In 1925 Nicolai "Nick" Donison has been suffering from a gastric ulcer and sought medical treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA in a bid to regain his health. Despite the state-of-the-art care Nick, father of six, would be dead two weeks later. This photo was taken on the day of his funeral. There are a couple of unknown faces in the small crowd. Perhaps you know who they were?
Seeking Medical Treatment
Nicolai "Nick" Donison must have been suffering and seeking treatment for his gastric ulcer for months leading up December 1925. I'll imagine that he waited until he had finished his harvest in the autumn before arranging for treatment during the winter.
He travelled alone, by train I imagine, from Avonlea, Saskatchewan to Rochester, Minnesota, USA to receive treatment from the famous Mayo Clinic. We have to imagine that he sought treatment from the doctors in the region but was following recommendations when he arranged for this course of action. We don't know what shape he was in when he departed in the first week of December but certainly everyone that saw him off did so with the greatest hope. I wonder if anyone suspected this would be the last time they would see him alive?
He was admitted to the Mayo Clinic (in the Colonial Hospital) on December 10, 1925.
Dead on Christmas Eve
Nick's wife of sixteen years likely had a knock on the door of their farmhouse around Christmas day by a man delivering a telegram. The telegram announced the death of her husband on December 24. At the age of thirty-four Reveca "Rebecca" Donison nee Marcenko was a widow with six children and a farm to run. Nicolai "Nick" Donison was forty-two when he died.
The cause of death is listed as "Gastric ulcer" with a secondary cause of "Lobar pneumonia". Whatever treatments had been tried are unknown however we know that Reveca "Rebecca" said that the doctors had opened the windows of Nicolai's room so that the fresh winter air could get in to him.
Reveca "Rebecca" hurriedly arranged for someone to care for the children. She borrowed a small sum of money and boarded a train to retrieve the body of her husband to bring to back for burial.
Travel by Rail
Within the week she travelled from Avonlea to Rochester and back. I'm very surprised how quickly this was accomplished. I sometimes overestimate how long things in the past took. I'm impressed by the speed and schedule of train travel in this case The death certificate says that Nicolai "Nick" was buried on December 31, 1925. This must be the date this photo was taken. So in the seven days between December 24 and December 31 there was the death, travel to retrieve the body, embalming, arrangement to transport the body, travel back with the body and the funeral. Reveca's head must have been swimming.
Burial at Saint Mary's Romanian Orthodox Church Cemetery
Nicolai "Nick" Donison was buried at Saint Mary's Romanian Orthodox Church Cemetery. When I look at the photo I do not think it was taken at the church. The reason why I say this is that everyone is next to the building and they are standing on level ground. The church has steps. I'll guess that this photo was taken at the Donison farm where the body might have been on display.
How Many Do You Recognize?
We can trust that the people in the photo were Donisons, knew the Donison family or at the very least were members of the Saint Mary's Romanian Orthodox Church parish.
Perhaps this photo is known to your family and you have more information to share? Please send me your comments and use the numbers I have labelled each person with in order to aid their identification.
If you need to see a larger version of this photo please click here or on the photo above.
List of people in the photo by number:
1. John Nicoli Donison was nine years old in this photo and was the fourth-born child of Nicolai "Nick" Donison (#13) and Reveca "Rebecca" Donison nee Marcenko (#10)
2. Reverend Father Teofil Maxim. Served the Saint Mary's Romanian Orthodox Church parish for about nine years from 1925 until 1934.
3. Vasile Fluter was one guess for this guy however that would make him only around thirteen in this photo which doesn't seem right. Maybe this is his father Dumitru? Maybe someone else... Do you recognize the face?