A Sad and Fearful Week

June 17, 2010

Back in 1917, this must have been a sad and fearful week for an 8-year-old girl. This was the week that little Ruth Hooge heard the awful news her father was dead. This was the week she saw him laid out in a casket in their home and then taken by procession to a cemetery.

Ruth’s father was Carl Hooge, a 36-year-old Chicago policeman, and, according to a Chicago Daily Tribune article dated June 13, 1917, he had been on duty at the South Halsted Street bridge. He died later at the People’s Hospital.

“He was shot in the line of duty,” Ruth always said of her father, when speaking of him decades later to her children and grandchildren, of whom I’m one.

In a 1990 family video, Ruth talks of this week that happened so long ago. Initially, she says she doesn’t remember much. But like the obscure things that embed themselves into a child’s mind, there are some details that stayed with my grandmother throughout her life.

“In those days, you were laid out at home,” says Ruth. “My father was laid out at home in his uniform. I remember we lived upstairs in this 2-flat and he was in the casket in front of the front windows. Right next to that was a bedroom with front windows and Aunt Bert (Hornburg Reimer) took me to that window. A police band was out in front and they played ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ That song has upset me ever since.”

In the video, Ruth remembers the police band played and marched in front of the hearse all the way from their house to Bethania Cemetery where her father was buried. She says the police department paid for her father’s funeral and gravestone.

“My father — I have the funeral bill, and it was just under $500 — has a big, black marble stone, with gold printing and etching,” recalls Ruth. “My mother and father’s grave is now one of the first ones as you come into this big cemetery. It’s a Lutheran cemetery.”

Ruth also remembers the months after her father died.

“Aunt Bert and her son, my cousin Russell, lived with us for a year or so,” says Ruth. “My mother was getting $75 a month from the police department for our care.”

In the video, I’m still curious about the day her father died. I ask if perhaps a random street person shot him? Or a gangster?

“It was in the line of duty,” Ruth reiterates. “Grandma (Emma Hooge, her mother) never talked about it. She just wouldn’t talk about it.

“But I remember her sending me to a friend of hers — you’ve heard us talk of Marie Milke — and she sent me over there to tell her. They lived in a 2-flat upstairs and was I was in the front hall. She came down the stairs and I told her and she started to cry. The woman in the downstairs flat came out and she (Marie) told her what happened. This woman says, ‘Oh, you poor little orphan!’

“I said, ‘I’m not an orphan! I’ve got a mother!’

“I was eight years old,” says my grandmother.

Carl and Emma Hooge’s gravestone is in Chicago’s
Bethania Cemetery. When you drive in the front entrance off Archer Avenue, the stone is located just to the right.

Pictured here is Ruth’s husband George, probably decades later, tending to Carl’s grave. The handwriting is Ruth’s and is taken from the back of the photo.

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