Friday, March 15, 2013

So Quickly Gone

Palo Alto California resident and businessman Leon Samuel Bean at 48 years circa 1910
Relocating Leon Bean’s grave in San Jose two weeks ago may have been a quick victory for me, but the discovery must have set something in motion in my subconscious that only poked me awake the other night: the realization that Leon was sixty six when he passed away.

Oh, I know what people say about preceding generations: that we are living so much longer now than people had before. So sixty six years, for that era, shouldn’t have been an unusual point of passage.

True. But put it in perspective. At the point of his death in 1928, his oldest child was thirty seven. The twins were thirty two. The oldest of Leon’s two grandsons had just turned seven.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard a number of acquaintances in their sixties worry about taking care of their parents. We’re talking moms and dads in their eighties and nineties.

While I’ll admit our twenty-first century world is vastly different from that of the 1920s, there was something about that age that caught my eye.

Then, when I found the transcribed excerpt from his hometown newspaper’s report of Leon’s death—in the Redwood City Standard three days after his passing on November 12—I found another detail that demanded my attention: this working man succumbed to an acute illness lasting only a few days.

How quickly things can change for a person.

While I’m grateful to have found a copy of that local report, thanks to the transcription from the Schellens Collection in the San Mateo County Genealogical Society’s holdings, I’ve found one detail that not only irks me, but demands a return visit: that nasty though convenient device known as the ellipsis.

You’ll see in the copy I’ve added below that the tale is not fully told in Mr. Schellens’ version, for in two places, he has inserted the dot-dot-dot that signifies something has been omitted.

Has it been omitted? Or did the transcriber inadvertently insert some extra punctuation where spaces should instead have been used? How can I tell, unless I locate the original? And where else would a Redwood City newspaper original be, besides back in Redwood City?

Oh, I knew I liked it there too much…
Leon S. Bean, former well-known resident of Redwood City, passed away in San Jose at midnight Monday following an illness of only a few days. Death was caused by an acute attack of appendicitis. Mr. Bean was in the building contracting business in this city and in Palo Alto for many years and a large number of the business structures and residences of this part of the county were erected by him. He moved to San Jose about three years ago to take charge of the mill work of a large lumber concern of that city.... He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Emma Bean, and three children, Mrs. Leona Grant of San Francisco; William Bean of Fresno; and Samuel Bean of Boston, Mass. A sister, Mrs. H. G. Watrous of San Francisco, also survives. He was 66 years of age.... Interment will be in Oak Hill Cemetery, San Jose.


  1. I'm sure that while some people still die of acute attack of appendicitis - that number has become very small in the past 50 years - as has death by a slew of other causes (like TB). Hopefully those in the aging population have a quality of live that allows them to enjoy the sunrise and set each day.

    1. It's true that we've come a long way, Iggy. I'm not sure why, but it just surprises me to read that someone of that age succumbed to something we'd consider an easy fix nowadays. When you think of it, though, there are so many diseases we no longer consider as threatening as they used to be seen. Now, if only we could add heart disease, cancer and the other plagues of modern life to that list...

  2. Is it possible that the transcriber found something that was illegible? If anyone can find out, you surely can!

    1. Well, Linda, first step will be to check out the San Jose newspaper's version, if I can't get my hands on the original Redwood City report.

  3. I like to use lets me type faster. My guess is that it couldn't be read..a smear maybe. Make a list of everything you want to get this time. 66 is not very old..I used to think so but not so much anymore:)

    1. It's funny, Far Side: sixty six gets younger sounding every day!

  4. Yikes! I thought there was a law against transcribers using ellipses . . . we'll have to ask Judy Russell . . . You really convey the excitement of the hunt!


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