Friday, June 22, 2018

John W. Close Jr.

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “same name” so this post is about a man named John. John had four other men named John in his life, including three that had the same middle initial as him—W.

John W. Close Jr., son of John W. Close Sr. and Margaret Wylie Athya, was born in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio on July 30, 1917. He was the third child of three—James Close, Ina Close, and John W. Close Jr. John would be the 1st cousin 1x removed of my husband Charles. Their nearest common relatives are James Athya and Jemima Durie of Glasgow, Scotland.

John was the first-generation American in this family. His brother James was born in Bellshill, Scotland in 1905; his sister Ina was born in Scotland on Christmas Day 1907. His parents, brother James, and sister Ina left Scotland in 1912, traveling to Canada. Once arriving in Canada, they settled at Joggins Mines in Nova Scotia, where they lived for two years. In July 1914, John Sr. left Nova Scotia for America, having an uncle in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio. John Sr. settled in Steubenville and then brought his family there in November. John Sr. bought a two-story house on Grandview Avenue to raise his family.

Ship manifest for Maggie Athya Close, her son James, and daughter Ina

The 1920s brought some stability to the Close family. On January 22, 1920, the census enumerator found them living in the Grandview Avenue home. John was a toddler at 2 ½ years old. His father worked on heater furnaces in a mill. A divorced friend named Della Jarvis lived in the home with them. But their stability would be shattered in 1925 when James, John’s 19-year-old brother, died of pneumonia at home in Steubenville on February 21. They buried James at Union Cemetery in Steubenville. And then four years later (about 1929), John’s sister Ina married Joseph Schneider and moved out of the home, leaving 11-year-old John home alone with his parents. Ina didn’t go far though—she and Joseph remained in Steubenville until 1950 when they built a home in nearby Wintersville, less than five miles from Steubenville.

1920 Soundex card for the John Close family

On April 2, 1930, the family still lived in the Grandview Avenue house. John’s father continued to work in the steel mill, now as a laborer. They had two lodgers living in the home at the time—John W. Irwin (the third male named “John W” living under the same roof) and his wife Norma. John married Dorothy Elizabeth Sells, daughter of John W. Sells (4th man named John W) and Ella L. Rine, in Wellsburg, Brooke, West Virginia on May 15, 1936. He was 22 and she 21. Their marriage was blessed with two children—John Carl Close (5th man named John, born 1939) and Shirley Jean Close (born 1941).

1936 marriage license for John and Dorothy

Sometime after the wedding, John and Dorothy moved the family to Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. On April 26, 1940, they lived in a house located 160 South 16th Street. John worked a jack hammer (at least that’s what I believe the census enumerator wrote) for the W.P.A., or Work Projects Administration. According to Wikipedia, “The Works Progress Administration (WPA; renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration) was the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agency, employing millions of people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. By the time an unemployed John registered for the World War II draft in Pittsburgh on October 16, 1940, they had moved to 1618 Roland Street in Pittsburgh. John was 5’ 8 ½” tall and weighed 150 pounds, had brown eyes and hair, a ruddy complexion, and a scar on his lip and chin. John served as a private first class in the U.S. Marine Corps. He entered into active service in Pittsburgh on August 8, 1945 and served until April 26, 1946 when he was separated with an honorable discharge at Parris Island, South Carolina.

On January 18, 1950, John filed an “Application for World War II Compensation.” At the time, he lived at 49 Thomas Street in Crafton, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. His application was disallowed for having served less than 60 days active service during the eligibility period. John was still living on Thomas Street in 1957. He worked as a foreman at Dacar in Pittsburgh, which appears to still be in existence. According to their webpage, Dacar “is the oldest Pittsburgh-based company making water treatment chemicals in southwestern Pennsylvania.” It’s interesting to me that he worked there. His brother James, who died in 1925, was a chemist.

The year 1957 would end on a sad note with the death of John’s 80-year-old father in Steubenville on December 15, 1957. John Sr. suffered from lobar pneumonia. His funeral was held on December 18 at the Cole Brothers Funeral Home, followed by burial at Union Cemetery in Steubenville. Ten years would pass before the death of his 88-year-old mother of congestive heart failure on December 19, 1968 at Ina’s Wintersville home. Maggie was buried at Union Cemetery beside her husband John Sr. Another 10 years would pass before John lost his sister Ina who died in Steubenville at the age of 70 on August 16, 1978. She was buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Steubenville. And then another 10 years would pass before John died of lung cancer at Forbes Hospital in Pittsburgh on July 12, 1988. He was buried at Jefferson Memorial Park on Curry Hollow Road Pleasant Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh. John was survived by his wife Dorothy, son John, daughter Shirley, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His obituary notes that he had been an instructor at a vocational school. He lived in Crafton Heights at the time of his death.

Gravestone photo by Searching, Find A Grave ID 47333277

I wonder if any of his grandchildren were named John.


  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Certificate of Death, 071043, John Close Jr., July 12, 1988.
  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Certificate of Death, 9339, James Close, February 23, 1925.
  • Darcar Industries, Company Biography;
  • John W Close Jr. obituary, The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 13, 1988.
  • Marriage License Record, 236, Brooke County, West Virginia, John Close and Dorothy Sells, May 15, 1936.
  • Ohio, Birth Index, 1908–1964.
  • Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1777–1999.
  • Pennsylvania, Veteran Compensation Applications, WWII, 1950.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1957.
  • Registration Card, D.S.S. Form 1, John Close Jr., undated.
  • S.S. Grampian, Card Manifest Data Sheet, John Close, July 9, 1914 and Maggie Close, November 8, 1914.
  • Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations March 14, 1938.
  • U.S. Census, Steubenville, Jefferson, Ohio, 1920, 1930.
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850–2010.
  • U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936–2007.
  • U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940–1947.
  • U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s–Current.
  • Union Cemetery Association Interment Directory, James Close, February 24, 1915.

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