Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day 1 -- An afternoon visit to John J. Halloran at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, NY

Just before noon, I left the Bronx and headed north to Westchester County, New York, to Gate of Heaven Cemetery. The cemetery sits right at the apex of two thoroughfares converging in Hawthorne -- the Taconic and the Sprain Brook Parkways.  I was in search of the final resting place of my paternal Irish great grandfather John J. Halloran, my father's namesake.  Time flew by and before I knew it, I was exiting the highway into the hamlet of Hawthorne.  As I traversed the rolling hills and winding roads, a vista opened up to reveal a beautiful expanse of land with thousands of marble and granite headstones populating the valley and surrounding hills. Beautiful!

In researching Gate of Heaven Cemetery - I found this historical summary at  
The land for Gate of Heaven Cemetery was purchased by the Trustees of St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1916 and an initial Gothic design replicating Saint Patrick's Cathedral was accepted for the property; cemetery development began immediately. Development was sufficient for John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York, to consecrate this cemetery on July 14, 1918. 
Over the course of its existence, Gate of Heaven Cemetery has interred over 190,000 Catholics and members of their families in graves, private family and community mausoleum crypts, and cremation niches located within the community mausoleum complexes. Today the cemetery averages over 2,200 interment services each year.
 Sixty acres of the cemetery remain to be developed to accommodate the burial, entombment and inurnment needs of Catholics and members of their families throughout the greater New York area.
Find a Grave reports 63 famous people buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery including:
  • George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Baseball Player — Section 25
  • Billy Martin, Baseball Player and Manager of the NY Yankees -- Section 25
  • The Mara Family, owners of the NY Giants
  • James Cagney, Actor — St. Francis Mausoleum
I noticed that Babe Ruth died when he was 53 ... my current age! 

The grave site of Billy Martin -- very cool!  

One thread keeps emerging from all this research -- the Milani family ancestors kept good company -- if not in life then certainly in death:  Babe Ruth and Billy Martin's graves are just two sections above my great grandfather's.
The story of finding John J. Halloran is very similar to that of Alois Faller.  John J. married Alois' granddaughter, Mary (aka Nonie) Haack.   Mary Haack Halloran is buried in Madonna Cemetery in Ft. Lee alongside Alois' wife, Clara Faller, and their daughter Ida.  Nonie was the daughter of Ida Faller and John Haack.  The Haack family is also buried in the same family plot at Madonna Cemetery.   When I found Clara Faller in the Madonna Cemetery plot -- I realized that Alois was not buried there-- which I covered extensively in my last blog post.  Similarly,  Nonie Halloran was found in the Madonna plot but her husband John J. Halloran was curiously absent.

Much like Alois I had been searching for John J. Halloran's grave site since 2006.  Seven years of bad luck and then I caught a break.  A second cousin, Kelly Halloran, who I didn't even know existed found me through my genealogy website:   A little more than a year later, another 2nd cousin Gabrielle Gerhard reached out to me as well.  Both were descendants of John J. Halloran's only son, Herbert.   Herbert and his wife Adelaide had two children:  John and Gertrude Halloran.  
Pictured above is John J. Halloran (seated) and son Herbert Halloran in their plumbing office believed to be at the address sited in the 1920 New York City Business Directory as 261 West 126th Street in Harlem.

In conversing with Gabrielle, I realized that she not only knew where John J. Halloran was buried, but she had a deed to the family plot and regrettably, had just buried her brother, Victor Gerhard, III, in the Halloran family plot.

John J. Halloran had arrived in New York as a two year old in 1869.  (My Aunt Nancy believes he was from County Mayo, Ireland.)  John J.'s naturalization certificate states that his father was John O. Halloran was a naturalized US Citizen in 1874.  

The marriage certificate for Nonie Haack and John J. Halloran list the groome's father as John Halloran, and mother, Margaret Meaney.  Unfortunately John J.'s parents remain elusive figures.  The 1880 U.S. Census lists a John Halloran with six children, but no Margaret.  Some of the children's names are consistent with other family recollections -- but there are as many questions as answers from the 1880 US Census document.  Much more work to do here.  

I knew that John J. Halloran was a successful New York City plumbing contractor.   A 1914, New York City business directory shows the Halloran Plumbing located at 241 West 125th Street.   I Googled the address and even though the business address no longer exists -- the building still does and it is RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO THE APOLLO THEATRE in HARLEM!!   How  'bout that?  

John J.  ran a very successful plumbing contracting business and was 'well to do.' My Aunt Nancy recalls Nonie telling her about John J. losing $80,000 gambling in Cuba. Nonie had to wire him money so that he could pay his debts and leave the country.  

The Halloran's maintained a residence at 294 Wadsworth Avenue in Washington Heights. John J. Halloran died eight days after his 62nd birthday and 4 months before the 1929 Stock Market crash.  My father, born two years later.  He told me that Nonie lived on the bottom floor of the residence and he lived on the second and third floor with his parents.   
294 Wadsworth Ave.

There is so much more to tell -- but I would be turning a blog into a book - and that's not what I started out to do.  This was a fun day filled with excitement, anticipation and JOY!   This was an incredible first day and I can't wait for tomorrow when I go start meeting my ancestors on my mother's side!  


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