Appendix #4 * See note below
Frank’s Paternal Grandparents –
Frank’s paternal grandfather, Richard Fleming, legally immigrated to the United States from Ireland’s County Cork in the late 1870s or early 1880s allegedly because of one of the faminesin that country. Frank later came to believe that he was probably an IRA (Irish Republican Army) fugitive with a price on his head and on the run from the British whom he hated with a passion. “Corky Dick”, as he was called, ended up in Norristown because of the town’s proximity to the Reading Railroad’s engine storage facility and roundhouse across the river in Bridgeport. Initially he worked as a fireman on the Reading shoveling coal into the steam boilers on fast-moving freight trains – a back-breaking job. Later he was promoted to engineer and drove 100+ car freight trains from the up-state anthracite coal mines to the factories of Philadelphia.
Corky Dick was initially married to an Annie Sheehan (the 1st) and together they had four children including Frank’s father Francis, his older sister Katie who people were always reminded was born during the great blizzard of 1888, an older brother John who lived until the 1960s and another brother William who died in 1922 at the age of 28.
Frank’s grandfather must have really liked ladies named Annie Sheehan because when Annie Sheehan the 1st died shortly after Frank’s father’s birth, he went out, found and married another woman named Annie Sheehan (Annie the 2nd). The two Annies were not closely related if they were related at all. Annie the 2nd and Frank’s grandfather had two daughters Gene and Madge.
Frank’s father Francis Richard was Corky Dick’s youngest child by Annie the 1st. He was born sometime in mid-December 1900 in his family’s row home on Norristown’s East Oak Street. No one is sure of the exact date of Frank Father’s birth. Since church records showed that he was baptized right after Christmas, Francis Sr. arbitrarily established his own birthday as December 12th. 1900 . When Frank was born his grandfather Richard and Annie the 2nd lived with Frank’s family in a three-story row house at 802 DeKalb Street which also served as Frank’s fathers place of business – a Funeral Home.
Sometime shortly after World War II, there was some type of family conflict and Corky Dick and Annie the 2nd packed up and moved in with Frank’s Aunt Gene and her husband Bill Collins. Annie the 2nd died in 1948. In the early 1950s, the once again widowed, Corky Dick moved back in with Frank’s family at their new, larger home at 904 DeKalb Street. He died in 1953. No one including him knew his exact age but it was estimated that he was 101 or 102 when he died.
Frank’s Maternal Grandparents
Frank’s Grandfather Lowe – Frank knows less about his mother’s family’s background. His mother Virginia Marie Lowe was the first of two daughters born to Charles and Florence Weingart Lowe. She was born in Norristown on December 26, 1910. Her only sister Dorothy was born ten years later.
Frank never knew his maternal grandfather Charles Lowe. He has been told that, as a newborn, he was taken to his grandfather Lowe’s deathbed so that his dying grandfather ncould see and hold Frank before dying of cancer. Charlie Lowe evidently was an accomplished cabinet-maker but was employed until his death as an executive of some sort at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s headquarters in Philadelphia. Frank had Charlie’s entire hand tool set at one time (only a hacksaw is left) and somewhere in the family (hopefully) is a beautifully hand carved doll’s cradle that he made for Frank’s mother. Charlie had one brother Joseph who died early in life after having three boys – Joseph, Anthony, and Francis X (Bennie) to his wife who was referred to as Aunt Mame. She always dressed in black and hid her face with a veil.
Frank’s grandmother Florence (Flossie) Wingert Lowe was a Pennsylvania Dutch catholic from a small farming community named Bally which is on a back road between Pottstown and Reading, Pa. She and her sister Erminne (Aunt Minnie) moved to Norristown in the late 1890s to attend business college – as secretarial school was called at that time. Contemporaries later said that the Wingert girls were two of the best looking women in town at the turn of the century. Obviously there was some truth to this since both sisters married well. Flossie married Frank’s grandfather and Minnie married Harry Smith one of the owners of the local Peoples Sanitary Dairy which later became one of the initial acquisitions of the company that would grow to become Sealtest and later Kraft Foods. Harry retired to the life of a gentleman farmer in his late 20s.
As a young boy, Frank enjoyed visiting his Grandmother Lowe in her big detached home on Harding Boulevard near Elmwood Park because there was lots of room for him to safely roam about and play in her front and back yards. During the war Frank liked to sit on her porch and watch all of activity at the National Guard Armory across the street from her house. There were always army trucks coming and going and occasionally the soldiers were out on the street drilling. Frequently when he was visiting her Frank’s father would take him on a walk to nearby Elmwood Park to play on the swings or to watch a ballgame. Later he was allowed to go to a small park at the end of her block to play on the assortment of 10 or 12 WW I cannons that surrounded a veteran’s memorial located there.
Flossie maintained the Lowe family home overlooking Elmwood Park in Norristown until Frank’s Aunt Dot married in the mid 1940s after which she moved in with her sister Minnie and Harry Smith. When the then widowed Minnie died in 1954, Frank’s grandmother took an apartment over a jewelry store in downtown Norristown where she lived until she died of a massive heart attack on April 26, 1961.
Frank’s father (Francis Richard Fleming) had a difficult childhood having been raised by a demanding father who was gone for days at a time working on the railroad and by an abusive stepmother who very much favored her own two daughters over the small brood that Annie the 1st had left for her to raise. Evidently this favoritism did not affect Frank’s father’s relationship with his two half sisters Gene and Madge because in his adult life he was much closer to his half sisters than he was to his natural siblings.
When Francis Sr, reached the sixth grade in school, he was put out to work by his parents. His first job at age 12 was sweeping the floor of metal shavings in a local screw factory for 12 hours a day, six days a week for a salary of five dollars per week.
As a young man Frank’s father evidently loved to sing and had a great Irish tenor voice. He was approached several times about singing professionally, but was unable to do so because as he put it – “I couldn’t remember the words to the songs”. Later, both Pat and Frank remember him at parties or social gatherings beautifully belting out the first lines of “Ol Sol Mio” or “Santa Lucia” only to follow these with a beautiful rendition of the rest of the aria but substituting “la La le La”s for the actual words.
After working at a succession of jobs in the local mills, Frank’s father landed himself a job selling life insurance and going door to door collecting what they called the debit (the five or ten-cent weekly premiums) from the owners of the policies that he had previously sold them. To make extra money, he drove livery vehicles for a local undertaker John Ferry.
Evidently, the life insurance business was good to Frank’s father and his experience with the local undertaker had made an impression, because in 1929, he enrolled in Eckele’s Embalming School and became an undertaker. Throughout the depression, he evidently did well selling life insurance, collecting the debit, and then burying his clientele when the policies that he had sold to them reached their final, final maturity.
Frank’s grandfather and Grandmother Lowe raised his mother (Virginia Marie Lowe) and his Aunt Dot in a large home on tree-lined Harding Boulevard over looking Elmwood Park in Norristown. His mother’s first year in school was at (Teddy) Roosevelt Grade School around the corner from her home. For grades 2 through 8, she attended St. Patrick’s School. Since Saint Patrick’s only had a two-year high school, her parents paid for her to attend West Catholic High School for Girls in Philadelphia commuting daily with several other girls from Norristown. She was always very proud of the fact that she was an alumnus of what was considered, at that time, one of the best high schools in Pennsylvania – West Catholic.
After graduating from West Catholic, Frank’s mother learned her secretarial skills at the same business college that her mother attended and then worked as a secretary at several firms in the Norristown area before becoming a senior legal secretary at one of the most prestigious law firms in the county.
Frank’s mother and father met at a church function and they were married in Saint Patrick’s Church in Norristown on April 23rd 1937. By then Frank’s father along with his mother and
father had moved to 802 DeKalb Street. Although this was still a row home, it was on a main street with higher visibility from which Frank’s father could conduct his funeral business. After their honeymoon Frank’s parents took up residence with his grandparents in a third floor bedroom at 802 DeKalb. Twelve months later Frank arrived on March 2, 1938.
After Frank was born, his mother continued to raise her family, assist with her husband’s business and stayed active in church and community affairs for years. In the mid 1960s, she contracted Multiple Sclerosis which curtailed most of her activities and by the late 1970s left her wheel chair bound.
Frank’s father continued his successful funeral business until the late 1970s when he watched Norristown and his immediate neighborhood decay to a state of urban blight. Unable to get his Irish and Italian clientele to come into the ghetto where he and his business were located and unable to sell the business because of the rapidly deteriorating conditions in the community, Frank’s father very reluctantly and with great sadness closed the business in September 1979. He, Frank’s mother and his brother Johnnie moved into a very nice apartment on the out skirts of Norristown when the Fleming Funeral Home closed. Frank’s father died in December 1989.
In 1995, as a widow Frank’s mother and his brother Johnnie moved to Delavan, Wisconsin to be near her daughter Dottie who had previously relocated to that area. She died in September 1999 in Delavan.
Frank’s Immediate Family
Frank had two sisters and a brother. His oldest sister Judith Anne (Judy) was born in December 1940 but died less than two months later of spinal meningitis.
Frank’s sister (Dorothy Jean) Dottie Fleming was born in August 1942. She attended St Patrick’s grade school and Bishop Kendrick High School both in Norristown before graduating from Mount Saint Aloysius College in Western, Pennsylvania. She married George Bruno of Plymouth Meeting in 1966. Shortly after their marriage Dottie and George moved first to Boston and then to the Chicago area where they raised their two children Rick (now a physician in Honolulu) and Judy (McCarthy) now a busy mother of twins in living in Chicago. When Rick and Judy were out of high school Dottie and George took up permanent residence at their summer home on Lake Delavan in Southern Wisconsin. George Bruno died in December 2000.
Frank has one brother John Charles Fleming who was born in September 1946. John was born with numerous congenital problems the most significant of which was a moderate intellectual disability. By the time he was six months old he had undergone several surgeries for physical problems at
Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital. Of note is the fact that Johnnie’s surgeon was C. Everett Koop, who years latter was the bearded, telegenic and very outspoken U.S. Surgeon General under Ronald Reagan and who thereafter became a highly visible TV doc and a spokesman in various TV commercials. Johnnie lived at home with Frank’s parents until they both died. Subsequently he has been independent enough to live on his own in a private apartment near his sister Dottie in Delavan, Wisconsin.
Frank’s Extended Family
On his paternal side Frank had a number of aunts, uncles and cousins whom he knew fairly well when he was growing up, these included:
Katie Sack – Frank’s father’s oldest sister, Katie, was born during the “Great Blizzard´ of 1888. She had been married to a railroad man Bill Sack but was already widowed when Frank was growing up. She lived on the 1st floor of a two-story duplex on a nice, private, tree-lined street in West Philadelphia. Katie had three daughters. Her daughter Delores and her husband Chet Loveland had no children and lived on the 2nd floor of the same duplex as Aunt Katie. Another daughter, Celestine lived in suburban Drexel Hill with her husband Jimmy Lynch who was a wine, liquor and tobacco salesman. Jimmy and Celestine had two boys Jimmy & Billie who were 4 or five years younger than Frank. Another daughter Helen was married to Walt Winkler, lived in North Philadelphia and had two sons Walter and Thomas and a daughter Donna.
Aunt Katie and her family were frequent visitors when Frank’s grandfather lived. Although Frank did not see this side of the family that often thereafter, his Aunt Katie, all three of her daughters and their husbands were at Pat & Frank’s wedding.
Jack and Jean Fleming – Frank’s father had an older brother Jack Fleming who lived in West Philadelphia where he was an insurance agent. Although Frank’s father and he were not close, Jack and his wife Jean would visit four or five times a year while Frank’s grandfather was alive. Frank does not remember seeing them after Corky Dick died.They had two children Jack, Jr and a daughter also named Jean.
Madge & Dan Garvey – Frank’s father’s younger half-sister (by Annie the 1st) Madge was married to Dan Garvey and lived in neighboring Conshohocken. Madge and Dan had one daughter –Gene who was about ten years older than Frank. Although the two families were close, Frank’s family did not visit Madge and Dan that often in Conshohocken. However, every Sunday the Garveys would come to Frank’s house to visit Grand pop and Annie. In addition to the Sunday visits, Madge was a regular mid-week visitor to DeKalb Street for years.
Madge didn’t work but was a Bingo fanatic – playing four or five nights every week. Dan, during the war, worked at the old Autocar plant in neighboring Ardmore, Pa. This plant manufactured army trucks and despite the war also a line of high quality fire engines. After the war, Dan went to work as the first employee and a manager at a company in North Philadelphia, founded and owned by a boyhood friend Johnnie Shiners. The company manufactured all of the pressed board components for the then highly popular Philco radios and TVs. Dan was an accomplished amateur baseball and/or softball player and Frank remembers spending many Sunday afternoons at the park watching him play.
Madge was Frank’s favorite aunt. Madge and Dan (who called Frank Peaty) treated Frank like the son that they never had and he always enjoyed going to their house. His cousin Jean always treated him like a kid brother and all three regularly took him to ballgames after which Madge, who was a great cook, would always make her special spaghetti and meatballs.
Dan was active in and later became President of the Conshohocken Fire Company #2. As a result, on most visits, after dinner he would sneak Peaty away for a trip to the firehouse to play on “his” big fire trucks. In later years, he always made sure that our son Rick could ride on one Conshohocken Co #2’s fire trucks in local firemen’s’ parades. Dan died in the early 1970s. Six uniformed firemen served as pallbearers and his casket was carried to the cemetery in the hose bed of a fire engine that he had been instrumental in procuring for his fire company. After Dan death Madge moved in with her sister Gene in Norristown where she resided until she died in mid 1980s.
Jean & Bob Doernbach – In 1952, Madge and Dan’s only daughter Gene married a young Leigh Business School graduate Bob Doernbach. After serving as a U.S. Navy Supply Officer stationed at the Algiers Naval Station in New Orleans, Bob enjoyed a highly successful business career culminating when he founded. the company that manufactured and sold Ruffie trash bags. After selling that company to the Mobile Oil Company, he and Gene moved from Minnesota to Florida where they owned several new car dealerships.
Gene and Bob had three children Janice, Bobby and Rick. Gene and Bob were very close to Pat and Frank when they were dating and together with Gene’s parents hosted a very nice, formal dinner party for them before their wedding and their daughter Janice was the flower girl in the wedding. Gene, Bob and their family moved to Connecticut while Frank and Pat were first living in California in the early 1960s. Subsequently Pat and Frank did not see them that often as they then moved to Chicago and then on to Minneapolis.
In the early 1980s, after Pat and Frank returned from Canada, the two couples resumed their close contact and friendship. Pat and Frank visited the Doernbachs in Florida on several occasions including attending Rick Doernbach’s wedding in Coco Beach. Gene and Bob reciprocated at both Rick and Christine Fleming’s weddings.
Unfortunately, Bob contracted lung cancer in the early 2000s and died several years later in Naples Florida where Gene still lives.
Aunt Gene and Uncle Bill – Frank’s father’s youngest sister Gene was married to Bill Collins and lived about 10 blocks away from Frank in the 1600 block of Powell Street. Frank’s grandfather Fleming is said to have taken Frank on walks in his coach to Aunt Gene’s houseseveral mornings each week.
Sometime after WWII the two families had a falling out and did not speak for a number of years. Gene who by then was working at the Montgomery County Courthouse and Frank’s father reconciled when Bill was dying in the early 1950s and remained close until she died in 1983. Bill and Gene never had children.During Frank’s early years his family and the Collins frequently visited back and forth. Since Gene and Bill had no children Frank found these visits quite boring. Bill Collins worked as a clerk at a factory on Plymouth Road between Norristown and Conshohocken and was a real character. A World War I navy veteran, Bill was always referred to as Uncle Booze for his love of and inability to handle the same. Gene who did not work in the 1940s also enjoyed a good party and up until she died was always a bunch of fun. At some point Bill quit his job or was laid off and Bill & Gene set up a home business selling greeting cards, wedding invitations, and various paper party supplies.
Dot & Frank Kelly – Frank’s mother’s younger sister by 10 years was Dot Lowe. Frank’s mother and his Aunt Dot were not particularly close – perhaps due to their age difference or a difference in lifestyles. Dot who was socially very active at Norristown High School married Frank Kelly in 1945. Frank was from a socially prominent family and although from Norristown, was a graduate of both St Joe’s Prep and St. Joe’s College in center city Philadelphia.
Frank was already a successful young businessman when he and Dot married. Dot, who never worked after they married, was the stereotypical young wife of a 1940s and 1950s successful businessman. A housewife with two young boys (Phillip and Lowe), Dot was always very active in the golf, bridge and social scene at the local country club.
Frank Kelly progressed over the years through a number of executive positions to become President of the Synthane Taylor Fiber Corporation in the 1950s. Under his leadership that company became part of Alcoa Standard, a large multinational conglomerate in the late 1950s. He served as a Group Vice President of that company until he retired in the mid 1950s. Although after Frank retired he and Dot continued to maintain the family home outside of Norristown in East Norriton where they lived most of their married life, they made their vacation home in Vero Beach. Florida into their primary residence,
Throughout his business career Frank Kelly was very active in local civic affairs especially Sacred Heart Hospital in Norristown. After his retirement, Frank took on a volunteer position as President of that hospital’s Board of Trustees commuting back and forth from Florida to Norristown to attend Trustees’ meetings and other hospital functions. He suffered a severe personal setback, from which he never fully recovered, when the hospital went bankrupt and closed on his watch in 1994.
Dot and Frank always liked Frank Fleming, perhaps because he was their oldest nephew or perhaps because he and Frank Kelly shared a name. When Frank F was in high school, Frank Kelly would always take his younger namesake to various company functions that his sons were too young to attend. When Frank and Pat were married, Dot and Frank hosted a big party for them at their house on the Sunday before the wedding. After that Frank Kelly became a mentor to Frank Fleming providing him with timely and highly valuable career advice. When Frank Fleming was involved in starting Chad Therapeutics, Frank Kelly was an initial investor in that startup and made an additional investment in that Chad at a critical time when without additional capitalization the company would have failed
Socially, Pat and Frank were very close with the Kellys who were frequent house guests in Pat and Frank’s homes in Washington, DC, Canada and California. Pat and Frank frequently stayed with Kellys when they visited Norristown and always were their house guests when they visited Florida. Frank died in the late 1990s and Dot passed on about 2010.
Aunt Minnie & Uncle Harry Smith – Frank’s Grandmother Lowe had one sister Ermine (Aunt Minnie). As Frank remembers her Minnie was a big matronly woman, but she must have been a looker in her day because she was married to one of the most successful businessmen in town. Harry Smith was a retired gentleman farmer who had made a fortune in the dairy business. He was a 50% partner in the local – Peoples’ Sanitary Dairy which evidently was the first dairy in Norristown to pasteurize all of its products and to offer homogenized milk and along with free home delivery. By the time Harry was 29; he had sold his dairy to a division of Sealtest in Philadelphia and as retired.
He and Minnie lived in a great big, modern, stone home at the corner of DeKalb Pike and Jefferson Place in East Norrition – a very exclusive semi-rural suburb of Norristown. The
house had beautiful attended grounds and had what must of been a 40 foot long raised screened porch from which you could watch the traffic on DeKalb Pike which was the main route from Washington to New York and watch the Liberty Bell high speed trolley line which ran from Philadelphia to Allentown and at that point on a well manicured boulevard that was situated between the Smith house and the pike. Once, two of these multi-car trolleys collided head on about 100 yards below the Smith’s home killing 15 or twenty people. The ambulance people used Minnie and Harry’s front lawn as a triage area.
Minnie and Harry had no children but took extremely good care of Frank, and his brother and sister giving them elaborate, expensive gifts for Xmas and birthdays. Unfortunately, they usually bought gifts that were more suited for kids a couple of years older than Frank and his brother and sister. Frank remembers getting big Erector sets that he was not allowed to play with for fear of his swallowing the parts and chemistry sets that never came out of the box for fear of his swallowing poisons or blowing up the house.
Having no children and what seemed unlimited money, Minnie and Harry traveled all over Europe and the US. Frank remembers being shown their souvenirs and pictures from the train trips that they had made to wild west, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, etc.
When they weren’t travelling Minnie was active in all kinds of philanthropic organizations and the new catholic parish that had been established in Center Square about five miles from her home. She was the consummate fund-raiser. Although he didn’t need the money, Harry got himself elected as a Magistrate or Justice of the Peace for his township. He had an office in the rear of his home to which the state police would bring speeders and other minor offenders for court hearings or arrangement. Many time Minnie and Harry allowed couples to use the big living room or grounds of their home for their weddings over which Harry presided.
In the very early 1950s, Harry died and Minnie followed him about five years later. Unfortunately, she had been brainwashed by the clergy after Harry died and ended up leaving all of her very large estate to Saint Helena’s Catholic Church with the exception $500 which left for Frank’s grandmother.
Pat & Frank Fleming
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List of appendices
Appendix 4 – Frank’s Family
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she had been brainwashed by the clergy after Harry died and ended up leaving all of her very large estate to Saint Helena’s Catholic Church with the exception $500 which left for Frank’s grandmother.
Pat & Frank Fleming