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Showing posts from December, 2011

Tragic Schoolgirl Hattie Engert

When I’m in a cemetery --be it for work or leisure --a monument or mausoleum will catch my eye and I’ll want to learn more about the story behind the family name. Such was the case with the Charles Engert mausoleum in St. John Cemetery. I’ve seen this mausoleum numerous times as it is prominently located across the road from Charles Lucania, and on the way to the Cloister. This week, I stopped to really look. From the look of the structure I felt fairly certain that the family was prominent and one of means. These assumptions were borne out, along with the tragedy which prompted the construction of this mausoleum. Here’s what I learned:

Charles Engert was a Brooklyn-born builder and realtor. Prosperous and well-known, he was a founding member of the Hanover Club. In April of 1899, his only child,16 year old daughter M.J. Henrietta (known as Hattie) died at her school-- Mt. St. Vincent Academy on the Hudson --from spinal meningitis. Hattie had recently returned to school after Easter …

Messrs. Robert Ferdinand Wagner

The Wagner name was well-known in New York politics. Three generations of Wagner men –-all named Robert Ferdinand--served the state and city. Robert F. Wagner, Sr., the family patriarch, served as U.S. Senator from 1927 to 1949. He died in 1953. Wagner’s son, Robert F. Wagner, Jr., was New York City’s 102nd mayor and one of the city’s most popular. Elected to three terms –his tenure was from 1954 to 1965---as mayor, the Yale graduate previously served as Manhattan’s Borough President before winning the mayoral race at the age of 43.
 Wagner died at the age of 80, on February 12, 1991, from bladder cancer. His funeral took place four days later. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 700 mourners, including Governor Mario Cuomo, Mayor David Dinkins and former Mayors Lindsay and Koch listened to a sermon by Cardinal O’ Connor. Opera singer, Robert Merrill, serenaded the congregation with his rendition of Ave Maria and Wagner’s son, Robert F. Wagner III, gave a eulogy. In it, he shared with the audi…

J & C Johnston Co.

The Johnston family mausoleum in Calvary Cemetery is not to be missed. In fact, one would be hard pressed to do so as the structure is massive and prominently situated. Fans of The Godfather may recall seeing it in the funeral scene of Don Corleone.


In the 19th Century, the Johnston brothers --John, Charles & Robert – were the proprietors of the J & C Johnston Dry Goods Store on Broadway in Manhattan. An 1874 article in the New York Times, entitled ‘The Christmas Holidays: At The Dry-Goods Store’ encapsulated the various offerings from NYC merchants. The entry for the J & C Johnston Co. noted that it had “…one of the most extensive silk departments in the city.”