Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Monday, June 14, 2010

More on James Rankin Jr

I'm near the end of my scanning and transcription project and just scanned a 12 page letter from my dad's Aunt Bessie (Bowman) Rankin, in which she tells some family secrets, and discusses her paralyzed son James*. See my blog from last week entitled It was a Bad Decade.

At one point, Aunt Bessie tells of bringing in someone who was teaching paralytics to walk. Supposedly, one of his patient's was a nephew of Franklin Roosevelt. I can't find anything that says FDR's nephew was paralyzed. Not that it surprises me, because Roosevelt kept a tight lid on his paralysis. We know now, but at the time few people knew he couldn't walk much. Apparently the press was less invasive then.

I can't imagine what it was like for someone in 1932 to lose the use of most of his limbs. By January of 1934, in the height of the depression, his parents were spending their wealth on his care. And James claimed he could feel his legs burning when with the help of nurses his parents stood him up. No bodily function was too unimportant to write about either. And Aunt Bessie does, in great detail.

My dad always told me that James was as helpless as a baby and couldn't even feed himself, and I wonder about it. I do know that he went on to graduate from college in 1940, seven years after his accident. In 1945 he married Amelia Schlenken. According to dad, she was also paralyzed. They lived with Aunt Bessie until James' death in 1958. Bessie died on New Year's eve in 1960. Amelia died in 2000.

(Left) James Jr., James (Jamie) Sr & Bessie (Bowman) Rankin before James Jr's life-changing accident.

 (Right) James Rankin Jr, February 1940 after receiving his degree from Pomona College. Click on the image to read the caption. Don't forget to use your browser's back button to return to this page.


* While looking for information on C6 (6th cervical vertebra) injuries, I discovered that one-third of all cervical injuries are caused by diving accidents. James was fortunate to survive. Ironically, his best friend, Dick Edmunds, who helped rescue James died in his sleep in early 1934 of a ruptured aortic aneurysm.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

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