RIP, Richard Ira Siler, 1935-2020

One of the odder changes in my life since the coronavirus became a thing is that I’ve become the type of person who scans the obituaries every couple of days. It’s rather surprising how many people I’ve found that I know at least tangentially; the former owner of OtherJob, an occasional relative of a student, that sort of thing.

And today I came across Richard Ira Siler’s obituary, and … well, it raised an eye.

Luther Michael Siler, remember, is a pen name. Each of the three names is a family name; Luther is my paternal grandfather’s first name, Michael is my mother’s maiden name, and Siler is my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. As it works out, my great-grandfather’s name was Jesse Siler.

And damned if this gentleman doesn’t have a “J. Clifford Siler” as his father’s name and a “Jesse Jr.” among his brothers. I have seen Jesse Siler’s grave; he is buried next to his second wife (my great-grandmother divorced him, which must have been quite a thing back then) whose name is Minnie Jo Buck, according to her tombstone. Richard Siler’s mother’s name is Miriam Siler, according to the obituary; it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch that Miriam might have been called Minnie. My grandmother was born in 1917 and was the oldest child, so Jesse still having children in 1935 with his second (or possibly even third, as the family seems to have mostly lost track of him after the divorce) wife is entirely possible. Hell, my mom’s oldest sister and youngest brother are 17 years apart.

If I search the Internet for “Jesse C. Siler,” I find an ancestry.com link for “Jesse Clifford Siler,” too, so it seems entirely reasonable to believe that that’s the same guy, and further confirmation that “J” stands for “Jesse,” as if there’s any real chance that it wouldn’t given that there’s a Jesse Jr. in the family. I didn’t look any further, because I’m not signing up for ancestry.com at the moment, but I’m willing to take that as evidence enough, given what else we have in front of us.

So it looks like this guy was my (half?) first cousin once removed, or at least is reasonably likely to have been. I never met him and never knew he existed until about twenty minutes ago, but he seems to have been a lovely fellow. I hope his family is holding up as well as they can be under the circumstances, and may his memory be a blessing.

(The punch line: Great-grandpa Jesse’s first wife, my biological great-grandmother, was named Juanita. Her maiden name? Pence. My uncle assures me that he has dug into it and we are not related to That Pence, but it’s skeevy enough just that there’s a chance.)

(EDIT: The plot thickens. I just spent half an hour digging through a bunch of paperwork my dad gave me after mom passed away, and it looks like “my” Jesse Siler was Jesse Edward, not Jesse Clifford. J.E. Siler’s father was Harry, and it was his wife who was Minnie Jo. I don’t have any additional information about his family– no siblings or anything like that. I continue to think the guy is a cousin of some sort but the 1st-once-removed link now looks a bit less likely.)

(Also, George Washington Pence’s obituary, dated 1903, if I remember right, is a trip. I may try to get a good scan of it and post the whole thing.)

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