Thursday, March 2, 2017

Family History Writing Challenge Day 26

Catherine with her arm around LeRoy,
her nephew Danny Wambaugh
and Kathleen in the chair
While Roy was away serving his country, Catherine did the best she could at their home in Cincinnati. Unable to work due to the presence of two small children, she survived on the small allowance Roy was able to send her from his military pay. Perhaps she had some assistance from her family next door as well. She kept her spirits up by writing to Roy and letting him know how she and the children were doing. She eagerly awaited his replies, and kept those letters until the day she died.

Cincinnati, like all of America, had done its part to aid in the war effort, buying war bonds, accepting rationing, and creating jobs to help build or make the supplies needed for the soldiers. So it was no surprise that when President Harry S. Truman announced the end of the war on 14 August 1945, a crowd of 15,000 gathered at Fountain Square downtown, blowing horns, singing and shouting under a shower of paper graffiti tossed from office windows above. Thousands attended services at churches and synagogues.

But under all the relief and gaiety was a nagging concern about the economy. Many of the jobs created during the war were as a result of government contracts, which were cancelled when the war ended. Industrial employment in Hamilton County had nearly doubled during the war years, including women who entered the job force as well as men who had relocated to the area because of defense-related job opportunities. What would happen to all these employees? Would the returning 12,000-15,000 local veterans be able to find employment?

Many of the manufacturing plants went back to their original pre-war product lines once their government contracts ended. Returning servicemen were offered their old jobs, and many women were displaced from the job force. A new automobile plant built by General Motors in Hamilton County following the end of the war also offered employment opportunities to veterans and other men in the community.

Roy was lucky to be able to return to his job at the Railway Express Agency, a company that had boomed during WWII. He was happy to go back to a more normal life with work, his family and worshiping at Resurrection of Our Lord Catholic Church in Price Hill. The original church was built in  1919, and a school was added in 1920. By 1952, the growth in attendance by parishioners necessitated that a new church be constructed. The new building was completed in 1954.

Shortly after Roy's return from the war, the family was dealt an incredible blow. LeRoy was diagnosed at the age of 3 with aplastic anemia, a rare, serious blood disorder caused by failure of the bone marrow to produce blood cells. Symptoms of the disease are anemia, bleeding and infection. Some cases have been linked to exposure to toxic environmental chemicals such as benzene, a colorless and highly flammable liquid. It is used as a starter material for other products, including rubber. Because Catherine worked in a factory sewing rubber basketballs before and during her pregnancy with LeRoy, it begs the question - did exposure to benzene cause him to be born prematurely, and then later contract aplastic anemia? While there were studies done to examine the impact of benzene in the workplace, there were none conducted at that time to examine the impact on a fetus. Maybe it's just as well, as Catherine would have been devastated to find that something she had done caused her little boy to be sick. She was most likely pregnant with her third child, Kenneth, when they found out about LeRoy's illness.

There was no cure for aplastic anemia in the 1940s. Patients were being injected with horse serum - antithymic globulin. Side affects included fatigue and serum sickness, with fever and edema. The cost of the injections was exorbitant, and the family could not afford the treatment. The drug manufacturer agreed to cover the expense if the Kubler's would allow LeRoy to participate in a study. Roy and Catherine willingly agreed, eager to do anything to save their boy.

Ken in arms of Catherine's
brother Charlie, LeRoy and
Kathleen circa 1949
LeRoy was able to go to school off and on when he felt up to it, but he hated the fact that the nuns at Resurrection School always made him sit by the radiator in the classroom. He was extremely susceptible to infection with the disease. In his 7th year he developed pneumonia. On the morning of 31 January 1950, Roy went into his son's bedroom to check on him before going to work. LeRoy asked for a drink of water, and by the time Roy came back with the glass, LeRoy had died.

Because of the rareness of his disease, the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote a story about his death. From that story, many people wrote letters to Roy and Catherine. Most of them were expressing condolences, but some were filled with hate, claiming that they must be really bad people of God had chosen to take their first-born son away from them. There were some letters that Roy never let Catherine see because they were so terrible. As if the loss of their son wasn't enough, the couple had to deal with the judgmental words of others. Kathleen was barely 6 and Kenneth 4 when their brother died. It must have been horrific for the family to endure.
newspaper article
about LeRoy's death

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