|Joseph Moniz |
To you baby Joseph, I will try to give a voice. Joseph was born sometime between late 1920 to 1921. He would pass at the age of one year from pneumonia. I believe that my grandmother was pregnant on the voyage to America. My belief lies in the fact that her first child John, was born January 31st 1919 and her third child, another Joseph was born March 12, 1922. So lets do the math...
Where do I begin? There were only a couple of facts about this child that I knew for sure. First that he existed and second what cemetery he was laid to rest. Mom always said that he passed from pneumonia at the age of one but only a theory on the illness! I wrote the above sentences about two weeks ago. After weeks of searching online, I decided to call New Bedford City Hall. I spoke to a pleasant woman and asked if I could come in and research. She asked if I could hold while she checked for a Joseph Moniz born somewhere between 1920 and 1921.
S A Y W H A T!!! She would check while I waited, are you kidding me right now! "I will hold for as long as it takes," I said. Could he have been named Jose? Were his parents Rufino and Maria Natalia Moniz? Yes! Yes! I knew he had passed at about thirteen months but that was all. "He passed September 19th 1921, at the age of one year, five days old. His birthdate September 14th, 1920," she reported. This proves my theory that Grandmother was pregnant aboard ship when she arrived in the United States on April 2nd of 1920. Be-still my heart, the hardship and lets not mention sea sickness coupled with morning sickness! Gosh, find me a bucket now!!!
Cousin Carole went downtown and picked up a birth and death certificate the following Monday. The death certificate clearly states that he passed from acute gastro-enteritis. Which is intestinal flu and dehydration. This would be a rare occurrence in this day and age in America.
I was on a roll! I called the cemetery and asked if they could pinpoint his place of burial. Keep in mind that this was late on a Friday afternoon. "Hold," said a very pleasant voice, "and I will look for you. Do you mind holding?"
SAY WHAT!!! "I have very little information but I can tell you that he is buried in the Saint Agnes, section lot number 387. The date of his burial was September 21st 1921," she said. She also mentioned that he was a member of Immaculate Conception Church.
I was overwhelmed at this point. "Go to the cemetery and look for one of the workers on lawnmowers. "Sh said that they speak English and will help you find it. "Pardon my ignorance and for lack of better terminology, was he buried a pauper" I asked? "No," said the kind voice, "they paid for his burial," but she could not tell me how much back in 1921. This news gave me a chill as I knew their resources were limited! I was so proud of them and once again they had endured such a great deal!
Cousin Carole went later the following Monday, earlier than our planned expedition on Thursday. She found the area, but she was not sure of the exact location. I went with my friend Mary on Wednesday. Again trying to narrow it down to save some time as my Mom and Aunty are in their eighties and would attend on Thursday.
My friend Mary has very strong intuitive abilities. As we drove into the cemetery, she said "look for a bird and he will give us a sign." No birds! All of a sudden a large black bird flew over several men on lawnmowers. She also said that plot 387 would be near a large tree!
We waved the men down. A very nice young man named Kenny, asked us to follow him. He led us, right to the exact spot while riding his lawnmower. It was all grassed over. I asked if he had a metal probe to see if there was a stone underneath. Remember, it has been 92 years since his burial. He did hit something and said it was probably a rock but he had no shovel with him. "So if I come back tomorrow and start digging, you're not going to start screaming at the old lady with the shovel are you," I asked?
"No, no" he said laughing. "In fact you can do whatever you would like," but mentioned a few restrictions.
Oh Boy! Green Light, now I can build the Taj Mahal. Mary and I checked a few stores to see if we could find a statue of some kind as my budget was small. No luck! I called my mother-in-law as she always has a statue or two hanging around! No luck! On the ride home Mary and I agreed that the right object would be found! A few seconds later we both at the same time said, "Kathy's garage or yard!" Kathy is my daughter.
I ran into my son-in-law first. Without hesitation he mentioned a statue way out in the backyard. My grandson knew immediately where it was, as he used to use it for target practice. KIDS!!!
He brought me the perfect specimen... a small boy with a dog at his side carrying a bucket. He was about twenty four inches tall!
PERFECT, I tried to contain myself! I'm sure my kids are going to send me away soon but at least it's never boring! Mike, my grandson, helped me clean him up. The statue was sturdy and heavy and looked like it had been around for a hundred years or so. Perfect, Perfect, Perfect!
Once again, overwhelmed, I knew higher powers were working here! Mike looked at me puzzled and asked if I was going to dig Uncle Joseph up? Roaring I explained that we were going only to mark the spot and make for Baby Joseph a fitting tribute.
How cute is he? Just perfect, have I already mentioned that?
I left early the next morning and stopped to buy some perennials and mulch. Had with me every tool I thought we needed except a pitchfork which turns out was the one tool we really needed. Carole and I tried to dig in the dense rough grass. It was so dense that we nearly wore ourselves out. The sun was blistering hot! Mom and Aunt Vera had chairs, water and were sitting in the shade under the large tree, that Mary had mentioned, looking at old photos that Aunt Vera had brought!
no markers were found...spot was verified...
Cousin Carole digging...
We found our friend Kenny, lawnmower free, and asked if we could borrow a pitchfork. He gladly obliged and lent us two. Now we were in business. We cleaned out a small oblong patch, found a few rocks and a foot long piece of old metal which Kenny told us was probably part of the original cement marker that had by now disintegrated.
We edged out a small oblong patch, nice and neat and planted some stonecrop. Then buried the statue up to his ankles. Aunty brought some flowers in a vase and I some hydrangea which I placed in his bucket. The mulch was spread evenly.
we buried him up to his ankles...
Mom and Aunty were tearful and Carole and I were proud of our laborious task and a little pooped, no a lot pooped! We were there about three hours all total. We hope to get some sort of nameplate in the future.
Mom and Aunty Vera watering...
so proud their baby brother has been finally acknowledged...
My mom kept saying how proud her mother and dad must be. The family had totally lost track of his whereabouts, but at least they knew the cemetery where he was buried.
We all enjoyed a wonderful lunch and spent the rest of the day looking at old photos with my two sisters and cousin who joined us later at cousin Carole's house.
She is such a gracious hostess!
It is amazing to me that I thought I only had a couple of things to say about this little guy. He has now been given a voice and has sent us on an incredible journey. He was born and loved by his parents and now will be remembered by all of us who never knew him. He was the second child of grandfather's second seven and had passed before my mom was born. He has brought us all closer together as a family and I will never ever forget this day!
I also now have his baptismal records, sent to me by Father Reis from Immaculate Conception Church:
"This is to certify that Jose Moniz is the Child of Rufino Moniz and Maria Natalia Moniz. He was baptized on September 26,1920 at Immaculate Conception Church, New Bedford, MA, according to the Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, by the Rev. J.N. Almeida.
The Sponsors being:
Francisco Raposo Mendonca and Maria Isabel Mendonca"
Thank You Uncle Joseph, our journey continues......
I just got a call from cousin Carole, she has located an engraver who will make Baby Joseph a nameplate for a very reasonable price.......and the gifts keep coming...!!!!!!!