Finding Sammy Kaufman

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It was a tiny photograph, not much larger than an oversized postage stamp. It showed two boys, identified on the back as Bob Firlus and Sam Kaufman. Of course I was very familiar with Bob, my Dad’s lifelong friend from Mauston, Wisconsin. But Sam did not ring a bell. However, his presence in my Dad’s photo collection meant that he was a friend and likely a frequent guest at the home of my grandparents on Morris Street in Mauston. I wondered, what became of Sam?

The photo detective in me kicked into high gear. My first check was with Mr. Firlus, who had some distinct and humorous early memories of Sam:

They had a nice house on Tremont Street. One day Sammy and I walked out to Coon Rock Bluff a few miles west of Mauston. We were near the bluff and Sammy said that he had to take a pee but he asked me not to tell his dad because his dad told him he should not pee outdoors.

Ah, the troubles of youth! What a great story! Bob said he believed Sam had moved to Pennsylvania after leaving Mauston. I next dug out some of my Dad’s yearbooks and found Sam pictured with my Dad’s Mauston Grade School class in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He was one of the tallest boys in class, so was usually found in the back row. In the 1939 class photo, he was standing directly to my Dad’s right. 

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Bob Firlus, Sammy Kaufman and David Hanneman are shown in this early school photo.

I checked the U.S. Census and military records on Ancestry.com and  found Sam’s father, Albert Ross Kaufman, a doctor at Mauston’s Hess Memorial Clinic. The elder Kaufman’s 1942 draft card showed he was 46 and living with his family at 214 Tremont Street in Mauston. That was fairly close to the Hess clinic, but not so close to the Hanneman house. So what was his connection to that photo taken on Morris Street? I looked up Sam’s mother, Ardis, and discovered her maiden name was Hess. OK, now we’re making progress. Hess was a very prominent name in Mauston, largely due to Dr. James Samuel Hess Sr., a pioneer doctor and founder of the hospital and clinic. Interestingly, Bob Firlus said he had recently thought about Sam and the name Ardis came to mind, although Bob hadn’t recalled that was Sam’s mother’s name.

Turns out that Dr. Ardis (Hess) Kaufman (also a physician) was the daughter of Dr. J.S. Hess Sr. and Maude (Robinson) Hess. She was the sister of Dr. J.S. Hess Jr., who lived directly across the street from the Hannemans. Dr. Sam, as the junior Hess was known, took over for his father at the hospital and clinic. That explained why Sammy was a frequent neighborhood visitor. My grandfather, Carl F. Hanneman, worked for Dr. Sam running the pharmacy attached to the Hess clinic. So it made sense that Bob Firlus and my Dad were buddies of Sam Kaufman. I dug into my photo archives and found another shot that appears to show Sam outside the Hess home around 1942. 

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A tall, thin young man believed to be Sam Kaufman outside the Hess home on Winsor Street.

Now that I had a good sense of Sam’s history in Mauston, I wanted to figure out where he went and what happened in his life. Again, Ancestry.com was a crucial source. I found listings for Dr. Albert R. Kaufman under city directories in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Based on that, I ran search engine queries and located an obituary for Sam Kaufman. I reacted with sadness, since I always hope in doing this work to find a living person to track down. Sam died in October 2008 of lung cancer. Same cause as my Dad, and about 18 months later. From the obituary, it was clear Sam had lived an exemplary life.

The obituary described Sam’s college education, his longtime service in the U.S. Army, his 1957 marriage to Margaret “Meg” Floyd, and his career switch from salesman to high school teacher. He had a long teaching career at Baldwin High School in suburban Pittsburgh. The couple had two sons, James and Steve. From checking those names with search engines, it appears Steve has had a long career as an assistant U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh. According to the obituary, one of Sam’s favorite places was Lake Chautauqua in New York, because it reminded him of Mauston, Wis. “He really liked lakes because of growing up near the lakes in Wisconsin,” Steve Kaufman said.

Even after I finished most of my research, Sam’s name stuck in my head. There was some other clue I was missing. Dad, could you give me some help here? Then it hit me. I vaguely recalled that Sammy accompanied my Dad’s family on one of their vacation trips to the Dakotas. But how to find the photo amidst the thousands in the archive? On this day, I had some help from above. The first archive box I opened had the photo for which I searched. The caption read: “Sammy Kaufman on right, David Hanneman on left.” It was in my Grandma Ruby’s handwriting. 

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David Hanneman (left) and Sam Kaufman outside the Ortman Chiropractic Clinic in Canistota, S.D., circa 1944.

It took a few days of work, but with a little effort I went from a tiny photo print with lots of questions to a decent understanding of Sam Kaufman and his life in and beyond Mauston. Well done, Sam, and thank you.

©2016 Treasured Lives

Originally published at The Hanneman Archive

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