Mary Verheyen was born on 17 September 1884, the eighth of nine children of Herman and Mary (Crancer) Verheyen, and baptized at Our Lady of Perpetual Help at 20th and Linton in St. Louis, Missouri, the same location as her first communion and confirmation.

At the same church on 9 June 1908, Mary married Henry Kissel who was born in Belleville, Illinois, to John and Victoria (Damsky) Kissel. The bride’s uncle, Fr. Boniface Verheyen, married the couple. After the wedding, a unique “al fresco” breakfast reception was held for seventy-five guests at O’Fallon Park, where her father was park keeper.

Henry was a salesman at Hedyt Bakery, while the couple lived at 2226 Athlone Avenue in the College Hill area. On 21 June 1909, their first daughter, Estelle Marie, was born followed on 1 August 1910 by another daughter, Mary Catherine.

On 22 January 1911, the sudden death of Mary’s seventeen-year-old nephew, William H. Verheyen, added a sad note to their life. Returning from his funeral, Mary’s husband poured fuel oil in their stove to light it to prepare something to eat. The stream of fuel caught fire, exploded, and engulfed Henry in flames. In an attempt to extinguish the flames, he rolled on their bed; however, Mary had just laid their daughters there. Hearing their screams, he ran to another room. A policeman heard Mary’s screams and ran into the house and wrapped Henry in a rug to smother the flames. He was so badly burned he died the following day at Mullanphy Hospital. The bright beginnings for this young couple were sadly ended on that 26th of January 1911.

Without a breadwinner, Mary moved in with her widowed mother and sister, Anna. According to the 1920 and 1930 censuses, she and her two daughters were living with her mother and unmarried sister, Anna, who was a clerk at the St. Louis News Company. Another sister, Agnes, and her husband Henry Zirkel lived in the same building at 1415 DeSoto Avenue with their four daughters. Twenty-one-year-old Estelle was a dictaphone operator at a toilet supply store, while nineteen-year-old Marie was a typist at a household utensil company. On 15 January 1932, Mary’s sister Anna died. The following year, her mother passed away on 2 July 1933 while they were living at 5805 Thekla Avenue.

On 24 August 1932, Estelle married John Kalt, the son of John F. and Elizabeth (Simonis) Kalt, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Four years later, Mary Catherine married Anthony Kulage, the son of Henry and Kunigunda Kulage, at Holy Cross Church on 26 November 1936. Mary then apparently lived with her youngest daughter and her husband the rest of her life. She is shown in the 1940 census as the mother-in-law of Anthony Kulage.

Mary died on 29 September 1970 with her funeral at Holy Cross Church and burial at Calvary Cemetery. She had been a member of St. Monica Sodality.

Her daughter, Mary Catherine Kulage died on 4 October 1992 in Sullivan, Missouri, and daughter Estelle Kalt died 26 December 1999 in Collinsville, Illinois.

(Information from church records, censuses, and newspaper articles)

Written by Joe Armour
July 2020

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Last Modified: 04-Feb-2021 12:38