The Mystery of the Ashes

The Mystery of the Ashes

Buried among some discarded photographs the letter caught my eye.

It was from Charles R. Loomis of Loomis, Offers & Loomis of Buffalo, New York, to Mrs. Alma Cunningham in New York City. The date on the letter was September 24, 1943. It said: 

Dear Mrs. Cunningham: 
I have just returned from securing the permit for shipment of your sister’s ashes and for the burial of the same. Unless I am otherwise advised we will send the ashes by express to you, care of Mr. Carl Lipp, Mt. Pulaski, Illinois on Monday of next week. They should then arrive at about the same time you do. 

It seemed odd to keep such a letter so I had to track it down. I knew who Carl Lipp was, my great uncle by virtue of his marriage to my great aunt, and the letter was in their daughter’s possession. But I had no clue who Alma Cunningham was. So I dug.

Alma Vonderlieth Cresmer Cunningham was the daughter of George Vonderlieth and his wife Catherine Miller. George was a brother of Adolph who married first Elizabeth Lipp and second her sister Anna Catherine. Elizabeth and Anna were sisters to Carl Lipp. There’s the Lipp connection.

But who was Alma’s sister? A Vonderlieth. And then I knew. A quick check of dates showed Leonore Vonderlieth died May 28, 1943, in Buffalo. 

Leonore Vonderlieth, better known as Vaugh de Leath, was born September 26, 1894, in Mt. Pulaski. She was known as the “First Lady of Radio” in the 1920s and was one of the first “crooners.” One of her hits, from 1927, was a hit for a guy named Elvis years later. Hear Vaugh de Leath’s version here:

The ashes were buried in Mt. Pulaski Cemetery in the family plot with her parents and her sister Alma.

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