Mark Reed was apparently quite a character.
He was my great uncle on my mother’s side, my grandmother Tillie (Reed) Zellers’ brother.
And here’s the thing. I don’t know if I remember him or not, as he died when I was not quite three years old. They used to tell me that he would pick me up by my ears, and I have this very vague image of being in my grandparents’ middle room with a big man stooping over me and—picking me up by my ears. But maybe that’s an invented image based on being told what he used to do.
I also have a vague image of attending a viewing when I was very young. Based on the timing of his death, I would still have had my arm in a sling from my mishap with the washing machine wringer.
Mark C. Reed was born sometime in 1909 to Charles and Minnie (Coleman) Reed, the sixth of their eight children. The previous year Minnie had given birth to Mark Fredrick Reed, but he didn’t survive a year, so his first name was recycled, a not uncommon practice in those days of high infant mortality. [Update 22 August 2019: I’ve come to believe that there was no Mark Fredrick Reed and that Mark G. Reed (note the “G”) was actually born on 25 April 1908. Here is Mark G. Reed’s grave.]
I don’t have much information about Mark until sometime in the late 1940s when he invited my aunt and uncle Jane and Allen to live with him in his Philadelphia home as Allen worked his way through college and pharmacy school. Mark was an electric welder, and he helped get Allen a part time welding job, which also helped with their expenses.
However, Mark’s wife’s increasingly erratic behavior made life uncomfortable for Jane and Allen, so they soon had to find their own place. Not long after that, Mark and his wife separated, and at some point he obtained a divorce.
On April 1, 1952, Mark Reed helped a woman get into the passenger side of his car. He shut the door and as he walked around the front of the car, he keeled over and died of a massive heart attack, right there on the street in Philadelphia.
Allen, being his closest relative, was summoned by the police to identify the body. When the police turned Mark’s body and personal effects over to the family, his wallet, which had contained several hundred dollars in cash, was empty. So corruption in the Philadelphia police department isn’t anything new.