Frank Pavlosk

Frank Pavlosk, August 1943

Frank Pavlosk, my great grandfather, was born on October 1, 1871. He immigrated from Marienwerder, West Prussia, in 1887 or thereabouts when he was in his late teens. Marienwerder is now the northern Polish city of Kwidzyn, located about 60 miles from the Baltic Sea. He left with his brothers and sisters, and they never went back. Their mother and father remained in Prussia. The family were farmers, but Frank Pavlosk’s father owned a jewelry store and was a silversmith. The store went out of business, and that was one of the prompts for the children to leave for America for more opportunity. Mom told me that Frank’s father had said to him that he needed to leave – the family was getting squeezed economically and there wasn’t any future there for him.

The number and the names of Frank Pavlosk’s siblings are unclear. I believe all the children left for America, but I don’t know. He had cousins, aunts, and uncles and maybe even grandparents that remained in Prussia. Frank’s half-sister, Anna, (last name unknown) lived near Bound Brook, NJ. Mother said that he never visited her. She taught piano. He had a full sister, Teresa, or Theresa, who married a policeman named Fred Fuchs.  They lived in Elizabeth, NJ. His brother, Paul, lived in Memphis, Tennessee. He changed his last name to “Palmer.” Mom’s brother, Ernest Andersen, said that he was a “handsome man, he looked like Gramps.” Mother met him once. She used to write letters to him from her grandfather. Uncle Ernie thought Paul Pavlosk was a professional gambler. Mother said that her grandfather had another brother named William (or Abel.) This brother was a professional gambler and card player. William was last heard from in Chicago, Illinois in 1900.

Marienwerder means “Mary’s Little Island” in German. The town was founded in the 14th century by the Teutonic Knights and was used as the seat of the Bishops of Pomerania within Prussia. The city had a large German population. From the 1700s, Marienwerder was part of the German Imperial Province of West Prussia. After World War II it became part of Poland and was renamed “Kwidzyn.” The remaining German population was killed or scattered, and their homes, farms and lands were confiscated. The Liwa river runs by Marienwerder/Kwidzyn. One sight our great grandfather would have seen and is extant today is the Kwidzyn castle and cathedral (St. John the Evangelist) which was built around 1348.

Marienwerder Cathedral and Castle

The family name was spelled in a variety of ways; even Frank Pavlosk and his children spelled the name in several ways over their lifetimes. The children, including my grandmother, spelled her name as “Paloske.”  Frank Pavlosk also used Paloske. The name was also spelled in various documents as Pavloske, Pavlosky, Pavaloske, and Polosky. Names ending in “ke” normally signify a Prussian heritage. According to my mom, Helen Anderson Doherty, her grandfather was always adamant that he was German, not Polish.

After arriving in the United States, Frank Pavlosk settled near Bound Brook, New Jersey. My uncle, Ernest Andersen, said he lived in Gatesville, and met his future wife, Annie Rikowsky, in that area. Theirs may have been an arranged marriage. According to the 1910 census, he got married in 1894 when he was 23. Why many German immigrants ended up together in cities, I have no idea or why Frank Pavlosk initially ended up in rural New Jersey when he first arrived. Perhaps that farmlands reminded him of home? More likely he settled in an area where other relatives or neighbors lived. There may have been a sizable German or Prussian population in that area of New Jersey; or, one of the children went ahead (Anna?) and the other ones joined her.

In the 1910 census, “Frank Polosky” lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He was a night watchman at a factory, and his wife, Anna, was a housewife. They had been married 16 years. They had four children – Anna (14), Mary (11), John (8) and William (5). His oldest daughter, Anna, worked assembling umbrellas in a factory.

Frank Pavlosk lost his wife when he was only 40 years old. “Annie” (Anna) Pavlosk died of a heart attack at 8 p.m. on February 8, 1912. She was stricken when she was out shopping and died in front of a store. At that time, the family lived at 246 Fulton Street in Elizabeth. A year prior, she had been hospitalized for kidney disease, but she continued to get around. Frank Pavlosk never remarried but was a widower for 45 years. He raised his children on his own with the help of his daughters.

Frank Pavlosk seems to me to be a person who “carried on.” He worked hard, he learned English and bought his own home. He provided for his family and sheltered most of his grandchildren. He had a quiet strength. He was resilient. But he also had a stiff or rigid side, where he could cut off both of his sons and his half-sister. 

At some point he went to work for Cities Service Oil Company in Carteret, N.J. as a tank car inspector. He worked for them for over 35 years and worked into his 70s. Mom said he was 76 when he retired.

In 1947, he lived at 525 Willow Avenue in Roselle Park, NJ with his daughter, Mary, and his grandson, Ernest F. (Andersen) who was a student. His occupation at that time was listed as a pipefitter. Frank Pavlosk must have moved to Roselle Park much earlier, since mom, Helen Anderson Doherty, lived with her grandfather and aunt in Roselle Park by 1938 or 1939.

Mother remembered once incident where her mom, Anna Paloske Anderson, left her husband and brought her children to her father’s house.Clarence Anderson was a drinker and could be physically abusive when he was drunk. Clarence showed up remorseful and contrite and she returned home with him.

A lot changed for Frank Pavlosk and his grandchildren when Anna Anderson died of a stroke on October 5, 1937. Within a few months, the children were scattered. The two oldest, Carl and Florence, went to live with Frank Pavlosk. Helen became a maid in another household.  Ruth was in a foster home. The two youngest boys, Ernest, and David, went to live at Bonnie Brae Farm for Boys in Millington, NJ. The two youngest girls, Clara, and Grace, lived in a foster home in rural New Jersey with a woman named Mrs. Miller.

After an attempted rape by the husband in the household where Mom lived and worked, she went to live with her grandfather. Most of the other children went to live with Frank Pavlosk at some point until they married, went into the service or workforce. My mother said that he provided for them, but they needed to work to get money for their clothes. When my mother married on August 15, 1943, her grandfather walked her down the aisle. He was almost 72. My father told me that Mom’s grandfather didn’t think he was good husband material since he didn’t have a house for his new wife. “He wanted me to have a house and some chicks,” Dad laughed. “I had some chicks.”  Frank Pavlosk was right – he wasn’t good husband material.

His daughter, Mary, “Aunt May,” lived with her father until her death in 1947. His youngest son, William, “Uncle Bill,” was a merchant seaman. He came back to the house in between voyages. One time he returned with a terrible cough; he had TB. His father told him to leave so he wouldn’t infect the children. He left and was never seen again. I don’t know what happened to him—if he died or just went away and never returned. In one story he was killed when his ship was torpedoed and sunk by German submarines in WWII.

I have always thought how sad it must have been for him to outlive his wife and all of his children.  His oldest daughter, Anna, died in 1937 when she was 42. His second child, Mary, died in 1947 when she was 49. His oldest son, John, died a year after in 1948 at the age of 46, and his youngest son and child, William, probably died in the early 1940s when he was 37 or 38.  How sad each of those deaths must have been for him!  The most crushing blow was probably the death of his daughter, Mary, when he was 76. She never married and took care of him all her life.  Even with his grandchildren and sister nearby, he was alone. Perhaps the deaths of all of his immediate family led to his decision to go live with his sister. The same thing had happened to his parents left in Marienwerder; all the children departed and they were left alone. I wonder if he thought of that and had any regrets.

Since there are no letters or cards or any written material, and few family stories, I have had to incur family relationships through their burial places and gravestones. Frank and Anna Pavlosk are buried together at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Newark, NJ the diocesan cemetery.  Frank’s half-sister, Anna, is buried there, too. His oldest daughter, Anna Anderson, is buried by herself in Rosedale, a secular cemetery in Linden. One of her infant daughters, Gertrude, is buried nearby her. Mary Pavlosk is buried by herself in Mt. Olivet, but there was space on her gravestone for another name. John Paloske and his wife, Cecilia (maiden name – Feeney), are buried together in a plot owned by Dennis and Thomas Feeney.  However, their names are not included on the family gravestone. They have unmarked graves. There is no burial or memorial for William Pavlosk. I wonder if Frank Pavlosk or Mary Pavlosk meant to include John or Bill and did not for some reason. Mother talked about her uncle Bill, but never her uncle, John.  His wife, Cecilia, died in 1981 when I was in my late twenties.  I could have met her. I wonder what happened that John Paloske and his wife were banished and forgotten.

Mom was content living with her grandfather, Aunt May and eventually her sisters, Ruth and Florence, in Roselle Park. Mom told me a number of stories about her time in his house.

Her grandfather would come home from work and read a newspaper in German. He spoke English mixed with a little German with his grandchildren. He most likely spoke German mixed with a little English with his children. If the adults didn’t want the children to know what they were talking about, they spoke in German. Mom remembers writing letters for him to his brother, Paul, in Memphis; and addressing a Christmas card “Fucks” instead of “Fuchs” to his sister and her family. She got reprimanded for that mistake.

Somehow, Mom ended up with his silver pocket watch. I remember her talking about it; her grandfather would take it out of his pocket to check the time. I forgot about it until I found it in her living room cabinet after her death. The watch is engraved with the date of 1895, with a house on a hillside beside a river. It was made by Dueber, a watch manufacturer based in Ohio from the 1880s to 1930. When I brought it to a watch repairman in the Diamond District in New York City, he looked at the watch and asked me if I was Jewish. I said, no, why did he ask? He said the watch was made by a famous Jewish silversmith. Since it was manufactured by Dueber, I don’t think that it was made by a Jewish silversmith but his comment did remind me that Mom had said her grandfather’s father was a silversmith and owned a jewelry store.

The comment about the watch linked to another of Mom’s stories: On Passover, a Jewish man would come to her grandfather’s house to celebrate the holiday with him. He would bring wine and food. That seems an odd thing to do with someone who is ostensibly Catholic.

Because of these stories, and a few others, at the very end of her life I asked my mother if it was possible that her mother wasn’t Catholic. She answered: “Maybe.” I cranked up my nerve and asked if my grandmother could have been Jewish? Mom replied, “It’s possible.”  She didn’t say anything else, but I thought it was interesting that she didn’t deny it. (Note: as of now, no Ashkenazi heritage is evident through multiple DNA tests.)

Mom related one weird incident toward the end of Frank Pavlosk’s life; his sister, Teresa Fuchs, “kidnapped” him and brought him to live with her. She wouldn’t let anyone see him. His grandsons, Ernest and David Anderson went and got him, and brought him to live with them in their apartment. I don’t know if his sister felt that he was alone and not taken care of properly, or if she wanted something from him. The grandchildren obviously had feelings about not being able to see him and took action. His sister, Teresa either died before him or was deliberately left out of his obituary because there was no mention of her when he passed away a few years later.

Frank Pavlosk 1955

Frank Pavlosk was 85 when he died on August 14, 1957. I remember being locked in the car while my mother rushed to see him before he died. She was very upset when she returned. I have a very vague memory of Dad and/or Aunt Ruth returning to the car with her.

His obituary and funeral notices read:  Frank Pavlosk. GARWOOD – Frank Pavlosk, 85, of 537 Willow Ave., a retired tank car inspector for the Cities Service Oil Co., Carteret, died last night at Cranford Hall Nursing Home, Cranford, after a long illness.   Born in Germany, Mr. Pavlosky came to this country more than 80 years ago. He lived in Elizabeth many years. Before coming to Garwood several months ago to make his home with a grandson, David Anderson, he lived two years in Linden.  Mr. Pavlosky worked for Cities Service more than 35 years. He retired seven years ago. He was a communicant of the Church of the Assumption, Roselle Park. His wife was the late Mrs. Anna Pavlosky.   Survivors are a brother, Paul, of Memphis, Tenn.; eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren.   The funeral will be from the August F. Schmidt Memorial Funeral Home, 139 Westfield Avenue, Elizabeth.

PAVLOSK—On Aug. 14, Frank, devoted husband of the late Anna Pavlosk of 537 Willow Ave., Garwood, formerly of Elizabeth.   Relatives and friends are kindly invited to attend the funeral from the August F. Schmidt Funeral Home, 139 Westfield Ave., Elizabeth, on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 8:30 a.m. Requiem high Mass in the Church of the Assumption, Roselle Park, at 9 a.m.   Internment Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

Frank Pavlosk is buried with his wife at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Newark, N.J. The location is Block C, Lot 250, Letter F.

An internet search for his obituary resulted a strange newspaper notice in The Courier-News in Bridgewater, NJ, in their September 21, 1957, edition: “Grandson Willed Estate” Elizabeth – Frank Pavlosk, who died Aug. 14 as a Cranford resident, the grandfather of Grace Anderson of Lamberts Mill Rd., Westfield, left his entire estate to another grandchild, Ernest Frank Anderson of Garwood, according to the will which was probated yesterday by Surrogate Charles A. Otto Jr. The will was dated Sept. 19, 1952.”

I have an onionskin copy of the will. It was true – Frank Pavlosk left everything to just one grandson. Why just one is a mystery, since he appeared to have good relationships with all or most of his grandchildren.

My one memory of my great grandfather is sitting on his lap and crying.  He comforted me.

I have a lot of questions about my great grandfather and his family. I have researched many of them and have come to a dead end. Any help answering them would be appreciated. Thank you!

  • What year did he arrive in the U.S.?
  • Did all the siblings emigrate together, or did one or two of them come ahead of the others? What were their names?
  • Was one of his brothers a professional gambler? Who?
  • Who were his father and mother?
  • What was his mother’s maiden name?
  • What was their religion?
  • Why did he go to the Bound Brook, NJ area?
  • How did he meet his wife?
  • When and where did they marry?
  • Did her parents emigrate to the US or stay in Germany?
  • What was her ethnic background?
  • Why were no siblings or relatives mentioned in her obituary?
  • What was his relationship with his son, John?
  • What meaning did the silver pocket watch hold for him?
  • Why did he never remarry?
  • What was his relationship with his sister, Theresa?
  • Who were the parents of his half-sister, Anna?
  • Why did he dislike his half-sister, Anna?
  • Why did his sister, Teresa, “kidnap” him? What was the story behind that incident?
  • Why did he leave his estate to Uncle Ernie, and none of the other grandchildren?




1 Comment

By Karen