AUBURN — Almost a century after an unimaginable loss, an Auburn family feels whole again.

On Monday, the Deletetskys plan to gather at Beth Abraham Cemetery in Auburn to remember two children they never knew.

In February 1912, 17-month-old Harry Deletetsky died of respiratory problems. Seven months later, his 9-month-old sister Rosie similarly died.

Their deaths — and where the two children were buried — became a mystery within the family. The children’s mother, Annie, died in 1924. Their father, Myer, who lived another 55 years, rarely talked about Harry and Rosie.

Questions arose but went unanswered.

“He was a kind, kind man,” said Cheryl Brown, Myer’s granddaughter.  “I think it hurt him too much.”

The silence left a hole in the family.

Since Myer’s death in 1979, family members have searched records and found little. 

“We’ve been looking for these kids for years,” said Anne Turner, another granddaughter. But they never combined all they knew until last July 4.

When the family gathered for the holiday, it rained. They talked and began pooling what they knew, narrowing down when the children were born. Somebody recalled Myer saying that the boy and girl were walking age when they’d died.

And they knew it was in New York, where Myer and Annie, then newly emigrated Polish Jews, had met and married. The couple moved to Auburn in 1914 in search of better living conditions.

“We all had a little piece,” Annie said.

A few days after the holiday, Cheryl’s brother, Michael Deletetsky, took what the family knew to Manhattan. He stopped first at the New York Public Library. Then he went to City Hall. He almost missed the children’s documents until he began searching for sound-alike names.

“If you said it with a Russian accent, it might sound like this,” he said. “It took me an hour and a half.”

He found two children named “Deletizky.” Moments later, as he saw the parents’ names, chills ran up his back. He called his dad, Mickey.

“I think I found your brother and sister,” he said.

“We never thought we’d find them,” Mickey said.
The death certificates said Harry died of lumbar pneumonia. Rosie died of gastroenteritis.

It took a second trip in late August to find where they were buried. They were at Ocean View Cemetery on Staten Island, buried by the Hebrew Free Burial Society. Michael found them marked with recent granite stones beneath a growth of tall grass and weeds.

“I sat beside Rosie’s grave and I wept,” Michael said. “They are part of the family.”

The family commissioned Collette Monuments of Lewiston to create a marker for the children. They placed it with their mother Annie. The marker sits at the foot of her grave at Auburn’s Beth Abraham Cemetery.

It’s a shady spot a few rows from where Myer and other family members are buried. On Monday, they’ll gather there with Rabbi Hillel Katzir to honor the aunt and uncle, brother and sister.

“It sort of filled in the blanks,” Cheryl said. For too long, the mystery had left an open wound that never seemed to heal completely.

Had they not acted soon, while family still lived who had talked with Myer about the children, the answers might never have been found, she said.

“You have to act, or you know that someday there’s not going to be anyone left to tell the story,” she said.

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Family members, from left to right, Annie Turner of Waltham, Mass., Michael Deletetsky of Portland, and Mickey Deletetsky and Cheryl Brown, both of Auburn, talk about the steps it took to identify two of Mickey’s younger half siblings who died in 1912 in New York City.

The death records of Harry and Rosie Deletetsky were difficult to locate in New York City because their last names were spelled incorrectly.

A memorial to Harry and Rosie Deletetsky was placed at the foot of their mother Annie’s grave at Beth Abraham Cemetery in Auburn.

A memorial to Harry and Rosie Deletetsky was placed at the foot of their mother Annie’s grave at Beth Abraham Cemetery in Auburn.


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