harvey enjoyed playing the clarinet. We found his clarinet in my father’s house when we were cleaning that out.
For years, my brother, Ira, kept it, but recently he gave it to me.
Although the death certificate shows that he was born in Latvia, his naturalization record states he was born in Zagare, Lithuania. I believe he was born in Zagare, Lithuania. Death recrods are filled out in times of stress and often the people filling them out, do not know or remember the true details.
All through the years, Harvey had been very close to his mother, Hannah. He was her jewel. She died six months after his death.
Although Harvey was originally buried in Mt. Judah cemetery in Queens, NY, his son, Bernie, had another headstone engraved and put next to Gussie’s. They are buried in the Blieden family plot in Beth-El Cemetery in Paramus NJ.
- 1377 Park Place today