Hump Day History: A Conneaut Memory, One Person Remembers Cliffe Glenn Heffelfinger

A Conneaut Memory:   One Person Remembers Cliffe Glenn Heffelfinger

Cliffe Glenn Heffelfinger started his life like all human beings despite different times, different places, different circumstances.  His life followed the normal human progression. He was born, grew up, established a life for himself, and eventually acquired an obituary and an epitaph that read:  Cliffe Glenn Heffelfinger  1878-1966.

Many of us are remembered for the things we accomplish between our birth and death years and by the families and friends and the people we interact with during our lives.  Others slip through life, unnoticed. Cliffe Glenn Heffelfinger was one of the ordinary people who has not etched firm, black lines in the historical record. He does appear in some records like the census records, World War I draft registration forms, a few family trees including the Perkins family tree, official death records including a nursing home stay, and in a newspaper obituary.

During his life, Cliffe (he later changed the spelling to Cliff)  lived in various places including his native Jeromesville, Ohio; Beaver, Pennsylvania; Ashtabula and Kingsville, Ohio; and Conneaut, where he spent the last years of his life.

The official records reveal some statistical facts of Cliff’s life.  He was born on April 11, 1878, in Jeromesville, Ohio, to James Leander Heffelfinger and Isabella Wortman Heffelfinger. His brother Ray E. Heffelfinger was born on August 1, 1880, also in Jeromesville .

In 1900, Cliff and Ray Heffelfinger lived in Kingsville with their parents. Cliff studied until the fourth grade in elementary school and early in his life went to work as a day laborer doing odd jobs.

His brother Ray’s death was one of the many sad circumstances in Cliff’s life. About July 4, 1904, during a baseball game in Kingsville, Ray Heffelfinger and several other players collided during a play for a base and Ray sustained a heavy blow to the back of his head. Like a twenty-four-year-old, Ray shook off the blow and continued with the game and with his daily life.

 A few weeks later, he developed and then recovered from a bout with the measles and once again resumed his daily activities. He reported that occasionally he experienced headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision, but he kept moving along in his life. Then about three weeks before his death, he lapsed into a coma and never woke up.   Ray died on Wednesday, July 27, 1904 at age 24.  He had been recently married and his widow, parents, brother, and many friends attended his funeral and burial at Lulu Falls Cemetery in Kingsville.

Recently married himself, (he married Kate Straight Foster on September 19, 1903, Cliff and his wife Kate Straight Foster Heffelfinger lived in Kingsville for a few years. In 1908, they moved to Ashtabula where according to the Ashtabula City Directory for that year, he worked as an Ashtabula fireman. The 1910 Crawford County Pennsylvania Census shows Cliff and Kate living in Beaver, Pennsylvania with Kate and Hattie A. Ester, granddaughter. When he registered for the draft in 1917, Cliff lived in Cleveland with Kate and worked as a brick burner in a Metal Paving Factory.

Cliff’s father James Heffelfinger had just celebrated his 100th birthday on October 2, before he died on November 9, 1953. James was born in a log cabin in Wayne County, but lived in Ashtabula County for more than 70 years. For many years he operated a blacksmith shop in Kingsville and at other times operated a farm and worked at Conneaut Harbor. After his wife Belle died in 1927, he lived with his son Cliff, and later with Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Hakkio on Lake Road in Conneaut.

By 1930, Cliff had moved back to Ohio, and since Kate died in 1929, he was now a widower. During their marriage, Cliff had been stepfather to Kate’s two daughters from her marriage with Stephen Foster, but they had no children of their own. There is one mention in the records that they may have been divorced, but if that is true, Kate kept the Heffelfinger name after their divorce. Being born in 1862, Kate was also 16 years older than Cliff who was born in 1878.

 The Conneaut News Herald of January 12, 1929 reported that the funeral of Mrs. Kate Heffelfinger, took place on January 11, 1929 at the Marcy Funeral Home in Conneaut. Kate died at Women’s Hospital in Cleveland on January 9, 1929.

A number of friends from Beaver Center, Clymer, New York, Pierpont, Monroe and Conneaut, Ohio were present at the services.

Pallbearers were D.J. Carberry, George Straight, Will Straight, Andrew Straight, L.F. Lillie and Ray Artman. Reverend P.M. Smith, pastor of the Pierpont Presbyterian Church officiated. She was buried in in Kellogsville Cemetery in Monroe Township.

In 1935 Cliff lived with his father on a farm in Kingsville, and in 1940, he lodged with Asa Perkins and worked as a watchman on a government street project in Ashtabula. Cliffs father James spent the final year of his life at the McAdams Nursing Home on Center Road in Conneaut. He is buried in Lulu Falls Cemetery in Kingsville, along with his wife Belle and his son Ray.  Eventually his son Cliff moved to Conneaut and lived in a part of Conneaut known as Silent City, on the East side of Conneaut until his death in August 1966.

This is the life of Cliffe Glenn Heffelfinger according to the documents. The emotional and  spiritual parts of his life at not so clear cut. A read between the lines could provide evidence for the conclusion that Cliff Heffelfinger was poor, uneducated and would be forgotten shortly after he died. The argument could be made that he was already forgotten before he died. What kind of contributions did he make to his family and community when he had just scraped through life leaving very faint footsteps? If he did leave any footsteps, did they move along positive paths or muddy side paths like many lives do?

Someone did leave a memory record of Cliff Heffelfinger and his home in Silent City that many Conneaut residents in Cliff’s time disdained because of the shacks and poor residents. According to the teenage boy who remembered Cliff and his world, people shield away from Silent City and even when they spoke of Silent City, their words dripped disgust.

 A teenage boy delivering groceries for Picard’s Market in Conneaut crossed paths with Cliff Heffelfinger over 60 years ago and his memory of Cliff is as enduring and poignant as the shell of the old Conneaut Library on Buffalo Street. On Fridays, Cliff would come into Picard’s grocery store with a few dozen eggs from his hens to sell to Margaret Picard, who owned the store along with her husband Clair. He wore shabby clothes, unkempt hair crowded his face, he dragged a reluctantly functioning leg,  and he carried a distinctive odor. His obituary stated that “at one time he was employed by the Cummins Can Company,” but at this stage in his life he didn’t look like anyone would ever have employed him.  When he left to spend his egg money on drinks at Main Street Restaurant which was really a bar, Margaret Picard would spray Lysol throughout the store to chase away any reminder of Cliff  and his transactions.

 After spending most of his money on drinks at Main Street Restaurant for himself and possibly potential cronies, Cliff dragged himself and his rebellious leg the three miles back to Silent City. The teenage boy knew that Cliff lived in a tiny cement block shack covered with tar paper and he imagined Cliff’s time of refreshment in the Main Street Restaurant would make his walk home seem less long and the pain in his leg shorter.

In 1966, when Cliff Heffelfinger died of a cerebral hemorrhage,  at age 88 no relatives were listed in his obituary and no calling hours observed. He had outlived his family and friends.

Cliff’s burial in Lulu Falls cemetery contains a mystery. His mother, father, and brother Ray are all buried there with individual headstones. His obituary says that Cliff too, is buried in Lulu Falls, but if he is buried near his family, his grave is not marked with a stone.  Did it wear away? Did he never have one because he died a pauper and is among the unnamed paupers in that section of the cemetery? 

The teenager who is no longer a teenager added an additional line to Cliff Heffelfinger’s lonely obituary:  “Maybe there is nothing to be said for this simple man other than he lived, worked, and died.”

There is a lot to be said for the life of Cliff Heffelfinger.  He impacted the life of the next generation in positive and negative ways. He was human like all of us. His memory survived in the heart and mind of a teenage boy who wrote about him 62 years later.  

The teenager who is no longer a teenager added the most important and inspirational line of Cliff Heffelfinger’s modern obituary. :Cliff has been dead for 62 years now. I hope he knows I still think of him.”