Tragic Death Tied to Flu Epidemic
When I started this blog, it was to share what’s most interesting to me about genealogy — the way the lives and personalities of our ancestors come to life in the stories we uncover.
At times those stories are tragic. Perhaps none more so than the story of my great-grandmother, Zula (Fisher) Ley.
Posts in the last weeks have shared snippets of her young life — acclaim for her acting in a senior play, notching a finalist finish in a national beauty contest, sneaking off to Wellsburg, W. Va. to marry Great-Grandpa Earl Ley.
These and other portraits show Zula as vital, intelligent, beautiful.
But her life is defined for her descendants by its tragic end, subject of the second post ever in this blog. It was front-page news in neighboring Dover: how the young wife, 24, of a prominent dentist passed away of influenza and pneumonia late on a Sunday night at home in New Philadelphia, Ohio.
An account in the hometown Daily Times, however, also ties Zula’s death to a sudden epidemic that winter.
The Feb. 2, 1920 edition, front page, broadcasts in bold headlines: FLU EPIDEMIC CLAIMS THREE; RED CROSS TAKES UP BATTLE. Whole Families are Reported Ill. Relief is Sought. Three Persons Die Over Weekend.
While influenza is fast enveloping New Philadelphia in a grip that claimed three fatalities Sunday and Monday the Red Cross is preparing to combat the epidemic with nurses.
Mayor E. N. Fair Monday as chairman of the influenza committee of the Red Cross was seeking a nurse for a family where help could not be obtained to take care of the ill.
Whole families are ill with the epidemic, and many patients were reported on the verge of death, Monday.
Young Wife Dies
Mrs. Mary Zula Ley, 24, wife of Dr. Robert E. Ley, Dover dentist, succumbed to influenza-pneumonia at 11:30 p.m. Sunday following ten days’ illness.
The death of Mrs Ley which occurred at the residence on West High street, caused widespread sorrow.
The husband and one son, Robert Earl, aged 16 months, survive.
Years later, with more information known about our family history, it is believed the hereditary presence of Factor V Leiden, which causes abnormal clotting of the blood, particularly in veins, may have contributed to Zula’s death.
Reported in neither paper was the stillborn death of her infant daughter, also named Mary on a separate death certificate.