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A Flower Cut in Bloom

Anna May Ellert Laufer (GXSR-97W) was not a solider, but she was our family's casualty of the Great War. When the Flu Took Anna, it took a part of New York with it.

Becoming a Laufer

Anna May Ellert was born the 2nd of April 1890 and died 9 Oct 1918 at the age of just 28 years old. Her marriage to Edward Laufer Jr (II) on 30 November 1916 was witnessed by my great grandparents Fred Laufer and Helen Silowski.

Edward and Ann wed; Fred and Helen witness

Interestingly, Anna was listed as the florist in the local advert - not any of the Laufer men.

While Edward Laufer Sr was a famous florist, he also died young at the age of 41. While I am still piecing together his story (he died in 1898 - during the five borough redistricting), a domestic dispute with his wife over farm work and three bullets (followed by the birth of three sons), a lawsuit with a boiler company, and the appearance of two servants in the Laufer home during the 1900 census, suggest to me that Catherina Kuneth Laufer was ready for someone else to work the greenhouses.

American Florist Volume 28 1907: Mrs Laufer running the garden. Creedmoor is now a Psychiatric hospital

Before the war, Catherina Kuneth Laufer had already begun selling off the farm, and had provided each son with a plot for a home (see related post - The Family Farm in New York City).

The Laufer men sought out new trades before the war, and were listed in their draft cards as:

  • Edward: Mechanic

  • Charles: Gardner/Grader - drafted as a solider in the 82nd Division, 325th Infantry

  • John: Cable Splicer

  • George "Fred": tire Reframing auto repair

Most of the farm was sold off by 1906 following Edward's death, and the land boom. Catherina Kuneth Laufer used the money and land to provide plots for each son
The Laufer farm was along the now gone Rocky Hill Road in Queens. Anna Laufer was listed as the contact in 1916

A curious diagnosis

When I first started researching Anna, I assumed her death was related to complications in child birth. The 1920 census shows her husband (a widow), and her 2 year old son, both living with Catherina Kuneth Laufer. I did some newspaper searches for an obituary and nothing turned up.

When I found Anna's death certificate I was surprised to see it listed the cause of death as "Broncho-pneumonia" with a secondary contributing factor of influenza she contracted in Aug 1918. I wondered, if she was a victim of the Spanish flu?

The Spanish Flu, the great influenza, arrives in New York

By September 1918 the pandemic was about to enter its most lethal phase – the 13 weeks between September and December 1918 would prove to be the costliest in lives, with October 1918 the most deadly month of the whole pandemic. - This History Press
September 1918 - New York City’s Board of Health adds flu to the list of reportable diseases, and requires all flu cases to be isolated at home or in a city hospital. - CDC 1918 Pandemic Timeline

Anna was taken by the second wave of the flu; the most deadly in our history. One that prayed on the strong, with healthy immune systems. In the official chart and newspaper clippings below, you'll note that her passing on Oct 9th was preceded with a passing calm, and proceeding panic, as the toll struck New York City.

NY Newspapers between Sep-11Oct: Flu was being mislabeled, war bond drives were going door to door, and chiropractors were making house calls to sooth the sick.
Anna died during the deadly second wave of Oct 1918

10 days after Anna died, full spread ads appeared in the paper saying "NOTHING TO BECOME ALARMED ABOUT" and "Don't try to fight it". Instead, take Quinine tablets


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