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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Thursday June 20th 2024

A Grandson remembers his Grandfather

Tales of Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery

by Sue Hunter Weir

Emilie and William Gaspar with their children Photo Courtesy of the Gaspar Family

William Gaspar had a dog named Brownie, who loved to eat chocolate-covered peanuts. When William went to visit his son Joseph, in Loretto, Minnesota, he would walk Brownie to his son’s grocery store and buy him a treat. These are small things, and certainly not the most important things that William did in his life, but they give us a sense of who he was, that other types of information – lists of dates and places – cannot.  

Emilie Gaspar, William’s wife, was the second person buried in the cemetery after the City Council reconsidered an earlier decision not to allow burials after 1919. Emilie met the criteria for an exception—she owned a plot, and other members of her family were already buried there.

Emilie’s mother, Mary Ann Klapperich Kelly Gaspar, was buried there, as were Mary Ann’s first two husbands. She married Frank Kelly on January 26, 1861, but he died from typhoid before they had been married a year.  The date of his death was not recorded on his burial card, but he died before their daughter Elizabeth was born on December 23, 1861. On January 26, 1862, on what would have been the first anniversary of her marriage to Frank, Mary Ann married Frank’s older brother Nicholas. He died on October 12, 1863, three days after their daughter Emilie was born, and less than two years after he and Mary Ann had married. Cemetery records indicate that he died from “congestion of the bowels,” but some of his descendants believed that he was killed in an accident in a flour mill, and both of those could very well be true. He was 32 years old when he died.

At the age of 21, Mary Ann was a widow with two daughters under the age of two. She moved to her parents’ farm in Delano, Minnesota, where she met and later married Theodore Gaspar. They did not have children, but her two daughters took his last name. Theodore died in Hennepin County in 1883, but the location of his grave is unknown. Mary Ann died of “old age” on September 9, 1910. She was 68 years old.

On May 3, 1881, Emilie married Theodore’s nephew, William Frank Gaspar. They were married in Loretto, Minnesota, and made news for walking twenty miles to Minneapolis for their honeymoon.

Emilie was interested in genealogy, and in 1927 wrote to the President of the Town Council in Einsiedeln, Switzerland, who returned a letter outlining her father’s family history back to 1778. The family name was originally Kaelin but her father and his brother changed it to Kelly after they arrived in America. Her mother’s family came from Germany and arrived in the United States sometime before 1855.

Emilie died on August 14, 1935.  She and William had been married for 54 years. William went to live with their son, Henry (Hank) but also spent time with another son, Joseph. It was Joseph who owned the grocery store where William bought Brownie his treats. It was Joseph’s son, Jim Gaspar, who wrote about his grandfather, a man he very much loved: “It was always fun when he and Brownie (his dog) came. Daily he scolded Brownie for jumping in bed to sleep with him, but Brownie was always invited.” Jim remembered that his mother opened the windows and doors the minute that William left to rid the house of the smell of William’s pipe. 

Jim was in the Navy when his grandfather died on June 18, 1946. He was granted leave to attend the funeral but missed it because he mistakenly thought that it would take place in Eden Valley rather than Minneapolis. As sad as he must have been about missing the funeral, he did his grandfather a great service. He ensured that he would be remembered by writing stories about him that would be passed on to future generations of his family. Jim Gaspar died on October 22, 2002, and we can only hope that someone will take the time to write something nice to remember him by.

Frank Kelly, Nicholas Kelly, Mary Ann Kelly Gaspar, Emilie and William Gaspar are buried in Lot 90 Block A.

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