Sympathy Saturday – At the Heart of the Flu Epidemic

Ina Dame Demler

The subject of today’s post is not a blood relation, but her loss must surely have been a great tragedy for her husband and son, my first cousin three times removed and second cousin twice removed. Ina Dame was the daughter of William Patrick and Emily Ellen (Bright) Dame.  She was born 19 November 1893.  In 1915 Ina graduated from Virgil High School in Virgil, Kansas. On 25 February 1918 in Emporia, Ina married Charles A. Demler, son of August Frederick and Caroline (Fankhouser) Demler.  August’s sister Mary was the mother of my great-grandmother, Emma Alice (Slagel) Hoffmann.

A Democratic Messenger clipping from March 1918 recounts the bride’s “sweet, kind, loving disposition” and notes that “their many friends join in wishing them a long, happy and successful life’s journey together.” This, however, was not to be. On 12 November 1918, Ina gave birth to a son, Charles, Jr., in Virgil. Sixteen days later Ina died. The Democratic Messenger again provides the pertinent details, noting that Ina’s death was from influenza. Ina was buried in the Virgil Cemetery. Ina’s death was only one of between 50-100 million in the influenza pandemic of 1918.  Interestingly, the epidemic was first observed in the U.S. in Haskell County, Kansas, some 280 miles from where Ina died.

In spite of this early tragedy, life did go on for both Charles Demlers.  Charles, Sr., would remarry in 1929, though he and his wife Mineola had no children of their own. Charles died 13 May 1966, and Mineola 7 April 1969.  Both are buried in the Virgil Cemetery.  Charles, Jr., appears to have been raised by Ina’s parents. He is enumerated with them in the 1925 Kansas State Census as well as the 1930 U. S. Federal Census.  I’m not sure yet where either Charles was in 1920. By 1940 Charles, Jr., had married Etha Marie Wilson, and they were living in Lane, Kansas, along with Etha’s 11-year-old sister Betty Jean.  Etha died in 1955; Charles outlived her by 43 years, dying in Oklahoma on 3 October 1998. Both are also buried in Virgil.

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