Alexander L. “Alex” Dupke
21 August 1893 – 24 July 1915
The Eastland, one of five chartered excursion boats meant to ferry employees, their families and friends from Chicago over to the Michigan City shore for the annual Western Electric Company picnic, keeled over into the Chicago River while still at dock, trapping hundreds inside its hull and leading to the deaths of 844 of the 2,500 passengers aboard at the time of the incident which became known as The Eastland Disaster.
Alex was the youngest of six children (four surviving to adulthood) born to Emilie (Trapp) and August Dupke. His siblings were Louise (1882), Bertha (1886), and Minnie (1891). Emilie and August both had immigrated to the US with their families when they were in their early teens. They married in 1881 when both were in their early twenties.
Louise married in 1901, but the rest of the family were still living together in 1910. Oddly, Louise (as Lizzie) was listed as living with her parents that year, too, and as widowed, but she was also listed with her husband on the same census. As her husband didn’t pass for many more years, this is a very odd. I can’t imagine what happened there – perhaps she was visiting when the census taker came by and confusion ensued; perhaps it was a boarder or cousin mis-identified as a daughter.
1911 was an eventful and bittersweet year for the family. August died in January; Bertha married in July, and youngest Minnie married in November, but her husband was Irish Catholic and Minnie converted and changed her name to Mary which, especially at that time, was probably a difficult change to process, though the family seems to have stayed close.
This left Emelia and Alex alone in their own household. In 1910, Alex had been working in the Auto Bus industry, but in early 1914, he got a job at Western Electric as an assembler. His obituary stated that he was the “only support of his aged mother,” and it seems this was true. I found no probate record for him, and the Western Electric documents indicate that only funeral expenses and a small cash relief payment were offered. In 1920, Emelia was living with Bertha (Wensley) and her husband Earl. They had no children, and sadly Bertha died in 1928.
In 1930, Emelia had moved in with Louise (Beiner) and her husband William. He died in 1933, and Emelia died three years later in 1936. Louise and William also had no children.
Mary and her husband James Patrick McFarland had two children: daughter Florence and son, James Patrick Jr. James Sr died in 1939, and on the 1940 census, Mary and James Jr were living in Maywood. Florence had taken Holy Orders and the name Sister Mary Ferrer, and was at St. Francis Xavier in the city and attending college.
Later in 1940, James Jr filled out his draft card, indicating he worked at Western Electric. This was both before the US entered the war, but it’s clear he didn’t sign up immediately after December 7th either, as many did. His headstone application seems to indicate that he was called up in a replacement draft in June of 1944, just days after D-Day. Sadly, he did not survive his service, dying at Iwo Jima less than a year later, in March 1945. He had married a woman named AnneMarie at some point between 1940 and 1944, but his obituary mentions no children.
Louise died in 1959, having remarried only a few years before. Her obituary mentions her sister Bertha but not Alex which I find a bit sad, but she had been more than ten years older than him and had married and moved out when he was not yet 10 years old, so perhaps there just wasn’t the same sense of closeness that was likely shared between the three close-in-age older sisters.
Mary lived many more years, passing away in 1978. Her daughter, Sister Mary Ferrer, became a mathematics professor and was mentioned in the newspaper from time to time as an authority on education and mathematics. She even appeared on WTTW (PBS Chicago) discussing her subjects. When Sister Mary Ferrer died in 1991, she was buried with her parents and brother at All Saints Catholic Cemetery, the last direct descendant of August and Emelia.
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