Here's wishing a Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there, and especially to all the outstanding fathers in our family. This will be the first Father's Day without my dad Ray, pictured in the middle holding a little kid with a lot of hair. Yes, that was me, and the year was probably 1953, the place was likely Caseyville, Illinois, where my maternal grandfather John J. Bartos was living at the time. The big guy on the far right (who looks like a cop) is Dad's father Anthony Peterson, who was a police officer in Woodbridge, NJ.
All three are gone now. Tony died suddenly after Thanksgiving in 1958. Johnny left us in the wee hours of St. Patrick's Day.1980. And after a long illness, Ray passed on during the morning of October 10, 2013. I originally intended to go into great details of their ancestry, but it would be too long and too complex, particularly with Tony's ancestry back in Denmark- that alone might require two separate posts. And I'd hate to have the readers eyes glaze over.
So instead, here's a brief sketch of my memories of these three very different men.....and some recent discoveries about their ancestral background.
Grandpa Johnny Bartos came dangerously close to being born at sea- something I didn't know until I became involved in genealogical research. He was born in Perth Amboy, NJ on October 26, 1907. His parents, Mihaly (Mike) Bartus and Borbola (Barbara) Bottyansky arrived in New York from their native Hungary only a week earlier, on October 19. John was named after his paternal grandfather Janos Bartus, from the village of Kisnemedi, Hungary. But it seems the ancestral homeland for the Bartus clan was in the far eastern regions of Hungary that were ceded to Romania after World War I.
Johnny went to work fulltime at the Armour Agricultural Company in Carteret, NJ at the age of 15. He remained with the company for 50 years. He and my grandmother Margaret (married in 1928) moved to southeastern Illinois in 1946 when Grandpa became plant manager at Granite City. They lived in a hotel in East St. Louis until finally finding a home in Caseyville. One of their neighbors was the legendary Grover Cleveland Alexander, pitcher for the Phillies, Cubs, and Cardinals in the 1910's and 1920"s.
Grandpa's three biggest loves were, in order, his family, his company, and the St. Louis Cardinals. It was Grandpa Johnny Bartos who introduced us to baseball. Well into his fifties he'd have a catch with us. After moving to Collinsville, Illinois in the mid 1950's my brother Jeff and cousin Rich would spend the summer with Grandma and Grandpa. Trips to the old 32,000 seat Busch Stadium on the northside of St. Louis was a summer highlight. We saw the Cardinal legends, and those of the opposition as well.....Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Ken Boyer, Hank Aaron, Duke Snider, Roberto Clemente, and dozens more.
And we traveled with him all over the East, the Midwest, and the South. It was Johnny who took us to the Empire State Building, to Independence Hall, to the Lincoln Memorial in DC and Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois, to Mark Twain's cave in Hannibal, to Jesse James cave in Merrimec, Missouri. Sundays consisted of church at St. Peter and Paul's in Collinsville, a trip to Bruno's bakery across the street from the church, mowing the lawn, and a ride to Diamond Mineral Springs Restaurant in Grantfork for a huge country style chicken dinner.
It was a great time. He was a kind, gentle, wonderful man, and so instrumental in our growing up. If I have one great regret its that I never really thanked him for all he had done. So I'm doing it now....for the world to see.
Of the three men in the picture, I know less about Anthony Peterson than either Dad or Grandpa John Bartos. He died when I was only eight years old, so I have limited memories of him and those are from a child's perspective. But from the words of others, and some genealogical research, here's a look at Tony Peterson.
His parents were Soren Pedersen and Georgine Vilhelmine Jansen (married 1883), from the county of Vejle, near a fjord on the east coast of Denmark's Jutland peninsula. Soren was born in Herselev, the youngest of the eight surviving children of Peder Christiansen and Karen Pedersdatter. Their home was inherited from Karen's father, Peder Mikkelsen. Karen's ancestry could be traced back in the village of Erritso for several generations, to Peder and Magrethe Didrechsen, both born in 1719.
Georgine's ancestry takes us back to what is now Germany. Her parents, Hans Jacob Jansen and Ane Christine Ohms were born in the Duchy of Schleswig in 1812 and 1826 respectively. Ane's surname indicates she was of partial German heritage. Denmark lost Schleswig to the German kingdom of Prussia after the second of two wars. Both Hans and Ane moved north to Randers County in Denmark prior to the wars, separately. They met, married in 1853, and by 1880 they had settled in Taulov, Vejle where they raised Georgine (born 1854) and her four siblings.
Georgine and Soren had two children in Denmark, Peder and Karen, and two more after arriving in America in 1887, Anton (born 1891) and Christian. Sometime after arriving in the United States and settling in Perth Amboy, "Pedersen" became "Peterson", "Georgine" changed to "Georgianna", and "Anton" became "Anthony".
Tony Peterson joined the Army during the First World War and fought in the Battle of The Argonne Forest. After leaving the service he became an electrician, and did well for awhile. He boarded in the home of Peter and Margaret Leahy in Woodbridge, and married their next next to youngest daughter Mary Catherine, in 1926. There were three sons- Raymond (1927), Anthony Francis (1928), and Bernard (1930).
The Depression hit the young family hard......Tony gave up being an electrician, and took a safe job with steady pay as a police officer in Woodbridge, NJ. He remained a police officer until retirement.
My memories of him are cloudy, but they are with me. He looked like a bigger, older version of my father, with a booming voice and loud laugh. What stuck with me most was his hobby.....when he got older he began to raise parakeets in his basement. I was only a child but I can remember all of the birds in their cages, and Tony taking them out and putting them on his shoulder.
I looked far and wide, but to my knowledge the picture above is the only one we have of Tony, Johnny, and Ray together. There probably are more, but they remain to be rediscovered.
Ray of Sunshine
My dad might have been the most optimistic and positive person ever born. He had to be. Raymond Anthony Peterson was a Rutgers football fan for most of his life. He endured, and survived, The Terry Shea Era (1996-2000), when the Scarlet Knights had 11 wins in five years. He didn't just love Rutgers football......he breathed it, and lived it. And even in the depths of watching years of miserable football he would always say......next year would be the year. I felt so good for him on that surreal night in November 2006 when Jeremy Ito hit the winning field goal to beat third ranked Louisville on ESPN. I'm glad he got a chance to see it all.
He loved football, and politics, and teaching, and the labor movement. Dad was a man of principle, and he believed deeply in the importance and necessity of organized labor. He was a man of great compassion, who saw no conflict between his liberal social and political activism and his deep Roman Catholic beliefs. It was all about compromise and common ground. And if only a bit more of that wisdom could be followed today.
He was a Navy veteran, and loved sailing and "The Shore". Maybe some of that love of the sea came from his Danish.....and German-Danish.....ancestry. Both of his grandparents families lived on the coasts of Denmark and what is now Germany. And I recall a strange irony- Dad would often talk about how great a day he and Mom had while crossing northern Germany via the Kiel Canal in the late 1990's. But he never knew- and nor did I know- that the birthplace of his maternal great grandmother Ane Christine Ohms was less than a half hour away from Kiel, in Eckernforde . He was 27.7 kilometers away from where part of his history began. If he only knew.
Dad got into genealogy late in life, but tried to do it the old fashioned way, using records from the county or state or church, and occasionally co-opting my sister in law to do some online research. Regrettably I got in the genealogy game late. And I should have done more earlier on.
One bit of family history Dad did uncover was an eye opener. The family records showed his mother having six siblings, seven Leahys in all. But Dad discovered three more from old county records.....three more boys, all of whom died in infancy.
The youngest of the three babies was Raymond Leahy, who died shortly after birth in September, 1904. This little uncle was the one my father was named for.
Remembering you Dad. And both Grandpas as well.