In 1906, after Charlie’s return from Ireland and before his grandmother’s death, Charlie’s mother Bridget Chambers Sherlock remarried after being a widow for 5 years. Bridget married Joseph Francis Gary, a man who was 13 years her junior and who worked as a laborer at the Pipe Company.
Charles’ death of his maternal grandmother in February 2, 1908 was only the beginning of more tragic times for Charlie (who was also known as Zola) and his family. A mere six weeks later, Charlie’s older brother Edmund Bernard Sherlock died on 14 March 1908 at the age of 10 years old after suffering from acute bronchitis for only one day and from weeklong cold. Edmund was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day.
A few months after Edmund’s death, Charlie’s mother Bridget got pregnant – whether it was purposely done to wipe away the grief of Edmund’s death, whether she thought Charlie needed a sibling or whether she wanted to have a child with her husband Joseph, no one will ever know. Bridget gave birth to a daughter, Anna Margrette Gary, on February 13, 1909. I am sure it must have been a wonderful Valentine’s Day that year for the entire family. The joy was short-lived however, due to the death of baby Anna almost 7 months later on September 6, 1909. Poor baby Anna died of infantile atrophy and inanition due to gastroenteritis.
At this point, you may be wondering when would Charlie and his family’s luck change. The luck of the Irish was definitely not on their side! Is there more heartbreak in store for Charlie, Bridget and Joseph? Well, three years later, Bridget would give birth once again in the month of February – this time on February 29th, 1912. Joseph Thomas Gary was a leap year and day baby. I remember how Grandpa Charlie always made a big deal of Uncle Joe being born on February 29th and how in 1964, Uncle Joe had only celebrated 13 birthdays when he was really 52 years old. Uncle Joe is sitting in the front row in the center in the above photo.
After discovering the story of Grandpa Charlie’s childhood, I felt like I finally understood him. He was always a tough guy with lots of wild stories, but now I understood that he was a SURVIVOR. How does one carry on with their life when almost everyone you know dies around you? Does it make you think that you must be special – that there is some specific reason why you are alive and your brothers and sister and father aren’t?