Benjamin Franklin Derk: A Life Cut Short

Benjamin Franklin Derk was born on January 1, 1907 in the small village of Trevorton, nestled in central Pennsylvania’s coal region. Benjamin was the third child of Benjamin Franklin Derk (1879-1950) and Anna Laura Morgan, both born in Trevorton. Young Benjamin Franklin came from a family that appears to have favored this name as at least five of his relatives and ancestors also shared the popular family name. From a young age, Benjamin would be known as Frank; at times, he would go by Frank Morgan Derk, incorporating his mother’s maiden name along with his father’s surname (possibly to differentiate him from other relatives sharing his name).

From his boyhood, Frank excelled at both academic and athletic endeavors. During his years as a student in Trevorton schools, Frank participated in every sport available to him, and he captained the school’s baseball, basketball, and football teams during his high school years. Frank graduated as class valedictorian from Trevorton High School in 1925, having received a state certificate of commendation for his perfect attendance through twelve years of education. Frank’s high scholastic standing won him a scholarship to Dickinson Seminary in Williamsport, Pa. where he continued his educational career for one year before entering Penn State College for a pre-medical course; Frank aspired to become a physician and surgeon.

DerkBF_1926 DickinsonSeminary

The Dart: 1926 – Dickinson Seminary, Williamsport, Pa.

Continuing the same high scholarly standards at Penn State that Frank had demonstrated through his previous thirteen years of schooling, Frank earned election into pre-medical honors fraternity Alpha Pi Mu, Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, and had been active in Penn State athletics. Upon Frank’s graduation from Penn State in June 1929, he returned to Trevorton to spend a couple days visiting family and friends. Following this short visit, Frank left for Philadelphia for an appointment with the dean of Jefferson Medical College to enroll as a medical student. Of the more than 2,000 men and women vying for enrollment with the next class, Frank was among the 160 who received enrollment for the upcoming fall term.

Immediately following his trip to Philadelphia, Frank proceeded to Lake Wallenpaupack, in the Pocono Mountains, to begin his summer work as a counselor at Camp Pocono, a Boy Scout camp. Frank, along with college friend Sam Curry, were at the start of their second year working at this camp; both were licensed American Red Cross lifeguards, expert swimmers, and swimming instructors. On June 29, 1929, a few days after their arrival at camp, Frank and Sam rigged sails to a canoe and set out for an enjoyable sail around Lake Wallenpaupack, which is 18 miles long and 3 miles wide. A short time after beginning their adventure, winds picked up and they were presented with waves reaching 5 to 6 feet in height. After managing the sails for some time, a sudden powerful wind caused their craft to capsize and throw them from the vessel. Quickly grabbing on to the overturned craft, they realized they would have to swim for shore, which was a mile and a half in either direction. The young men took off with Sam in the lead and Frank, being the stronger swimmer, following behind. Sam turned to check on Frank when they were about seventy-five feet from shore, Frank responded that he was alright. When Sam finally reached the beach, he turned to greet Frank, but he was no where in sight. Sam waited, but Frank did not surface. Being in a somewhat remote part of the lake, Sam ran a quarter-mile before finding a boat house in which he was able to summon men to man a boat to search for his friend. And search they did. Campers, counselors, locals, professional divers as far away as New York, residents of Shamokin and Trevorton, and family and friends all searched for Frank. Although the organized search for Frank’s remains were abandoned by July 8, a general watch was maintained and on the morning of July 15, 1929, the recovery was made by local pioneer resident Joseph Spindler. The Derk family finally had mental relief as they would now be able to bury Frank’s mortal remains with proper religious services. Born Benjamin Franklin Derk, Frank Morgan Derk was buried on July 18, 1929 in the family lot at Odd Fellows Cemetery, Coal Township, Pa.


*The life of Benjamin Franklin Derk was pieced together from records accessed through, as well as news articles published in the Mount Carmel Item and Shamokin News-Dispatch.


52 Ancestors: #1 George Rudolph Nahodil


I was reading through my normal blogs yesterday when something caught my eye…”52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”.  So I headed over to Amy Johnson Crow’s site at to read more about her challenge for 2014.  One blog post for a specific ancestor each week… I should be able to swing once a week even with the upcoming move.


Since my Pop was always my favorite, it seems fitting that he should be my number 1 post.  My grandfather, George Rudolph Nahodil, was an amazing man.  He was a family man.  He was a hard working man.  He was a caring man.  He was a funny man.


Rudy, as George was known by his entire life, had a great sense of humor.  I imagine it must have started as a young boy as he listed his occupation as an “Actor” on his World War II enlistment record in 1942 when he was just 19 years of age (or so he claimed); Rudy’s actual occupation was as a laborer in the anthracite coal mines of central Pennsylvania.

George Rudolph Nahodil - a sampling of the ears

George Rudolph Nahodil – a sampling of the ears

The Nahodil family was blessed with big, beautiful (uh, did I really just say that?) ears.  The ears of the earlier generations were so distinctive that you could pick a Nahodil our in a crowd without even knowing him.  While my actor grandfather was overseas in the military, he must have spent his downtime perfecting his signature move known as the ear wiggle.  He loved to perform this move for us kids, especially when other adults were around but not looking…we broke out in giggle fits every time.  We all wanted to learn this skill and spent a great deal of time practicing but nobody has ever done it as well as Rudy; I’ll turn 40 next week and still catch myself “practicing”.


Rudy was the consummate joker and all people and places were fair game.  Dragging his leg behind him as a zombie might was not uncommon while out shopping with the kids and other adults.  This was hysterical when I was a child but I now I cannot help but think of how mortified his wife must have been…still makes me chuckle.

Rudy - This was not Halloween.

Just another day in the Nahodil home.

Ancestor’s Anniversary – August 24, 2013 – Laura Belle (Wetzel) Klinger

Laura Belle Wetzel was born in Trevorton, Pa. on August 24, 1870, daughter of Henry and Catherine (Kissinger) Wetzel whose children were as follows: Nelson, Laura (married Landis Klinger), Harriet (married Charles Murray), Carrie, Howard, Weimer, Harry, Mildred (married Frank Evans followed by William Patterson) and Grant (died young).


Laura gave birth to her first child, Ada Mae, on November 19, 1891; this first child was born illegitimate and the father’s name kept a secret and remained unknown to the family until 2012 when baptism records were found showing the father to be a man named Richard Williams.


In 1900, Laura moved to Philadelphia and married Landis Klinger.  January 1, 1903 brought the birth and death of the couple’s first son, Russell.  In April of the following year, Laura gave birth to Landis and a year later to their son Ralph.


Laura (Wetzel) Klinger holding young Marlin Strausser (c.1909)

Laura (Wetzel) Klinger holding young Marlin Strausser (c.1909)

Upon moving to Philadelphia, Laura and Landis settled in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city and it is there that she lived in the same Gordon Street house for the next sixty-five years.


Laura was very close to her younger brother Howard so the siblings always made sure to get together to celebrate their birthdays, which were a day apart.  The pair continued to celebrate their birthdays together up to and including when Howard passed away during their annual birthday gathering in 1957.


Howard Wetzel and Laura (Wetzel) Klinger celebrating their birthdays together

Howard Wetzel and Laura (Wetzel) Klinger celebrating their birthdays together

Not only was Laura close with her brother Howard but also his youngest son Royal.  Royal grew up spending much time with his aunt, including spending summers with her and her family in Philadelphia.


Ralph Wetzel, Lillian (Murray) DeConcini, Elizabeth (Osman) Wetzel, Royal Wetzel, Laura (Wetzel) Klinger, Landis Klinger Sr, Howard Wetzel

Ralph Wetzel, Lillian (Murray) DeConcini, Elizabeth (Osman) Wetzel, Royal Wetzel, Laura (Wetzel) Klinger, Landis Klinger Sr, Howard Wetzel

On January 8, 1965 Laura died and was buried with her husband Landis and son Ralph at Whitemarsh Memorial Park.  Laura is now buried with her husband, three of her children, and two of her grandchildren; one day she will be joined by a great grandchild who was born a decade too late but loves her none the less.

August 18, 2013: Ancestor’s Anniversary – Claude Benjamin Lynn

Claude Benjamin Lynn, one of eleven children born to George Washington Lynn and Harriet Fry, was born October 16, 1893 in Tamaqua, PA.  On June 30, 1894, Harriet sponsored her son’s baptism at ZionEvangelicalLutheranChurch in Tamaqua.


By 1900, George Lynn’s career as a Railroad Engineer had taken the family to CoalTownship in Northumberland County, PA.  We can see in the 1900 Federal Census that Claude was attending school but at the age of 6 was not yet able to read or write.


Like so many others before him, Claude left school before 1910 and had taken to the work force to help support his family as well as save enough so he would one day be able to have his own home and family.  The 1910 census only shows that he was a laborer working odd jobs; I cannot help but wonder if he was following the family professional on the railroad or was he doing some other type of odd job.  Five years later Claude appears as a laborer in the Shamokin city directory; he is still living at home with his parents.


On June 3, 1917 Claude completed his World War I Draft Registration.  Looking at this document, you’ll notice that he listed his year of birth as 1892 instead of 1893 as listed on his baptism record; you’ll also see that he listed his place of birth as Shamokin, PA which, again, is different than recorded at his baptism.  The most interesting piece of information gathered from his registration is that he has noted that he is physically disabled and refers the Draft Board to his physician Dr. A. S. Jones of Shamokin.  What physical disability did Claude have, how sever was it, and how long had it affected his life?


Claude Lynn died on August 18, 1917 at the age of 23; cause of death is listed as Pulmonary Hemorrhage due to Pulmonary Tuberculosis.  Was this the physical disability Claude previously mentioned?  Claude was buried in this family’s lot on the 21st of August.


The August 21, 1917 edition of the Mount Carmel Item includes the following article:


Hemmorrhage Caused Death

Seized with hemorrhages at Independence and Orange streets, Shamokin, Claude Lynn, Shamokin.  Reading railroad engineer, died less than a half hour later.

August 9, 2013: Ancestor’s (100th) Anniversary – Thelma (Strausser) Rothman


Thelma Strausser, the second of seven children born to George and Ada Mae (Wetzel) Strausser,  was born August 9, 1913 in Trevorton, PA.  Within  a few short years of her birth, her family moved to neighboring Coal Township.  Thelma’s father George was killed in a mining accident when Thelma was just 13 years of age.


Aside from the mines that took the life of the head of the family, there were few options for employment so the family decided to relocate to Philadelphia.  Not only did this move provide more opportunities, but it also moved them to the same neighborhood as Thelma’s grandmother Laura and her family.


Thelma married notorious police figure and numbers runner Max Rothman around 1933 and by 1934 they had their first son, Clair A. Rothman.  A year later came their second son George and in 1939 they gave birth to their daughter Maxine.


By 1940 the Rothman family was living in Upper Darby.  Tens years later they were living in Millbourne, which is a neighboring community of Upper Darby.  I have spoken to an elderly cousin who remembers Thelma and told me stories of taking trips in Thelma’s convertible down to the Rothman’s shore home at the Jersey shore.  From pictures I have seen and people I have talked with I, hear over and over again that Thelma was a physically stunning woman who women tried to emulate.


Thelma went missing in the early morning hour of April 11, 1951; her car was found later that same morning on the Strawberry Mansion Bridge.  The Philadelphia Police searched the area and Fairmount Park guards dragged the Schuylkill River without success.  On April 26, Thelma’s body was found floating in the Schuylkill River five miles from where her car was found.


Official date of death is April, 26, 1951; cause of death is drowning; age 37 years.

Sunday’s Obituary – Landis Klinger



Obituary for Landis Klinger JR as published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on 06/07/1970.

Obituary for Landis Klinger JR as published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on 06/07/1970.

LANDIS, JR., on June 4, 1970, of 3042 W. Gordon St., beloved son of the late Landis and Laura Klinger and brother of Mrs. Mae Strausser; also survived by 3 nieces and 3 nephews.  RElatives, friends and employes of PNB are invited to the service Monday, 1 P.M., from the parlors of Harold B. Mulligan, 1119 W. Lehigh ave.  Int. Whitemarsh Memorial Park, Friends are invited Sunday eve., 7 to 9.


Landis was born on April 18, 1904 to Landis and Laura (Wetzel) Klinger.  Born in Philadelphia, he lived in the same house in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city throughout his entire life. Landis’ father died in 1941, his mother in 1965 and his younger brother Ralph died in 1962.  Mae (Wetzel) Strausser was Landis’ step sister, they had different fathers.


Landis never married or had children and he was a banker for at least forty years.  I wish I could include his photograph in this post but I have not yet found one as he seemed to always be the person taking the pictures.


Whitemarsh Memorial Park, Ambler, PA.

Whitemarsh Memorial Park, Ambler, PA.

Wordless Wednesday is Ancestor’s Anniversary – Mr. and Mrs. Fred Nahodil’s wedding anniversary

40th wedding celebration announcement published in the Shamokin Citizen on June 2, 1960. Today is the 93rd anniversary of their marriage.

40th wedding celebration announcement for Frederick Nahodil and Flossie Irene Lynn published in the Shamokin Citizen on June 2, 1960.
Today is the 93rd anniversary of their marriage.

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