Tombstone Tuesday – John Connor

John A. Connor was my 2nd great grand uncle, and the husband of Anna E Lowry. Anna was one of Michael Lowry’s (1830 – 1928) daughters. John was born in 1858 in Ireland and arrived through New York City on 11 Nov 1873. He married Anna in 1875 and they lived the remainder of their lives in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Together they had seven children. John died in 1907 and is buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery in New Castle. 

Tombstone Tuesday – Martin and Elizabeth Witt

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…

In Mount Carmel Cemetery in Verona, Pennsylvania is the headstone of my third great grandparents, Martin and Elizabeth Kreher Witt. Martin was born in 1830 in Gernsheim, Gross-Gerau, Hessen, Germany and arrived in the United States when he was just two years old. His wife Elizabeth Kreher was born in Herman, Butler, Pennsylvania in 1840. Finding Herman took some doing as today it’s nothing more than the intersection of Herman Road and Bonniebrook Road. Aside from the volunteer fire department, a convenience store, cemetery and school, you wouldn’t think much of it. The Witt’s spent most of their lives in western Pennsylvania and their final years in Pittsburgh.

Mary Mathewson photo, from Find A
I can’t in the least take credit for this image. As I’ve mentioned before, the genealogy community is awesome in that sometimes total strangers offer something great that you couldn’t retrieve yourself. In this case, I posted a request on (yes, that’s a real site – with 107 MILLION grave records) for someone to post a photo of the headstone for Martin and Elizabeth. A few months later, Mary Mathewson posted this photo. A quick email exchange and we discovered we are researching the same ancestors and shared information and family photos. It’s this kind of sharing and collaboration that make genealogy so much fun!

Find A Grave, Inc. Find A, digital images ( accessed 15 October 2013), photograph, gravestone for Martin (1830 – 1921) and Elizabeth (1840 – 1930) Witt, Verona, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

Memorial Day 2013 – A Visit to Calvary Cemetery

I took some time out this Memorial Day to visit Calvary Cemetery in Youngstown, Ohio. Calvary is the ‘home’ cemetery, and countless relatives are buried there. My Lowry great grandparents and grandparents’ graves are just inside the gate in Section 55, so they were first stop. Last year or so, my aunts planted several Hosta plants, which have grown nicely around the grave.

My aunt Chris and I were just talking yesterday that there was no flag on my grandfather’s grave, and I confirmed that today. A quick visit to the cemetery office, which was open on Memorial Day to handle the crowds, rectified that situation. Chuck served in D Company, 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division during World War II, and was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the Battle for Brest, France. He took home part of a German grenade in his leg as a souvenir. You can read more about his military service on my other blog, The Wartime Letters of Private Charles Lowry, U.S. Army.
After leaving my grandparents, I wandered over to my grandpa Howard Witt’s grave. It was harder to find than I remembered, so I made a second visit to the cemetery office. He’s buried in Section 47, Lot 552, Grave 2, directly behind my aunt Renee Witt and her dad, John Santorilla. I was probably about 10 feet away the first time I went, but found it immediately after I stopped by the office. Howard’ grave also lacked a flag. Another trip to the cemetery office, a chat with the clerk about coming back to Youngstown, and back to the grave I went. At all the graves, I spent a few minutes of cleaning grass clippings, wandering around to read the other names before it was off to find my great grandpa and grandma Witt in Section 45.

My great grandparents Francis and Helen Witt are buried together with their daughter, my great aunt Helen Witt. I was fortunate to know two of my great grandparents, and Francis was one of them. He was always sitting in his recliner in his house on Osborne Ave when we walked in, would point his cane at me and say, ‘Hey, I know you!”. I’m sure he did, but with probably 40 great grandkids by the time he died, he just wasn’t quite sure of my name! When his daughter, my great aunt Helen, passed away in 2009, she was cremated and her remains are buried above her moms. She has a flower vase in her memory.

Next time I go, I’ll have to better prepare. Some basic gardening tools would have helped clear the grave markers a little better. There were a few older graves to the left of my Witt great grandparents that are almost completely lost to Mother Nature. A quick sprucing would save them from disappearing under the grass. I’ll add this to the list of things to do when I’m home this summer.

Tombstone Tuesday – Elmer Pepperney – Veteran’s Day Edition

Elmer Pepperney was 21 years old and apprenticed to be a plumber when he enlisted in the Army on 18 November 1942. He was the son of Andrew Bernard and Lena Reiber Pepperney, and with his sisters Savilla and Norma, they lived in the Troy Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Elmer completed schooling through 7th grade before having to leave to learn a trade.
After going through boot camp, Elmer was assigned to Easy Company, 394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division. The 99th Infantry Division was involved in some of the heaviest yet least reported fighting of the Battle of the Bulge. While officially the nickname of the 99th was the ‘Checkboard Division,’ they were called the ‘Battle Babies’ because of their inexperience in combat.
On 18 December 1944, Easy Company found itself at the center of an attack in the area of Elsenborn, Belgium. Elsenborn was on the northern flank of the German offensive, a last-ditch effort to stop the Allied advance and push them back into France.  The lines were incredibly thin against the 277th Volksgrenadier Division and 12th SS Panzer Division, with only one fighting man for every 300 feet of ground.
Pvt. Jerome Nelson was in Elmer’s company and tells the story of his final engagement:
There are, no doubt, many stories about various units that participated in the Bulge that no historian has ever written, only the surviving veterans will remember them. I am sure the story of Company E is not much different or unique than others.
Company E was part of the lost battalion that held the line for 60 hours. Companies on each flank were heavily hit, especially B Company.
Enemy small arms fire kept us well occupied. It knocked out our BAR, another round ricocheting off BAR Sgt. Sandridge’s helmet, leaving him speechless. Pfc. Stanley Krol was feeding his mortar non-stop. Platoon T/Sgt. Wallace called for artillery fire on our own positions, both received citations.
To make matters worse, we had to physically constrain our battalion commander, who was determined to surrender. He later was relieved of command.
In the meantime, our planes (three) began a strafing run on the enemy and one crashed 75 yards to our front. Enemy patrols did get through our thinly held line and captured about six men.
Later we fought our way into Murringen but were ineffective because of fog and disorganized German units with their continuous shoutings. All this time we had no idea what was going on elsewhere and thought it was only a local fight.
After nearly three days defending our position, hungry, sleepless and totally exhausted, we began a withdrawal. Capt. McGee, S-2, would lead the column, including stragglers, to Rocherath, Elsenborn. What happened next was pure hell!
Friendly fire from our 155s was called to cover our exit from any German pursuit. The rounds fell short, decimating many troops on that dark December night.
There are no words to describe the carnage, chaos and mass confusion. There was no escape. Moans from the dying filled the night. John Smith (Smitty) and I were rear guard and we stumbled over the men. Because of our injuries we remained with these casualties. The next morning we were hurt by more fire before we miraculously limped cross country to Rocherath. We had no idea where we were. How we made the one-and-one-half-mile walk alive, I will never know.
In 12 days we sustained 87 casualties. Those KIA that night were Austin Burdick, Victor Carpenter, Rupert Harper, Peter Hubiak, Paul Kelly, John Klein, Forest Liston, Robert McNeil, Thomas Olds, Elmer Pepperney, Everet Pierce, Peter Raguckas and John Ryan. Herman Beck, Ewing Fidler and Raymond Sutton had been KIA earlier.
I have the official morning reports.The video, “Return to the Ardennes,” by Dick Byers narrates this action.
I would like to give a proud salute to these courageous men for their sacrifice – only remembered best by those who were there. Except for a Purple Heart, these men never received any awards. Many historians fabricate reports of the snow and cold. There was no snow in our area. I have friends who were at St. Vith, Bastogne and other areas and they tell me there was no snow. It came about a week later.”
Elmer is buried at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, alongside 153 other members of the 394th Infantry Regiment and 7,991 other service members killed during World War II.
His grave is located at Plot B, Row 2, Grave 38.
“The Untold Story of E/394.” Checkerboard. 99th Infantry Division Association. Web. 7 Nov 2012. <>

1940 U.S. Federal Census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Pittsburgh, Enumeration District 69-692, Sheet 3B, Household 56, Andrew B. Pepperney; digital image, ( : accessed 12 November 2012), citing National Archives microfilm publication T627, Roll 3673.

“Elsenborn Ridge,” Wikipedia. Web. 12 Nov 2012. <>

“99th Infantry Division (United States),” Wikipedia. Web 12 Nov 2012 <>