Sunday, December 4, 2011

Edward Stebbins Ingham

Over the past few days, I've had the chance to acquire a few fresh documents pertaining to my adopted great-grandfather.  Being one of the few relatives I actually had the chance to meet and talk to (albeit when I was very young), I'm always interested to learn more about the man and add it to the growing pile of family data.  I'll share a little of that knowledge here, and hopefully it will be of interest to some of you.

"Ned" was born on July 2, 1896, the son of John Albertson Ingham & Mary Bartlett Stebbins.  His father was the pastor of the Irvington Presbyterian Church in Irvington, New York, and later at the Second Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  Ned therefore came from a strong, Christian background. His ancestors were almost entirely of English origin, with a few Dutch genes thrown in for good measure.

Edward Stebbins Ingham
Circa 1917

Ned graduated from Rutgers College in 1916 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  From there, he worked as an insurance salesman for Connecticut Mutual, until WWI called him to action.  Unable to qualify for the regular U.S. Army due to "poor eyesight," he signed up with the American Ambulance Corps, and later transferred into the French Army.  Serving with the French was a defining moment of his life, and he made many pilgrimages back to France later on during his lifetime.

Moving ahead to 1926, Ned married my great-grandmother, Effie K. Robinson, in Hillsborough, Florida.  They honeymooned in Cuba, which at the time was a prime tourist destination (and it still would be, if not for those dirty commies!).  After their honeymoon, they settled into life on Charevloiy Avenue in Detroit, and in the following few years he officially adopted my grandfather Ray, giving him the Ingham name.

During the roaring twenties, Ned made a literal fortune, and on Black Friday he was worth two million dollars on paper.  He lost ever cent of it in the crash, but that didn't make him give up or jump out a window, as some other hard-hit investors of the day did.  Instead, he packed his bags on Monday morning and went out to get a new job.  While never wealthy again, he always made a decent living after that.  He was a very talented salesman, or as one relative once told me, "He could sell iceboxes to Eskimos."

Ned Ingham on his 92nd Birthday
July 2, 1988

I had the chance to meet Ned in 1985, when he came up to Maine with Grandpa Ray.  During the trip we toured around Washington County and saw many of the sights.  However, when it came time to go to Canada and see the Roosevelt Museum on Campobello Island, Ned would not go.  He refused to visit the "Roosevelt Shrine," as he was a lifelong Republican and he abhorred Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  However, his dislike was not purely political, as he'd actually known the man.  During World War II, Ned served on the Rubber Production Board, and attended regular meetings with the President to discuss wartime matters.  During these meetings, he gained a general dislike for Roosevelt on a personal level, which stuck with him for the rest of his life.

Of course, Grandpa Ray was a lifelong Democrat (as were my parents at the time), so we went along to visit Campobello without Ned, though today I would much rather have spent a few more hours with a remarkable man, to hear an old story or two.  FDR's vacation home is still there to visit, and will be in perpetuity, but the same cannot be said for Ned, who passed away on July 5, 1991.  He celebrated his 95th birthday, and toward the end of the party he excused himself, saying he was feeling a bit tired.  He went to lie down, and passed away quietly with class.  He was still fit and able up until the end, without the major infirmities that often plague people of advancing years.

So, here's to Ned Ingham, a red blooded American who truly exemplified the spirit of his generation.  He understood the rights and responsibilities of a free man, and also knew how to enjoy himself in moderation.

Before I go, let me leave you with a mildly amusing story of my own research into Ned's life.  The other day, as I was picking through online documents, I found his 1917 Passport Application, and along with it was a photograph that I quickly realized was not his.  I looked at the thing and said, "Who's this? That's not Ned.  It looks more like John Panozzo of Styx!"  As it turns out, the photographs of the passports are stuck on the back side of the applications, so Ned's picture was actually with the subsequent application on the following page.  Remember this if you're ever picking through passport applications on Ancestry's site.  Your ancestor might not look like the attached photo for good reason.

Photo of "Ruth Joslin"
incorrectly paired with
Edward Stebbins Ingham's 1917
passport application.

John Panozzo
Drummer for "Styx"

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