#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Air

This week we continue with the elemental themes in the #52Ancestors challege. I’ve given a lot of thought to “air” and I keep coming back to the same tragic story, so here it is. It does require a bit of setup to get to the “air” part.

My great-great grandfather, William F. Hahn, had a son named George Herman Hahn. He would have been my dad’s great-uncle. He died when my dad was about five years old.

Herman married a woman named Elsie Mae. I don’t know her maiden name. As far as I can tell, their only child died at birth. Perhaps there were miscarriages or additional infant deaths for which I haven’t found records. They certainly never had a daughter named Lillian who survived to adulthood, so when I found Herman’s obituary, and saw a daughter and two grandchildren listed, I was confused and intrigued. Who was this Lillian Michaels and where did she come from?

I turned to Newspapers.com, and found several articles that shed light on the family.

The first was Elsie Mae Hahn’s obituary. It also listed Lillian as her daughter, and included the names of Lillian’s two children. That information gave me some direction to continue my search.

I soon discovered that Lillian Michaels was born Lillian Gladys Del Castillo in 1904. Her parents were Francis G. Del Castillo and Martha Jinnette. Martha died in 1915.

On April 21, 1925, Lillian married a U.S. Navy Machinist’s Mate, George M. Michaels. An article from the Pensacola Journal describes their wedding at St. Stephens Catholic Church in Pensacola. It also names her father and says he walked her down the aisle. I presume George was stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola when they met.

The wedding announcement identified Lillian’s attendant as Maggie Mae Hahn of Mobile. Maggie Mae was Herman’s niece. I imagine that Lillian and Maggie were of an age, and that Maggie introduced Lillian to her uncle and aunt.

In 1926, Lillian and George had their first child, a daughter, Daisie Mae. In January 1927, their second child, George Jr. was born. In April 1927, they celebrated their second wedding anniversary, which sadly, would be their last.

On April 30th, George climbed aboard an F-5-L seaplane in Philadelphia, headed home to Naval Air Station Hampton Roads. They were almost there, perhaps 40 miles from the base, when they hit bad weather. Their plane was struck by lightning.  It plummeted into Chesapeake Bay and broke apart. George and the other three men aboard – the pilot, LT Victor F. Marinelli; LTJG George N. Lehman; and Chief Machinist’s Mate L.E. Poyner – were killed.

A report in the Philadelphia Inquirer said a second Navy plane was flying a short distance away. The pilot, Chief Boatswain George F. Kahle, said he flew over the area for an hour looking for the crew members.  He saw no sign of them among the wreckage of the plane.

According to the article in the Inquirer, Hampton Roads’ commandant of the air forces, Commander C. A. Reade, said it was possible the crew members were killed by the lightning strike itself. If not, he said, their deaths would have been instantaneous when the plane hit the water.

I imagine Lillian moved home to Pensacola following her husband’s death, but before long, she faced another loss. Her father died  in 1929.

Life was probably not easy for a widow with two small children, no parents, and no siblings that I can find. Herman and Elsie were childless. Somehow, perhaps through Maggie Mae, they found each other and formed a new family, and I’m glad that they were all able to find some happiness with each other.

Article detailing funeral services for George Michaels and describing the circumstances of his death.

An article in the Pensacola Journal described the plans for George Michaels’ funeral.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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