By Hollace Ava Weiner
Editor’s note: This sad story caught my attention. My grandfather, Louis Wisch, TJP founding Editor and Publisher Jimmy Wisch’s father, also succumbed to the Spanish flu in 1918 when Dad was 2 years old.
Pearl Brown’s marriage under the chuppah to 1st Lt. Joseph M. Linett lasted less than three months. On July 16, 1918, four days after the soldier left Camp Bowie for the European front, his bride died — a victim of the Spanish flu pandemic that spread worldwide a century ago.
That global pandemic took more than 700,000 lives in the United States, with 2,000 in Texas. The deadliest outbreaks struck Army bases like Fort Worth’s Camp Bowie, where the Red Cross disinfected doughboys with chlorazene spray in a futile attempt to combat the flu.
Pearl’s obituary in the Texas Jewish Herald described her passing as “one of the most tragic … . A bride of only a few months … grief and worry over the departure of her husband who left suddenly for overseas duty … contributed to her death.”
The bride and groom had met at the Hebrew Institute, a recreation center on Taylor Street that hosted socials for Jewish soldiers. Pearl, 24, daughter of an ice manufacturer, poured punch and danced with doughboys at those gatherings. Joseph, 29, a Ukrainian immigrant, was a New Yorker with a medical degree from Columbia University assigned to the Army’s 82nd Division.
Their courtship was a whirlwind. The couple married April 21, 1918, at her home on West Broadway. The Star-Telegram reported the next day that the house was decorated with “military suggestions.” Officiating at the double-ring ceremony was Rabbi G. George Fox of Beth-El, where the bride’s father, David Brown, was a founder and past president. Her mother, Sarah Simon, was among the Sisterhood’s charter members. The extended family included the Carbs, another pioneer Jewish family among the founders of Beth-El.
The day the groom departed for France, Pearl wept and grew ill. Her family suspected that sadness, not sickness, was overtaking her. Four days later she was dead. The same rabbi who married her buried her. Her tombstone at Emanuel Hebrew Rest on South Main Street gives no hint of her 86-day marriage nor the poignancy of her death. It simply states: “Pearl Brown, Wife of J.M. Linett. Died July 16, 1918.”
When World War I ended, the groom settled in Brooklyn, married, practiced medicine, and died in 1960. His New York marriage license describes him as “single,” not widowed. But his grandsons heard whispers that their grandfather had wed a Texas girl who died during the pandemic. They found the marriage license on file at the Tarrant County Courthouse and contacted the Beth-El Archives in 2014. Together, we reconstructed the story of their grandfather’s sweet but sad romance.
They wondered whether any descendants of the family remain at the Temple. Yes, the Simon, Carb, Klotz, Bronstein, Phillips and Dalton families in Fort Worth are part of the extended family tree.
Article reprinted from the June issue of Beth Elements, the Beth-El Congregation bulletin.