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Robert L. Burgoyne


Robert L. Burgoyne was born on Aug. 30, 1840 (or 1841 or 1844) near Zanesville, Muskingum County, OH, the son of James and Mary (Miner) Burgoyne.

Unmarried at the age of 20, in 1860, he boarded with his married brother Evan in Catlin, Vermilion County, IL and furnished farm labor. He stood 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighed from 145 lbs. to 155 lbs. over the years. His complexion was fair, his hair light and eyes blue. Among his friends in young manhood was Milton Lee of Rossville, Vermilion County.

After the eruption of the Civil War, Robert went to the town of Catlin on July 3, 1861 to join the Union Army. He was placed within the 35th Illinois Infantry, Company I. While on duty at Otterville in Missouri, in September 1861, Robert contracted typhoid fever and severe diarrhea. When the regiment was ordered to move elsewhere, he stayed behind, receiving medical treatment in a private home. Fellow soldier Alvin A. Taylor was ordered to remain with Robert, and provided nursing care. After about a month, one of his brothers arrived on the scene and took him back home on a furlough.

Reported Taylor: "He was very bad off, a mere skeleton when his brother started home with him." Once home, on or about Nov. 29, 1861, he was examined by Dr. John J. McElroy, and the care continued for several months.

Corinth, MS during the Civil War, showing the rail depot and Tishomingo Hotel - courtesy Library of Congress

Robert rejoined the 35th Illinois on April 1, 1862, with the regiment now posted at Corinth, MS. His diarrhea returned, and his health was still so poor that summer that he received a disability discharge from the Army. Arriving back at home once more, he was observed by friend Jesse Davis as "totaly incapacitated for the performance of manual labor and for several weeks after his return he was confined to his bed."

Robert's condition began to improve in the fall of 1863, getting strong enough to work from time to time. In the spring of 1864, he rented a tract of land and in July planted corn with the help of the owner's son Thomas A. Hughes. But in such poor physical condition, Robert knew he could not make a living as a farmer.

Instead, he accepted a position with Ethan C. Frost of Chicago as superintendent of a farm, working for Frost from Nov. 1, 1865 to 1877. The first assignment was in Richmond and Lafayette, IN, light duty that he could withstand given his still-emaciated frame. Then on Sept. 1, 1866, when Frost moved to Buffalo, NY, he invited Robert to join him there in the operation of a distillery, known as Buffalo Distillery Company. Robert first was taught how to make yeast and stayed with the company in Erie County, NY for the balance of his long life.


Buffalo's popular Washington Market

The light duty was manageable. Even so, recalled distillery bookkeeper Charles H. Frost, he experienced "loss of flesh and strength" and that "During the Summer his attacks would be most frequent."

He was united in holy matrimony with Katherine Mallon (1850- ? ), daughter of Daniel Mallon of Buffalo.

Robert and Katherine bore three daughters -- May "Margaret" Diller Adney, Genevieve Smith and Letitia G. Sweeney.

When the federal census enumeration was made in 1880, the family was in Buffalo with Robert's occupation given as "Distiller."

At the death of Katherine's father Daniel Mallon in April 1891, funeral services were held in the Burgoyne home.

Robert's nephew John L. Burgoyne -- son of his brother Evan -- also came to Buffalo at some point and stayed, possibly circa 1901.

Robert eventually was awarded a Civil War soldier's pension in May 1885 as compensation for his wartime ailments. In this regard, he received monthly government checks for the rest of his life. [Invalid App. #538.946 - Cert. #321.047] He is named in the 1883 book by Luther B. Hill, A History of the State of Oklahoma, Vol. 1.

Robert was a member of the C.M.B.A., William Richardson Post of the Grand Army of the Republic and Holy Name Society. Their address for many years was 502 West Avenue, and they were members of the Church of the Holy Angels Roman Catholic Church.

Sadness blanketed this family when Katherine passed away sometime before 1900.

The widowed Robert lived with his daughters Genevieve and Letitia in Buffalo's 23rd Ward in 1900. His occupation that year was listed as "compounder." His mailing address circa 1904 was 502 West Avenue in Buffalo.

Sometime in the early 1900s, Robert married again to Mary E. Reynolds ( ? -1904). The marriage was short lived, as she was cut away by the Grim Reaper on June 23, 1904. Funeral services were held in the Church of the Holy Angels, and an obituary was printed in the Buffalo Courier.

Robert survived his bride by 11 years. By 1910, he was named superintendent of the distillery, with an address that year of 86 Main Street. Socially he was a member of the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association, Holy Name Society and Richardson Post, Grand Army of the Republic

He died in Buffalo on May 10, 1915. An obituary in the Buffalo Enquirer reported that funeral services were held in his home and later in Holy Angels Church. The services were led by Rev. C.W. Webb, deacon Rev. J.C. Duffy and subdeacon Rev. C.J. Sloan. Interment was in Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna, Erie County. Reported the Buffalo Catholic Union and Times, "There was a large attendance at the funeral service. [Find-a-Grave]


~ Daughter May "Margaret" (Burgoyne) Diller Adney ~

Daughter May "Margaret" Burgoyne (1876-1967) was born on June 21 or July 21, 1876 in Buffalo.

On Sept. 13, 1899, in nuptials held at the Chapel of Holy Angels Church, the 23-year-old Margaret married Andrew Bailey Diller (March 1869- ? ) of New York City. The only attendants were her sister Genevieve and his friend George C. Knight. Reported the Buffalo Courier, "The bride wore a tailor-made gown of tan cloth, with a hat of the same shade." Andrew is said to have been a musical conductor and violinist, but at the time of marriage was employed as a deputy manager of the Equitable Life Insurance Company metropolitan district.

The couple's first home was at 689 East 136th Street in New York City and thence at 305 St. Anne Avenue in The Bronx.

Together, they produced two sons, Robert Francis Diller and Burgoyne Diller.

The marriage dissolved in 1904, with Andrew paying a New York lawyer to secure a divorce in New Mexico "without requiring Diller to go to New Mexico at all," reported the Buffalo News. "Diller said he paid the money and was notified later by the lawyer that he was free to marry some one else." There must have been some sort of reconcilitation as their younger son was born in January 1906. 

While the pair lived separately in the ensuing years, she did not pursue a divorce because he was Catholic. Margaret remained in Buffalo, at 502 West Avenue, and dispatched her elder son to live with her father.

Then in March 1906, Andrew wed again to Katharine Cullinan (1878- ? ) in nuptials held in Hoboken or Jersey City, NJ. They made a home at 511 West 146th Street in New York. In the eyes of the law, Andrew was now guilty of bigamy. But his secret held fast for several years until Katherine discovered the true facts. She contacted Margaret directly and then sought an annulment, hiring attorney Joseph M. Tallyhand to prosecute the case. 

Andrew was arrested and jailed in New York in the summer of 1912, and held for three months until he could be put on trial before the Supreme Court of New York. The Buffalo Times reported on the feel of the proceedings: 

It was cold and dark and dreary yesterday and clouds, widowweed like, hung with particular density over the County Court house [which] was as gloomy atmospherically as a dungeon next to a moat in a Rhenish castle, for in that chamber Justice Giegerich sat and heard the weird, rank tales of greed and lust and wrong incident to that state in life which Cupid is said to promote and cupidity to wreck. But though the skies were ashen and leaden, and the lawyers' faces mirrored the pall, there was hope in the guise of some score of would-be divorcees. Fresh from the Alimony Club appeared Andrew B. Diller, who was taken from the restful environments of Ludlow Street on a writ issued by Justice Giegerich. Diller, who was sent to jail on July 29th, is accused of having two wives. He wore no overcoat, but for warmth depended upon two pairs of trousers.

Both two wives were in court that day, and both identified Andrew as their husband. Katherine testified first, wearing "a smart blue walking suit, with a large black picture hat, adorned with a red rose." Oddly, she said that their marriage had taken place in March 1912, not March 1906. Margaret "was dressed in a modish morning gown and wore a large black satin hat trimmed with a tapering white ostrich plume fastened with a brilliant buckle." When the proceedings ended for the day, both glared at the defendant and both left the courthouse together. 

She married once again in early 1919 -- under the name "Mary B. Diller" -- to Adrian Adney ( ? -1972), with whom she was living at 68 Cottage Street, Buffalo. Circa 1920, they relocated to Battle Creek, MI where he was employed as an engineer and salesman with American-Marsh Pumps Inc. The family is known to have spent summers at a cottage at St. Mary's Lake.

Adrian also was an inventor and in 1941 received a patent for a high speed clutch which included 11 new, different ideas. He and Ben D. Barton and Harold A. Bentley also were granted a joint patent in 1940 for a duplex pump to be mounted on firetrucks to be operated by the vehicles' engines.  

Their final home together was at 9900 Assyria Road in Nashville, MI. She endured the death of her son Burgoyne in 1965, and evidence suggests that she may have been entirely estranged from her son Robert.

Margaret spent the final three years of her life as a patient in the Barry County Medical Facility near Hastings, MI. There, she died at the age of 91 on Dec. 1, 1967. In a short obituary, the Lansing State Journal named Adrian as her "only survivor," without any reference to her living son Robert. Interment was in Wilcox Cemetery in Maple Grove Township. Her name as inscribed on the face of her grave marker was "Mary B." Adney.

Adrian surrendered to the angel of death in a local nursing home in Nashville, MI at the age of 81 on Jan. 12, 1972. Burial was in Wilcox Cemetery. An obituary in the State Journal said "There are no immediate survivors." 

Son Robert Francis Diller (1900-1976) was born on or about Nov. 22, 1900 in The Bronx, New York City. At the age of nine, in 1910, after the dissolution of his parents' marriage, he lived with his grandfather Robert Burgoyne and unmarried aunt Genevieve Burgoyne in Buffalo but is known to have visited his mother's home in New York circa 1911. After the death of his grandfather and marriage of aunt Genevieve in 1915, he moved into the Buffalo residence of his married aunt and uncle, Letitia and Valentine Sweeney. He was schooled through the eighth grade. In young manhood he stood 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed 165 lbs. Robert joined the U.S. Marine Corps after the outbreak of World War I, serving from Oct. 24, 1918 to Sept. 24, 1919. His training posts included Parris Island, SC and Norfolk, VA with the 160th Company. Back home in 1920, at the age of 19, he earned income as a factory machinist. On Sept. 26, 1921, he entered into marriage with Anna Irene McIntyre/Dobbins (1899-1986), a resident of the Chicago area. Together, they bore a pair of daughters, Helen Diller and Dorothy Lorraine Diller. The federal census enumeration of 1930 shows the young family on 18th Avenue in Irvington, Essex County, NJ, with him employed as an inspector by an electrical company. By 1940, now in Kenmore, Erie County, NY, they dwelled in  rented housing at 148 Hamilton Boulevard, and he worked as chief inspector for the Kenmore plant of Curtiss-Wright Corporation's Airplane Division. During the World War II years, he was a quality manager at the Kenmore plant. Census records for 1950 list Robert, Irene and 31-year-old unmarried daughter Dorothy together in Kenmore, with him generating income as an assembly foreman at the plant and her as a file clerk with a hospitalization company. The Dillers spent winter vacations in Florida in the early 1960s, and eventually moved to Seminole County. Their address in the mid-1970s was 1219 Sideup Road in Maitland, Orange County, FL. Robert died there on Aug. 14, 1976. The remains were einterred in Glen Haven Memorial Park in Winter Park.

  • Granddaughter Helen Diller (1922-2003) was born on Feb. 22, 1922 in Newark, NJ. She wed Robert Oliver ( ? - ? ). Two sons borne of this union were Frank J. Oliver and Thomas R. Oliver. The Olivers relocated to Florida in 1960, and as of 1963 made a home in Florida in English Estates in the Orlando area. They held a membership in St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs, with Helen involved with its St. Theresa Circle. Sadly, Helen died on or about April 11, 2003. An obituary with her photograph was published in the Orlando Sentinel. Her funeral mass was held at the family church.

    Great-grandson Frank Joseph Oliver (1947-2010) was born in about 1947 in Buffalo, NY. Circa 1984,  he married Katherine Baker ( ? - ? ), daughter of Robert B. and Miriam H. Baker of Sanford, FL. Their union endured for 25 years until cleaved apart by death. Three offspring of this family were Sara Grace Oliver, Robert M. Oliver and Michael E. Oliver. Their initial residence was in Orlando and then in 1986 they moved to Yalaha, FL. Frank earned a living as owner of Oliver Productions, a general building contracting company, and held a membership in the Lake County Home Builders Association. He enjoyed following NASCAR stock car racing and liked to golf. Sadly, Frank died at the age of 62 on Jan. 14, 2010. His memorial service was held at Morrison United Methodist Church of Leesburg, FL. In an obituary in the Orlando Sentinel, the family asked that any memorial gifts be made to the church's Haiti relief fund. The heartache was compounded when their daughter Sara (Nov. 26, 1988-2015) -- a dental assistant with Heartland Dental in Lady Lake, living in Eustis, FL -- was diagnosed with malignant grayzone lymphoma. She died at the age of 26 on April 18, 2015. Frank and Katherine's son Robert made his dwelling-place in Deltona in 2015, and son Michael in Sorrento, FL. 

    Great-grandson Thomas R. Oliver ( ? -living) wed Melanie Becker ( ? - ? ), daughter of Anthony and Esther Marie Becker. They settled in Casselberry, FL as of 2003 and were in Melbourne, FL in 2010. 

  • Granddaughter Dorothy Lorraine Diller (1918?-1998) was born on July 7, 1918 in Chicago in her mother's home state of Illinois. She does not appear to have married. In 1950, in Kenmore, near Buffalo, NY, she dwelled with her parents and worked as a file clerk with a hospitalization company, and is known to have been a bookkeeper for Blue Cross-Blue Shield. Dorothy relocated to Central Florida in 1976 and stayed for good. She held a membership in St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church. Sadly, Dorothy died at the age of 80, on Christmas Eve 1998. Burial was in Glen Haven Memorial Park in Winter Park, FL, with an obituary appearing in the Orlando Sentinel
Biographies of Burgoyne Diller by Barbara Haskell (left, Abrams Inc., 1990) and Ina Prinz (Spanierman Modern, 2011) 

Son Burgoyne Diller (1906-1965) was born on Jan. 13, 1906 in New York City to parents were in the process of separating. He and his older brother were taken in by their grandfather Robert Burgoyne in Buffalo, and then at age 14 he moved to Battle Creek, MI with his mother and stepfather. He remained there during the rest of his formative years. He was given an athletic scholarship to Michigan State University in 1924. During that time he developed an interest in commercial artistry and in 1928 entered the Art Students League, wanting to delve into studying Paul Cezanne and the entire emerging body of work of post-impressionism. This genre of artistic expression, originating in France in the 1880s, was a counter-reaction to the then-prevailing sentiment for natural, realistic compositions of color and light. He also became fascinated with the spatial creations of the Dutch art movement known as "de Stijl" and the artist Piet Mondrian. On weekends, he hitch-hiked to the Windy City to see impressionist works at the Chicago Art Institute. A notebook he compiled during this period contained some 500 drawings. What emerged was painting and sculpture of squares and rectangles, arranged in vertical and horizontal combinations, in measured sizes and proportions, all in stability and harmony with each other. A newspaper once said he “is generally regarded as the first American painter who practiced geometric painting in the manner and spirit of Van Doesburg and Mondrian.” Another reviewer called his style an experimentation with abstract expressionism, cubism and constructivism. In later years his style was labeled "neo-plasticism."

Burgoyne was tapped to head the mural division of the Federal Art Project in New York City in 1935, serving for four years, and then in 1940 was named assistant technical director of the Works Progress Administration’s art programs in the Big Apple. Among the artists to whom he allocated assignments and became celebrities were Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky and Fernand Leger. Burgoyne became director of the WPA’s war service art section in New York, spanning 1941-1942, and then during World War II joined the U.S. Navy’s training aid development center. He joined the faculty of Brooklyn College after the war as a professor of design. Burgoyne held a membership in the American Abstract Artists, where he exhibited some of his creations. He also displayed his works in shows at the Pinacotheca Gallery in New York in the late 1940s and early 1950s and at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York in 1951 on the theme of “abstract painting and sculpture in America.” Circa 1960, he again showed his sculptures in the “Construction and Geometry in Painting” exhibit in New York at the Galerie Chalette and in Zurich, Switzerland at the Konkrete Kunst. When the “Sixth Bienal” art festival opened in Sao Paolo, Brazil in September 1961, his was among eight to be profiled in a related story in the New York Times. Reviews both pro and con were published in Art News and Arts in May 1961 and in The New Yorker of May 20, 1961. He captured the Ford Foundation purchase award in 1963 for his "First Theme" at an exhibit held at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC. He also exhibited in the 1964 Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture held at the Carnegie Museum of Art. 

Burgoyne was twice-wed. His first bride, in 1930, was Sarah "Sally" Bernadette Conboy ( ? -1954), who was employed in the classified advertising department of the New York Times. They maintained a residence and studio in Navensik, NJ. They remained together for 24 years until her death from the effects of alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver. A year later, in 1955, he was joined in marriage with Grace (Kelso) Lacrone (1910-1987), a Cincinnati native who was divorced from her first spouse. She brought three stepchildren into the union -- William C. LaCrone, Capt. Donald LaCrone and Suzanne Soper. They immediately moved to a new home and studio Atlantic Highlands, NJ. Further heartache shook their world when his studio flooded in 1959, with all of the artworks ruined that had been stored in the basement. In recognition of his importance, his works were added to the permanent collections of MOMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Newark Museum, the Society Anonyme,  New York University, Corcoran Gallery, New York University, Art Institute of Chicago and Metropolitan Museum of Art. When a proposed Monmouth Museum was in consideration for the town of Holmdel, he served as a consultant on the project. Sadly, after what Wikipedia calls years of cigarettes and alcohol, Burgoyne died on Jan. 30, 1965. An obituary was published in the Hackensack Record. Interment was in All Saints Memorial Church Cemetery in Navesink. Grace outlived her husband by 22 years and in about 1975 relocated to Orlando, FL. She passed away in Orlando on Nov. 30, 1987, with an obituary appearing in the Daily Register. The remains were brought back to New Jersey to rest aside Burgoyne's at All Saints.

In 1992, Burgoyne's stepson William C. LaCrone donated 1.5 linear feet of the artist's papers to the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. The material included letters, a notebook, annotated sketchbooks, newspaper clippings and hundreds of drawings. Another set of papers was given to the Archives in 2010 by Emma-Stina Prescott. 

  • Step-grandson William C. LaCrone is believed to be a 1953 graduate of Battle Creek Central High School and to have received a degree in education and business 1970 from Monmouth University. He made his home in Orlando, FL for decades, teaching marketing for 32 years at William R. Boone High School and retired in 2000. This included sponsorship of DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), preparing students for business careers. He is married and the father of two daughters. 
  • Step-grandson Capt. Donald LaCrone has dwelled in Orlando, FL. 
  • Step-granddaughter Suzanne LaCrone entered into marriage with (?) Soper. Circa 1987, she was in San Antonio, TX. 

 A Selection of Books About Burgoyne Diller

Burgoyne Diller, by Barbara Haskell. New York: Abrams Inc. for the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1990.
Burgoyne Diller: 1906-1965. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey State Museum, 1966. Exhibition catalog from Feb. 11, 1966 to April 3, 1966.
Burgoyne Diller: Drawing 1945 to 1964. New York: Andre Emmerich Gallery, 1984. Exhibition catalog from Feb. 9, 1984 to March 3, 1984. 
Burgoyne Diller: A Selection of Drawings from 1945 to 1961. Andre Emmerich Gallery. Exhibition catalog from Sept. 6, 1990 to Oct. 6, 1990.
Burgoyne Diller: Constructions, Related Drawings and Paintings by Harry Rand. Meredith Long & Co., 1980.
Burgoyne Diller: The Third Dimension: Sculpture and Drawings, 1930-1965, by Michael Rosenfeld. Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, 1998.
Burgoyne Diller: Pioneer of Minimalism, by Ina Prinz. New York: Spanier Modern, 2011.

~ Daughter Genevieve (Burgoyne) Smith ~

Daughter Genevieve Burgoyne (1878-1964) was born on March (?), 1878.

She chose to remain single for many years as long as her father was alive. They made a home together in Buffalo in 1910

Two months after the father died, Genevieve at age 37 tied the knot on July 7, 1915 with Frank J. Smith (1876-1967). Rev. W.J. Kirwin officiated, and Genevieve's married sister Letitia served as her maid of honor. News of the wedding was published in the Buffalo Catholic Union and Times

The couple did not reproduce. They made a home for decades in Buffalo and employed a live-in maid over that time.  

When the federal census enumeration was made in 1920, the Smiths dwelled in Buffalo, with Frank working as a packer in a local meat packing house.  

During the 1920s, their niece Catherine Sweeney came to live in their household. Frank remained in the meat packing business as of 1930.  Frank was promoted to vice president of the meat packing company and held this position in 1940, on the eve of World War II. He continued to hold an executive post with the meat business in 1950.

Their address in 1940 was in Grand Island, Erie County, NY and in the late 1940s into the mid-1960s was 200 Summer Street, Buffalo. He held memberships in the Buffalo Launch Club and the local lodge of the Elks.

Genevieve died on Dec. 15, 1964. An obituary in the Buffalo News listed her survivors as her husband as well as her sister Adrien Adney, niece Mrs. Walter F. Keller and nephew Robert Diller. Funeral rites were conducted in St. Joseph's New Cathedral.

Frank outlived his wife by nearly three years. Death swept him away in Buffalo on Aug. 21, 1967.  

~ Daughter Letitia Gertrude (Burgoyne) Sweeney ~

Daughter Letitia Gertrude Burgoyne (1883-1955) was born on Nov. 9, 1881 (or 1883) in Buffalo.

In about 1909, at the age of about 25, she wed Buffalo native Valentine V. "Val" Sweeney (1887-1926), son of John L. and Mary Jane (Smith) Sweeney.

The two known children born to this union were John Flynn "Jack" Sweeney and Katherine D. Keller. They also helped raised Letitia's nephew, Robert Francis Diller, and a niece, Cecilia Reichlmayr.

Prior to marriage, Valentine attended St. Joseph's College and then, in December 1904, at President Theodore Roosevelt's approval, was appointed to the U.S. Marine Corps as a lieutenant. He was assigned to the battleship New Jersey and was stationed in Cuba in March 1906. Reported the Buffalo Morning Express, Valentine "was among the five officers in charge of the detail that occupied Pinar del rio, the same station that was occupied by the 202d Regiment, part of which was mustered in in this city during the Spanish-American War. The lieutenant was present when General Pino Guerro marched in with his army and surrendered."

He then was transferred to Oklahoma City circa 1908 when he and Letitia petitioned their church to be married. The church then published a "banns of marriage" -- an old Catholic custom where one's minister made a public declaration of a couple'sintention to marry, announced both in the local parish church and in the church where the wedding was to occur. Letitia is known to have traveled to Oklahoma City to wed Velantine on Jan. 6, 1909, with the news printed in the Buffalo Catholic Union and Times.

After the completion of his military duty, the couple dwelled with Letitia's parents in Buffalo. Then in November 1911, they moved to 668 Humboldt Parkway and then by 1913 to 14 Auchinvole Place. He served circa 1913 as a Democratic committee man in Buffalo's Fifth District in Buffalo's 22nd Ward in 1913-1920, with Valentine earning a living as a Health Department inspector. He often was mentioned in news stories about tenement inspections involving difficult tenants.

Valentine was dismissed from his inspector job at the end of 1924 but was re-instated in March 1925 at a salary of $1,950. The family address in 1926 was 91 Eastwood Place.

Sadly, Valentine was stricken by a  heart attack and passed away three days later at home on Sept. 2, 1926. An obituary appeared in the Buffalo Times, saying that his "death was sudden and unexpectged and came as a shock to his numerous friends and acquaintances." His siblings John F. Sweeney, Daniel J. Sweeney, John G. Sweeney, Mrs. Daniel Regan and Joseph Sweeney were named in the obituary. Burial was in Holy Cross Cemetery following funeral rites at St. Vincent DePaul's Church.

The widowed Letitia remained in Buffalo and took in lodgers to help make ends meet. Her boarders in 1930, as shown in census records, were Edwin Short, James Fey and Alfred Guarniere. Her daughter Katherine was sent to live with Frank and Genevieve Smith on Grand Island, NY.

Letitia died five days before Christmas 1955. Her obituary in the News said she was survived by seven grandchildren. Her services were conducted in St. Joseph's New Cathedral, with an obituary appearing in the Buffalo News, and burial following in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cheektowaga, NY.

She was named posthumously in the 1964 News obituary of her sister Genevieve.

Son John Flynn "Jack" Sweeney (1909-1957) was born on Dec. 12, 1909 in Buffalo. He completed three years of high school. In 1930, unmarried at age 19, John worked as a laborer for the City of Buffalo. He stood 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighed 163 lbs., bearing scars on his back and right leg. On July 27, 1934, in Buffalo, he was joined in wedlock with Eleanor Grace Dolan (Oct. 16, 1911-1982), daughter of John Francis and Mary "Margaret" (Fagan) Dolan of Wellsville, NY. She was a 1929 alumna of Wellsville High School. Two known sons of the couple were John R. "Jackie" Sweeney and James V. Sweeney, born 14 years apart. The Sweeneys' residence in 1939 was in Eleanor's hometown of Wellsville at 120 East State Street. She at the time was employed as a nurse at Jones Memorial Hospital. Tragedy upended the family when, on June 12, 1939, their four-year-old son Jackie was killed by a moving railroad locomotive near their home, and she was at work when the boy's fractured, lifeless remains arrived at the hospital. One can only imagine the emotional horror. Eleanor sued the Erie Railroad for negligence in the death, and a jury in 1940 awarded her damages in the amount of $2,000. The railroad appealed the judgment, saying there was no rail speed regulation in Wellsville, which proved true, and the jury agreed, reversing the award.  John was required to register for the military draft on the eve of World War II. At the time, he lived at 22 Russell Avenue in Buffalo and was employed as a fireman with the South Buffalo Railroad. He is known to have joined the U.S. Armed Forces on March 18, 1941, some nine months before America was plunged into the war. Three years after the war's end, their son James was born. John in 1955 was named in his mother's newspaper obituary, and about that time became separated from his wife. His home in Buffalo in 1957 was on Russell Avenue. Then in the summer of 1957, he went missing. A month passed, and then two, and perhaps three. On a fateful mid-September day in 1957, hunters found his body lying face-up in a shallow, inch-deep creek near Silver Creek, NY, 100 yards away from Route 20 and 200 feet from an occupied residence. A wallet in his nearby trousers carried an identification card. Reported the Buffalo News, "the partly-clothed body was so badly decomposed that an autopsy failed to show cause of death and that a certificate of 'death from causes unknown' would be issued at the close of the investigation... Pathologists who performed the autopsy sid the body may have been in the creek for that long. They said they found no broken bones, wound, or other evidence of accident or violence, [and the] body bore almost indistinguishable tatoo marks on one arm." His sister Katherine Keller was interviewed by state troopers to gain as much background as they could. The Chautauqua County Coroner's office issued its final verdict accordingly a few days later. The widowed Eleanor survived for another quarter-of-a-century and made her dwelling-place in Wellsville, Allegany County, NY, at the address of 120 East State Street. She died in May 1982 at the age of 70. Interment was in Sacred Heart Cemetery in Wellsville.

  • Grandson John R. "Jackie" Sweeney (1935-1939) was born on May 10, 1935. His early years were spent in Wellsville, Allegany County, NY. On the tragic day of June 12, 1939, he was killed when hit by a westbound Erie Railroad locomotive in Wellsville at the East State Street grade crossing near their dwelling-place. The train was moving about 25 miles per hour and sounded a warning whistle and bell. Reported the Buffalo News:

    The child is believed to have started out from his home, about a block from the Erie Railroad tracks, only a few minutes before the accident occurred.  Witnesses said he had crossed the track once. He is believed to have been frightened by the approaching train and attempted to retrace his steps toward home. He was on the east side of the track when struck by the train which moves in a northerly direction while passing through Wellsville at this point. His body was thrown about 40 feet down the main line where it was picked up by Eugene Flanagan, an eye witness to the tragedy. The attendant at a nearby service station, where Mr. Flanagan had parked his car, called an ambulance and the boy was rushed to Jones Memorial Hospital, where his mother, the former Miss Eleanor Dolan, was on duty as a nurse. She was the first attendant to see the child when he was brought into the hospital. The child was dead on arrival. Coroner Halsey E. Cooley, who investigated, said death was caused by a fracture of the skull. Members of the train crew were unaware of the accident and the train which stops only a few minutes at the Wellsville station, two blocks away from East State st. crossing, proceeded toward Olean before trainmen could be informed of the tragedy.

The broken remains were lowered under the sod of Sacred Heart Cemetery in town. 

  • Grandson James V. Sweeney (1948-2018) was born on Jan. 12, 1948 in Wellsville, NY. He was a 1962 graduate of Immaculate Conception High School and then attended the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary. It's not known whether he married, but he did not reproduce, and lived for decades in or near Buffalo. Said an obituary, he was "employed at many places in the Buffalo area during his career, including Conners Children Center and Ulrich's Tavern." Following a long illness, he died at the age of 69, on New Year's Day 2018, at Buffalo Center. A memorial service was held at St. George Orthodox Church in Buffalo. 

Daughter Katherine D. Sweeney (1912-1986) was born in 1912, presumably in Buffalo. She was raised by Frank and Genevieve Smith on Grand Island, NY. In nuptials held at St. Stephen's Church on the island, Katherine entered into marriage with Walter F. Keller (Nov. 26, 1906-2004). The six known offspring of this marriage were Walter F. Keller Jr., Richard Charles Keller, Patricia Ann Sundeen Martin, Mary Kay Schaab, Joan A. Fischer and Bryan J. Keller. Walter was a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Korean War. As of 1961, their address was on Starin Avenue in Buffalo and in 1980 in Williamsville, where they stayed for good. Said an obituary, "Mr. Keller was an active member in the Buffalo Skating Club and Founder of the Grand Island Skating Club, contributing his time and efforts in numerous skating events." Katherine also was active with the skating organization, "contributing her many artistic talents and creations to numerous club activities," said the Buffalo News. Katherine suffered the tragedy of the death of her brother John in the late summer of 1957, with his body found in a shallow creek, possibly having been deceased for two to three months. She was interviewed by state troopers and provided as much background information as she could. Sadly, Katherine died on Nov. 26, 1986. Burial was in St. Stephens Roman Catholic Cemetery in Grand Island, NY. Walter survived her by 18 years.  Death swept him away in Buffalo on Jan. 10, 2004. His survivors were counted as 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. His funeral mass was conducted at St. Peter & Paul Church, Williamsville.

  • Grandson Walter F. Keller Jr. ( ? -2010) was a graduate of Bennett High School. He went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force, with deployment to Japan circa 1956. Walter appears to have married twice. His first wife was Adrienne ( ? - ? ), and they were together in 1980. His second spouse was Yuzhen ( ? - ? ) of Chong Quing, China. He did not reproduce. Walter's final dwelling-place was in Buffalo. Sadly, at the age of 74, he died on March 28, 2010. The Buffalo News printed an obituary, and funeral services were private.
  • Grandson Richard Charles Keller (1937-2020) was born on April 12, 1937 in Buffalo. He was a graduate of St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and a figure skater competing with the Buffalo Skating Club, which his father had helped organize. At age 18, as a pre-medical freshman at the University of Buffalo, he and his sister Mary Kay were pictured together in the Buffalo News on Leap Day 1956 after winning the Eastern Senior pairs figure skating championship. In time he joined the Air National Guard with a longtime posting at the Niagara Falls Air Force Base. Richard married Diane ( ? - ? ). Their home over the years was in Grand Island and Buffalo, NY before a final move to Bickford, Harding Township, NJ. Together they produced a duo of sons, Franz Keller and Erik Keller. Richard was employed for many years with Marine Midland Bank, later becoming part of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). He retired in 1990 as executive director of the bank. Sadly, at the age of 83, he died at home on May 4, 2020. An obituary was delayed by some 15 months and finally published in the Buffalo News in August 2021. His survivors included five grandsons. A celebration of life and mass of Christian burial was conducted in St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church on Grand Island.

    Great-grandson Franz Keller wed Christine.

    Great-grandson Erik Keller married Gretchen. 

  • Granddaughter Patricia Ann Keller (1941-2018) was born on Valentine's Day 1941 in Buffalo. She was a graduate of Holy Angels Academy in Buffalo. Patricia was twice-wed. Her first husband was William C. Sundeen Sr. ( ? - ? ), son of Oscar R. Sundeen of Jamestown, NY. Their nuptials were held on Oct. 21, 1961, in St. Rose of Lima Church, with the happy event announced in the Buffalo News. Their brood of children included Mary Patricia Sundeen, Kirsten Ann Hershey and William C. Sundeen Jr. Then in about 1987, she was joined in wedlock with Samuel D. Martin (1945- ? ). Their union endured for three decades until the separation of death. She earned a living as an office manager for several businesses. Then after retiring, said the News, she devoted her life to "golfing, folk art and oil painting, long country drives, and adventures with her loving husband and family." Their final residence together was in Taneytown, MD. After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, she died at home in Taneytown on Jan. 11, 2018. An obituary with her photograph was published in the News, which said that the headcount of her survivors was six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The family requested that any memorial gifts be made to the Pediatric Assistance Fund at the HealthWell Foundation, where their daughter Mary Patricia once had served as president, an organizing providing assistance for children who could not afford life-saving medications. After cremation, her memorial mass was held in St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church on Grand Island. Inscribed on the face of their grave marker is this poem by T.S. Eliot: "Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky."
  • Granddaughter Mary Kay Keller (1938- ? ) was born in about 1938. She also grew up as an ice skater in the family, earning a divisional title in the Buffalo Skating Club. At age 17, she and her brother Richard were pictured together in the Buffalo News on Lap Day 1956 after winning the Eastern Senior pairs figure skating championship. They performed together for years and won the Eastern pairs for three straight years. Mary was an alumna of Holy Angels High School. On May 14, 1960, at the age of about 21, she tied the marital cord with William A. Schaab Jr. ( ? - ? ), son of William A. and Rita M. (Bickelman) Schaab Sr. The wedding ceremony was held at St. Rose of Lima Church and announced on the pages of the News. "A gown of satin and re-embroidered Alencon lace was worn by the bride," said the News. "The basque was fashioned with a portrait neckline defined by jewel-trimmed lace and the Empire line was accented by a wide band of satin. The bell-shaped skirt was appliqued with matching lace and terminated in a chapel train." The newlyweds' first home together was on Oakfield Road on Grand Island. Little of the ensuing years is known. Mary Kay was named as "a loving niece" in the 2009 News obituary of her aunt Marion Amelia (Keller) Cathcart Aitken..
  • Granddaughter Joan A. Keller ( ? - ? ) was united in matrimony with Denis J. Fischer Sr. ( ? - ? ), son of Joseph P. and Pauline R. (Sovinsky) Fischer Jr. of Buffalo. Two sons born to the couple were Denis J. Fischer Jr. and Karl Fischer. Their son Denis Jr. relocated to Portland, OR. Grief swept over the family when Denis Jr. died in Portland on Feb. 15, 1980. The body was brought back to Buffalo for a burial mass at St. Stephen's Church in Grand Island, with an obituary appearing in the Buffalo News.  The family suggested that memorial donations in his name be made to the Children Fund of Emanuel Hospital Foundation in Portland.
  • Grandson Bryan Joseph Keller ( ? - ? ) was born on (?). On June 18, 1982, in Trinity Episcopal Church in Buffalo, he tied the knot with Ann Davidson Bickford ( ? - ? ), daughter of Harold D. and Ann (Decker) Bickford of New Amsterdam Avenue. Presiding over the nuptials was Rev. Robert G. Hetherington. Ann was pictured in a wedding announcement in the Buffalo News, which said that "Ivory satin, organza and Alencon lace were combined in the bride's gown. The satin fitted bodice, pointed in the front and edged in lace, had a portrait neckline also edged with lace. The short gathered organize sleeves were lace-edged and the full organza skirt formed a chapel train." Among those attending the happy event was Ann's college friend Annie and her husband Frank Runyeon, an actor portraying the scoundrel Steven Andropolous on the soap opera As the World Turns.  Ann studied at Bennett College in Millbrook, NY. It is possible that Bryan received a political science degree from the University of Buffalo and a law degree from Fordham University who has made his career as vice president, general counsel and secretary of Scrivner Inc., including a transfer to Oklahoma City in the mid-1980. This was followed by a role as general counsel with Buffalo-based Delaware North Companies, a food, venue and hotel management firm, specializing in professional sports facilities. At the 2005 death of Ann's father, founder of a paper company in Buffalo, she was quoted in a related feature obituary in the News, and was living in Williamsville. If all of this is so, the couple's two children were Annie Keller and Thomas Keller.

Copyright © 2006, 2019, 2024 Mark A. Miner

Cindy Mitchell has researched this family and generously shared her findings.