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The Suicide Pact

As a child, I remember asking my mother to tell me stories about when she was younger. How I wish I had asked all of my grandparents and great-grandparents that question while they were still living. If I had asked my great-grandfather, John Reese, what the most tragic event of his life was, he might have told me first about the death of his little brother, Harold E. Reese, who died at the young age of 6 in 1931, but I'm sure he would have added that just seven years later, his 32-year old brother, Raymond Reese, took his own life.


Raymond L. Reese was born in 1906 in North Mountain, Franklin Township, in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. He was the eldest son of Maynard and Ada (Temple) Reese. The family moved from Pennsylvania to New York between 1911 and 1912, and lived in Ledyard (Aurora), Cayuga County, New York, for many years.


On Sunday, June 26, 1938, a man driving "the old Ithaca-Elmira highway", noticed a sedan parked in an open field half a mile north of the hamlet of Sullivanville in the town of Veteran, Chemung County, New York.


Upon investigating, the man approached the vehicle and observed Raymond Reese, age 32, sitting in the driver's seat. A woman named Grace Collins, age 38, was at his side, slumped against him and his arm was around her shoulder as the pair peacefully departed this life together.


The couple were reportedly living together in Ithaca, at 108 First Street, but only for the previous week. Grace's estranged husband, John Collins, reported that she abandoned him and their two children, who lived on Lake Road, north of Ithaca. The two children, a daughter and a son, were born in 1918 and 1919, so they were about 19 and 20 years old at the time of their mother's departure. Their son has descendants living today.


In the previous week, Gertrude Reese, who lived in Ellis Hollow, a hamlet in Ithaca, had also filed charges against Ray for abandonment. She and Ray had been married for about 14 years but appear to have had no children. Ray had been arrested for the charge and was set to appear in court Saturday night, but he failed to appear and chose his own judgement instead. It was late Saturday night that the couple affixed a hose from the car's tailpipe, directing the fumes into the vehicle. They sat and awaited the effects and soon died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The fumes are said to be deadly within a few minutes.


Their deed wasn't discovered until the following day, when the unknown man reported his finds to the storekeeper in Sullivanville. The New York State Death Index reports their deaths occurred in Veteran, Chemung, New York, on Sunday, June 26, 1938.


Following are several news clippings regarding the incident. These were from The Cortland Standard, Elmira Star Gazette, Tonawanda Evening News, The Saratogian, The Syracuse Journal, Utica Daily Press, and Knickerbocker News (Albany), all published on Monday, June 27, 1938. Raymond's funeral was announced in The Union Springs Advertiser on Thursday, June 30, 1938.




Note: Gertrude Reese's maiden name may have been Gertrude M. Bellinger. See New York State, Marriage Index, 1881-1967 on ancestry.com.

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I am interested in connecting about the Leonard branch. What is your email?

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Hi Beth, Please message me using the contact form and I'll keep an eye out for it. https://www.mygenealogyaddiction.com/contact

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