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1978 Pasco Times obituary may help settle estate in Germany

The front page of the April 26, 1978, Pasco Times is dominated by Dick Kelton's firing. And you thought John Gallagher had always been county administrator.

The same commissioners who dispatched Kelton are pictured again at the bottom of the page, dedicating the new bridge on Rowan Road. They're also discussing something called "the U.S. 19 Bypass,'' which today is Little Road.

We dragged out the old bound volumes the other day and delighted in the history lesson. Green fees at the Gulf Harbors golf course were $3. A new two-bedroom house in Port Richey with wall-to-wall carpeting cost $22,500.

But this wasn't just a fun exercise in nostalgia. We were searching for survivors.

A few days earlier, an investigator for an international probate research company had called asking for help locating possible heirs to property in Germany. Jeannie Frankovitz with W.C. Cox & Co. was searching for relatives of a man who died in Zephyrhills on April 24, 1978.

More than three decades later, one of this man's relatives might be in line for some unclaimed riches. And if W.C. Cox & Co. were to find them, it might get a percentage.

The Pasco Times published eight obituaries on April 26, including that of Adam Stauch, 79. He was born in Germany, and moved to Zephyrhills in 1962 after retiring as a roofer in Springfield, N.J. He had two daughters: Marie Stauch and Elsie Grasso.

We have some amazing researchers at the Times, and it took Shirl Kennedy only a few minutes to find an Elsie Grasso in Parlin, N.J.

She answered the phone in a clear, strong voice. "Yes, my father was from Germany,'' she said. "But that was a long time ago. I can't imagine that he had any property there.''

Adam Stauch grew up near Stuttgart and fought in the German army in World War I. He suffered three bullet wounds in one arm. After the war, he moved with his wife, Marie, to New Jersey, but his wounds did not heal properly. Doctors wanted to amputate his arm, so he returned to Germany to consult the doctor who had treated him earlier.

The Stauchs didn't know when they set sail from New York harbor that Marie was pregnant. Elsie was born in Plattenhardt, Germany on April 16, 1926. Adam received his treatment and returned to the U.S. with both arms intact.

"But he always had trouble with the one arm,'' Mrs. Grasso said. "I can remember the three bullet holes. You could put your finger in them.''

The Stauchs had a second daughter three years after Elsie. She was named for her mother. Today, that daughter is in a nursing home in New Jersey, so her older sister is left to figure out all the paperwork from W.C. Cox & Co.

"I thought I was still sharp till I started wading through all this,'' she said.

On its Web site, W.C. Cox notes that settling European estates often requires lengthy genealogical searches because many families lost contact with members who immigrated to the United States.

As it turns out, this particular estate apparently belonged to Katherine Steck, Mrs. Grasso's great aunt on her mother's side. The discovery is exciting to Mrs. Grasso, who worked for years as a bookkeeper for a law firm in Perth Amboy, N.J. She's been widowed for 20 years. Her daughter lives nearby, but Mrs. Grasso isn't quite ready to share the news.

"I don't want to get her hopes up,'' she said.

Stay tuned.

1978 Pasco Times obituary may help settle estate in Germany 06/27/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 11:10am]
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