The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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July 5, 2013

A trip through the Herrity family tree

(Continued)

The first five generations of Herritys all had “Thomases.” Our first Thomas Herrity married a widow with four children, then they had three together: Sarah, Thomas “Nibs”, and my grandfather, John (1860-1901), who died of “apoplexy” on the railroad. John had three children (Thomas, John ‘Nibs’, and Irene) with his OLA-graduate wife, Mary, who came here from Chicago after The Great Fire of 1871. My father was that Tom, who miraculously became a dentist; Uncle John at one time played football with Duke Slater; and Aunt Irene remained a spinster all her life.

Irene was the one who finally marked Thomas and Catherine’s 1907 gravesites. She did this in 1976, just before getting rid of all her worldly assets “to go to the poor house,” as she called it. My daughter, Rachelle, and I often visited her there at the Clinton County Home. In fact, I unwittingly made that move possible by giving her a fifth of Irish whiskey for Christmas in 1974. Her house (then John and Mary’s old place on 11th Avenue South) was becoming a hovel from age and neglect. She had only a space heater, and it was bitterly cold; so, she drank the whole bottle in one sitting. Her heart then went into palpitations, which necessitated a trip to the hospital! Who knew she’d do that? Because the doctor wouldn’t let her go home, I got credit for saving her life, with a fifth of booze, so she didn’t freeze to death.

And so, you have met my family of Irish immigrants. They all lived relatively simple lives. “Nibs” got his name from a card game, and I think all his offspring still live in Clinton. I have been privileged to meet them too, because they went to public schools, which I’ve worked in. We weren’t so fortunate with our older Chicago relatives. No one knows why we haven’t heard from Kitty and Lol or Lee Raymond for 50 years. Time or distance can soon make family members fade into oblivion.

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