|ALEXANDER LIGDA||Born: 1875-02-21||Died: 1945-05-15|
|Father: VICTOR NICHOLAS LIGDA||Mother: EMILIE CRAMER|
|Siblings: VALENTINA LIGDA, MARY LIGDA, ELIZABETH LIGDA, SIMEON LIGDA, PIERRE LIGDA , PAUL VICTOROVITCH LIGDA, OLGA VICTOROVNA LIGDA, VLADIMIR LIGDA|
Alec was the fourth surviving child born to Victor and Emilie. He said he was born on Feb. 21, 1875 in Naples, Italy. That date is confirmed by U. S. immigration records, his voter registration in 1898 1, and his registration for the draft in 1918. However other records cast some doubt, e.g., the 1900 census lists his age as 23 (born 1877); his 1922 marriage license lists his age as 48 (born 1874); his 1945 death certificate shows his age as 71 (born 1874).
When Alec dictated his family memoirs in 1932, he omitted references to his own life. He probably had some formal education while he was school age and the family lived in France (1879-89) as French law provided for compulsory education. He is listed as 14 when the family arrived in New York in June, 1889. There is no record of formal education in the United States. What little we know of his life after the family settled in San Francisco is gleaned from directory listings of 1892, 1893, and 1895 listing him as a jeweler living with his father. In 1896, he is shown in the Oakland Directory as a molder living with the family at 233 Harlan St. In 1898, he is again listed as a jeweler.
We know, from family accounts, that Alec was attacked and beaten with a club near 24th and Adeline Streets in Oakland. In 1907, his Brother Paul recalled the attack as taking place, “about 10 years ago.” His Sister Val said the attackers were caught and tried. After his recovery, Alec was never quite the same. For the remainder of his life, he was subject to violent seizures. This condition limited his ability to work. He is listed as unemployed in the 1900 census.
At the time of his father’s death in 1902, Alec was living in Belkofski, Alaska. Val said he went there with his older sister, Olga, and Fr. Alexine, her husband, (probably in late 1900 or 1901) and that he remained in Alaska with his brother-in-law when his sister left for Paris. We have nothing to indicate how he supported himself. By 1905, he was back in Oakland living with his mother. He may have returned at Paul’s request. Before leaving for Las Vegas in 1906, Paul trained Alec as his replacement at California Engineers Supply, the family compound business. Alec is listed in the 1907 Oakland Directory as “moved to San Rafael,” which was the site of the business.
There is frequent mention of Alec’s involvement in the family business in Paul and Edith’s correspondence and in some of Pete’s letters. On 11/22/06, Pete wrote Paul: “Well, the Russian [a work foreman who was not getting the crews to cut enough leaves] got fired by Alec and I think Alec has profited by the lesson . . .” At the time, Pete was handling sales of the company product, a broiler compound. Alec was responsible for the supervising the manufacturing process. Eucalyptus leaves were one of the ingredients. He was still working in the business a year later. On 11/10/07, Paul wrote his wife: “How’s Alec getting along? Has he got many barrels? How do the men behave? Explain to him that I have very little time and tell him to write to me.” Edith replied:
“Gave Alec your message about writing. He says the men are not doing well this week. Louis is sick or laid off. Ponce hurt himself yesterday and is off for a day or two and Castro was drunk Monday . . .”
About this time, Alec had a seizure. Edith wrote about it:
“Alec is all right again. I stayed up to the hospital till Pete . . . came at 10:30 last night. Alec was much better then. They stayed with him all night. This morning they unstrapped him and gave him a bath – he must have fallen in some compound . . .
“Pete came . . . here for breakfast. Then I went back up to be there when the doctor came. He said Alec was all right and could leave as soon as he felt able. Then Pete came and he and I went to the hospital . . . We paid the bills and brought Alec home . . .
“I shall put him in the front room. He is well enough to be up in the day time and Pete says he’ll be working in a day or two. Alec has a dreadful looking eye. It is all swollen and bloody. He has lots of cuts and bruises all over his body . . . He must have had one of those spasms Pete says he was formally subject to. I think I’ll have him stay here nights right along after this if he will . . .
“We are not going to let your mother know about it of course.”
“He is subject to epileptic fits caused by a blow to the head which cracked his skull about 10 years ago. I saw three of these fits myself, one of them happened while at work at the Judson I ran when he was perfectly sober. Of course, the fact he had been drinking made people think it was the D. T., but it isn’t. He doesn’t drink enough for that . . . Those fits are a terrible thing to see . . . Luckily they happen at long intervals and you need not worry about their recurrence . . .”
His brother, Pete, was among those who attributed the attacks to Alec’s drinking. He wrote Paul praising Edith for the care she had provided Alec after taking him in. He remarked that all the Ligdas thought more of Edith for attending to Alec: “when he was delirious,” and commented it: ” . . . was the only good thing that resulted from Alec’s D.T.” He added:
“Edith has come much closer to Mama’s heart . . . . as Mama greatly appreciates the way she attended to Alec when he was delirious. Ask Edith to fix a price for Alec’s room & board . . . . I will keep it out of Alec’s wages . . .”
Edith’s decision to board Alec while caring for her two month old son, Victor, was not entirely voluntary. On 11/22/07, she wrote:
“Valentine [then 21] was up here yesterday and said the family wanted me to keep Alec here, not just till he gets over this, which I have already offered to do, but all the time. I am appointed his guardian until you come back . . . I assented of course; there was nothing else to do. But the question is this – am I your wife or am I Alec’s?
“Alec feels pretty blue . . . he consented meekly enough when Valentine told him what he was to do. Of course, he is naturally depressed after such an attack . . . he has not slept to amount to anything, and he is very weak and nervous . . . His eye is in such a dreadful condition that he cannot very well read or write. He wanted to go home yesterday, but Valentine vetoed the idea . . .”
On 11/25/07, Edith wrote: “When you come back, I think we would better try to find a little roomier quarters since we are to have Alec with us all the time.” Paul replied: ” . . . remember that when you take care of Alec, you take care of my interests . . .”
Within two weeks, Alec was back at the factory. On 12/4/07, Edith wrote Paul: “Alec is getting pretty anxious for you. He finds it hard to run the factory and the cutting . . .”
The 1908 Oakland Directory lists Alec as living with his mother and sister, Val, at 675 33rd Street in Oakland. In 1909, Paul and Edith left San Rafael and Paul wrote: “Alec will take my place here.” It is not certain Alec did so. He continued to be listed in the Oakland Directories through 1911 at his mother’s home. His occupation is shown as foreman.
The Ligda business folded in 1912. Thereafter Alec’s seizures limited him to occasional employment. He continued to live with or near his mother until her death in 1926. In 1913, he was listed as living at 691 33rd Street in Oakland. In 1916, he was living at 697 33rd Street, Oakland and was listed as an engineer. In 1918, he was back at 691 33rd Street and employed as a driller at Moore Shipyard. The 1920 census lists him as living with his mother at 693 33rd Street and working as a laborer in a shipyard. While at the shipyard where he suffered a seizure so violent he had to be put in a strait jacket.
Alec’s mother, Emilie, suffered a stroke in 1920 or 21 and was never well thereafter. Alec was unable to care for her without nursing help family members could not provide. Alec hired Fannie A. Cohen, an acquaintance who lived nearby at 711 33rd Street. Miss. Cohen served as a nurse three hours daily. Miss. Cohen was a 48 year old widow with no occupation. According to her, Alec proposed to her at his mother’s bedside. She accepted and they were married on July 26, 1922. After the marriage, she moved into Emilie’s house.
There were immediate problems in the marriage. On October 24, 1922, Edith wrote:
“They are having trouble over there [Grandma Ligda’s home where Fannie and Alec were living] with Alec’s wife. It is a disgusting business. Evidently Alec married with the idea of getting a free housekeeper and nurse for his mother, while Fannie had the notion that she was going to get all of Grandma’s property immediately. She has been hounding the old lady sick to sign over her property to Alec, but we thought that Grandma had sense enough to hold on to her house. She said she had. Sunday Alec had a fit and Fannie was frightened to death. She claims she was never told that Alec was subject to such attacks and they are having a frightful row. I understand she is planning lawsuits against Grandma, Alec, and Valentine. I don’t know just what for, but she is certainly in a temper.”
The seizure Edith mentioned was so violent that Alec’s Brother Paul had to come to calm him. His wife was probably terrified. In fact, she filed for an annulment on Nov. 29, 1922. 2 Her grounds were that Alec was unable to earn a living because he was subject to epileptic seizures. In her testimony, she said they expected Grandma Ligda to die shortly. This lends some credence to Edith’s analysis. Fannie also complained that Alec said he would get a job after he fixed up the house. Alec did not contest the action. The marriage was annulled on Jan. 16, 1923.
Alec continued living with his mother at 693 33rd Street in Oakland after the annulment. He is shown there in the 1923 directory as a contractor; in the 1924 directory as a floor layer; and in the 1925 and 26 directories as an iron worker. He was there when his mother died on Nov. 17, 1926. The house was sold to settle her estate. Alec moved to 828 Magnolia Street where he is listed in the 1927 directory as a plate worker with GE & DD Co.
The settlement of Emilie’s estate was protracted and apparently bitter. On 7/26/28, Edith wrote Paul:
“I’m sorry about the law business and sorry you got mixed up in it though of course you thought you had to look out for Alec. You will be misunderstood all around, even by Alec, but, of course, that is not a reason for not helping him.”
On 8/3/28, Paul wrote that he went to Val’s house to demand some of the property Alec had been given. Alec had moved to San Francisco to work as a janitor at 1048 Union Street, but returned to Oakland before 1930 when he was living at 764 Kingston Ave. and working as a laborer. On Nov. 25, 1930, his mother’s estate was finally settled. Alec had a half interest in her house valued at $4,750. After expenses Alec and his brother, Vic, each received $983.17.
His nephew, Ted, recalls that Alec, in his later years, worked as a janitor in a fashionable apartment building in North Beach, San Francisco. He is listed in the 1935 directory as living at 1725 Pine Street and in the 1937 and 1940 directories as a janitor at 2555 Larkin Street. The 1940 census lists him as a janitor and a lodger living at 764 Kingston Avenue in Oakland. Ted says Alec, who spoke Italian, had many friends in North Beach, an Italian section of San Francisco. Many of his relatives avoided him, however, because of his seizures and low station in life.
Alec was living at the Laguna Honda Home in San Francisco when he died on May 15, 1945. He was cremated. His remains were placed at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Colma, San Mateo County.