Bob Buckley for The Examiner: Not Every Story Has a Happy Ending

Bob Buckley, partner at White, Graham, Buckley & Carr, is a regular columnist for The Examiner of East Jackson County. In his latest column, Buckley discusses his recent genealogy research projects and a somber story he found while researching a relative.

The article, Not Every Story Has a Happy Ending, was published in the March 22 edition of The Examiner. An excerpt from the article is below.

My uncle on my father’s side of the family died in Cape Girardeau on April 3, 1936. He was 15 years old. The death certificate says that he died of pneumococcal meningitis. Almost 84 years later, this disease is still a very serious disease that can cause death, even with treatment.

Meningitis is an infection and inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are the membranes that cover your spinal cord and your brain. It is estimated that up to 40 percent of the population may carry the bacteria that causes this hideous disease. However, it’s dormant in most cases; few develop the disease. Even with speedy diagnosis and treatment, one in five people who develop this condition will die, according to the Meningitis Foundation of America. In addition, 25 to 50 percent of those who contract the disease will have long-term health issues.

I was named after my uncle and my grandfather, both named Charles. Charles is my first name, but I have been known by middle name all my life, although my sister affectionately calls me Chuck. I feel cheated not knowing my grandparents on my dad’s side of the family. I have been on a genealogy kick lately and have discovered many things about my family that I never knew.

I wrote my last column about my great grandfather who was a lawyer in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I had always heard that my grandmother’s father was also an attorney and I was able to find his death certificate last week on I learned that he died in 1940. He and my great-grandmother were divorced, and he died in Mineral Wells, Texas, an hour west of Fort Worth, of a blood clot. The death certificate says he was an attorney for an oil company.

My grandmother and father never talked about her father and so I knew very little about him. The only story I ever heard about my grandmother’s younger years was when she was attending Stephens College in Columbia. Apparently, she was struggling for some reason and the president of the college took her out riding horses. I never discussed her father with her or my father. Divorce was not common in the early days of the 20th century and so the divorce of my great grandparents may have been somewhat scandalous and very painful. They were both from the area around Louisiana, Missouri and so the reasons may have been buried in a court file. Those who would know are now gone. We are now left to the wide reaches of the internet to find out what we can about previous generations.

What I do know is that my grandmother, who we called “Muz,” had a lot of tragedy in her life. Her son died in 1936, her father in 1940 and her husband in 1945. My grandfather’s death certificate says that he died of “coronary thrombosis” due to “arterial hypotension.” He was 47. The death certificate said that he had hypertension for 10 years. Hypertension is now a treatable disease and if blood pressure medications had been available in the years after World War II, I may have been able sit on Grandpa’s lap and hear stories about his days at Mizzou and as a captain in World War I.