Death of Aunt Kitty Garrett

Just two months later, on April 6th1917, president Woodrow Wilson declared War against Germany. The war had begun in 1914 and enveloped all of Europe. Millions were already dead. France, Italy and Russia were besieged with German and Austrian forces and the American public was anxious to enter the war and "save the world". On the first day of New Jersey's draft registration, nearly 300,000 enthusiastic men signed up. Eventually 762,000 men were registered and by war end in November 1918, 150,000 new Jersey boys had served. As expected, American men and tanks had made the difference and Germany was defeated. While some of their McCloskey cousins went off to war, the Dowd brothers, now married and established businessmen, stayed home.

On October 13, 1917 Aunt Kitty Garrett passed away. Since her husband's death twenty years earlier, Aunt Kitty had maintained their home at #160 Day Street. Near the end of her life however, she lived on Main Street with good friends, the family of Justice Christopher O'Donahue on Essex Street. In late September Kittie was admitted to St. Mary's Hospital with stomach problems. An exploratory surgery a few days later revealed extensive inoperable cancer throughout her stomach. The doctors could do nothing so sent her back to her hospital bed.

Three days after the operation, Kitty dictated her last will and testament. Her nurse, May O'Donnel was called in to witness along with Edward Davis (her lawyer?). Kitty left the greater part of her estate to her nephews John, Tom, and Charlie Dowd. She died in the hospital two weeks later. The following notice appeared in the paper:

Orange Advertiser, October 19, 1917

Mrs. Catherine Garrett-A solemn high mass of requiem was offered Tuesday morning was offered Tuesday morning in St. John's Church for Mrs. Katherine Garrett, widow of Thomas Garrett of 15 Essex Avenue, who died after a lingering illness in St. Mary's Hospital. Interment was in the cemetery of the Holy Seplechure.

Kitty's will was immediately contested by her nephew Theodore Harff. The proceedings that followed indicate that Theodore believed John, Tom and Charlie may have unduly influenced their Aunt as she lay ill in the hospital. A court was held in which nurse O'Donnel was called to testify. According to the court transcripts, nurse O'Donnel had attended Kitty for the "three to four weeks" of her hospital stay. Kitty was transferred to a private room following the exploratory operation since "there was nothing more that could be done for her". She was physically weak but mentally clear. She had occasional shaking spells, during which time she would not know what she was doing. She did not sign the will with her name because she was too weak. She tried two or three times but her hand was too shaky. Finally Mr. Davis helped her mark an "x" for her name. The nurse said that she saw quite a number of people visiting Kitty. When asked directly whether John, Thomas and Charles Dowd had been to see Kitty, the nurse responded that she didn't know who any of the visitors were by name. She was also asked directly if Mrs. Sarah Dowd had come to visit and she responded that she had seen several lady visitors a great many times, but didn't know any of them in particular. Edward Davis was excused from testifying because he was in Europe fighting in the war. The probate record included the following list of Kitty's legal heirs:

1. Emma McCauley, Main St.
2. Frank R. Harff Jr., Main St.
3. May Harff, Main St.
4. Theodore Harff, Main St.
5. John F. Dowd, 61 Mt. Vernon
6. Thomas A. Dowd, 281 Watchung
7. Charles A. Dowd, 154 High St
8. Marie Dowd Young, 268 So. Burnett St
9. Amelia Dowd, 273 Watchung
10. Catherine Bramwell, 273 Watchung
11. Edward Dowd, minor, 273 Watchung
12. Anna Johnson, Irvington
13. Florence Dowd, Newark
*Edward Dowd at 16 yrs old was the only minor

The "deathbed" will was approved as written including the following division of estate:

  1. To my nephews John, Tom and Charlie Dowd - my house at 160 Day St.
  2. To St. John's church, $100 for masses for the repose of my soul
  3. To my god daughter Katherine Una O'Donahue, $200
  4. To my 3 nephews John, Tom, Charlie $2,000 to be divided equally
  5. To my niece Marie Dowd - 2 diamond rings
  6. To my niece Florence Dowd - diamond locket and necklace
  7. To my nieces May Harff, Marie Dowd Young, and Florence Dowd, whatever amounts are left in my bank accounts, to be divided between them.
  8. To my nephews John, Thomas and Charlie - all residue of my estate (real and personal)

signed 2 October 1917
Edward Davis of 242 Park Avenue, Orange
Mae M. O'Donnel, 25 Tamaque Street, McAdoo, Pennsylvania





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