William Charles (“Bill”) Flanders was born on 5 October 1900 in Belleville, New Jersey, the only child of Englishman William John Flanders and his wife Charlotte Ann McCormick, who was born in New York City. He was the fourth William Flanders in his line, following father William John Flanders (b.1865), son of William Flanders (b.1834), son of William Flanders (b.1811). The legacy of the name died with him, as he had only daughters, neither of whom were named William. Good thing!
Bill’s older half-brother Lester Maris Flanders was born in 1891 to William John and his first wife, Bessie Read. On her death in 1898, William and Lester leased rooms from widow Alice McCormick on Hunts Point Road in the Bronx, New York. A year later, William married the landlady’s 21-year old daughter, Charlotte Ann. He called her “Daisy.”
The Flanders family settled in Newark, New Jersey, just two miles from Belleville, where Charlotte’s extended Heginbotham family lived. In 1905 they were living at 276 Riverside Avenue but moved in 1907 to a new 5-bedroom house in the quiet Forest Hill residential neighborhood. The home at 916 Lake Street remained in the family for almost 70 years.
Bill Flanders had a high school education, attending Barringer High School in Newark, and was still living at home when his father died in April 1925. Bill cared for his mother in that home for another 40 years until her death in 1967. The year after his father died, he met the vivacious Marion Stokes Cooke and married her on 10 March 1927 in Brooklyn. They had two daughters, Jane Anne Flanders born on 12 October 1929 and Alice Margaret Flanders, born 9 March 1931.
Bill was a salesman, as was his father, and he changed industries several times. In 1920 he was working as a purchasing agent for a steel company. During the dark days of the Depression in 1930, he was a salesman for a motor company. But by the 1940 census, he was sales manager for a meter company, an industry he stayed with until he retired in 1965 as president of the Gamon-Calmet Meter Company. Bill hired his daughter Margaret’s husband (my father) in 1952 and taught him the business.
My grandfather didn’t have hobbies that I knew of, but he was an active member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Forest Hill, serving on the vestry for many years as well as church treasurer. One of his jobs was to buy Christmas trees for the church every year, and he bought the one for his home at the same time – always a big tall tree that rose up next to the stairwell on Christmas Eve. Rector John Borton and his family were close friends of the Flanders and they socialized together in Newark and also Manasquan during the summers. The rector’s daughter even wore the wedding dress made by Bill’s wife Marion for her own daughters.
Bill enjoyed the company of men but was the only one in a home filled with mother, wife, and daughters. Except for secretaries, his work life was a man’s world as well. He was a member of the Elks Club and also a 33rd degree Mason of Kane’s Lodge 55 in Newark. I don’t remember him ever talking about either one, but he was proud of both. He was also a director of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – another affiliation that didn’t make much sense to me but was important to him.
He was a meat-and-potatoes man, eating relatively plain food but with a sweet tooth for desserts. During World War II, my mom remembers that they would go to a local butcher with bottles of liquor to get extra meat. His mother ruled the kitchen until the war, when she couldn’t figure out rationing; from there my grandmother took over. Her recipe box is full of favorite desserts which he loved. Pop was known for cooking steaks on the grill, trimming every inch of fat off and seasoning with olive oil, salt and pepper until they were “just so.” This was a familiar sight on Manasquan evenings – and very tasty, too.
My grandfather was devastated by his wife’s death from cancer in 1960; it left a hole in his heart for the rest of his life. He continued to care for his mother until she died in 1967, leaving him alone in the house where he grew up. So in 1970 he sold it, moving to an apartment and later, to a retirement village near the Jersey Shore, which he loved. His world was small and he outlived most of his peers and friends, dying on 27 January 1983 at age 82. The day before he died, he told his neighbor that he had to decide whether to stay in New Jersey or sell his house to go to California to star in a movie. That always makes me smile.
I remember Bill Flanders with love. We grew up nearby and saw him often until we moved to Kentucky in 1970. When I lived in Virginia, I made several trips a year up to see him and enjoyed asking family history questions and spending time with him. Although he lost weight and became gaunt in his final years, I remember him as round of face with the moustache he always sported. He is buried in East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Delawana, NJ, with his wife and parents.