Sunday, April 02, 2006

A new episode in which a hero emerges to rescue me from drudgery -- and I thank him profusely

"Wildflower" is a very familiar figure to me. The bronze statue of a child about to plunge into the water at its feet now resides on the second floor of the Central Branch of the Madison Public Library. Donated to the library in 1916 by Professor and Mrs.Moses S. Slaughter, the statue formerly resided in the garden along the Dayton Street side of the old public library building on Carroll Street (behind Madison Central High School).

The second floor of the library is where the microfilm readers are located, so I've been spending a great many hours up there, reading old microfilms and dropping dimes into a slot every time I want to make a copy.

Many of the things I've been copying from microfilms are obituaries for Central alumni published in local newspapers prior to April 2003. It's a time consuming process -- and it's taken a lot of dimes.

Fortunately for all of us, there's a Central alumnus who's been saving obituaries for many years. Michael Vahldieck (Class of 1968) was kind enough to get in touch with me and offer his services to add more obituaries to the Madison Central High School Obituary Archives. He emailed me text files containing about 150 obituaries published locally between 2000 and 2003. Thank you, Michael, thank you!

Thus far, I've added almost 80 of the obituaries Michael sent me to the archives. The remainder will be added soon.

Michael's generosity has saved me many hours and many dimes, and I'm very grateful. And you, dear reader, should be, too.

Since Michael was a few years behind me in school, I asked him to send me a bit of information about himself, so I could introduce him, as well as thank him for his generosity. Here's what he told me in a recent email:

I'm researching my family's genealogy, and from that, I have an odd sense of the families living in Allenton, WI (west of Hartford), ca. 1848 - I recognize the surnames, know some of their occupations, where they owned land, who married whom, who went to which church, when they entered the naturalization process. I've read their obits, but also browsed the newspapers of the day. It's as if I once visited there, eons ago.

When I read the local obits, I sometimes recognize names from grade school (I went to Longfellow and St. James) and it brings back memories of old friends. I recall playing hooky in the Greenbush when in grade school, so I enjoy seeing the references to that. And I recall playing hooky at Central: oddly, I'd go hang out at the Madison Public Library. Al Colucci, the fearsome Asst. Principal with the military haircut, made frequent sweeps of the carmel corn shoppe on State St., looking for aberrant students, but he never thought to look for anyone at the MPL!
The "new" public library on Mifflin Street opened in 1965, so I don't know if Michael played hookey at the old or the new library. Perhaps he had hiding places at both locations. In any case, I'm sure that he too is familiar with "Wildflower."

The obituary archives are searchable if you use the blogger.com search box in the upper left hand corner of that blog (hint: just use the last name). Within a couple of days of posting, they are usually available on a Google search, too (although that option may bring up too many names to sort through). I hope you'll find the time to search or browse through the 1990 to present obituary archives. You'll find some familiar names and some amazing stories.

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