29 January 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Problems with Pipa and Probate

So, my Stellas. For those who're just checking in, I decided I was going to actually create a 'goal', which I normally don't do, after the first of the New Year. The goal is to find out the nature of the relationship between my great aunt Estella Ann Wersel (1874-1956) and the woman with whom she's buried, Stella Piper (1872-1965), in a single mausoleum crypt in the Cavalry Cemetery in Los Angeles County, California.

I first started to hear stories about Stella, and her brother George and sister Agnes, when I started poking around my mom's grandfather's family. When I started my research in 1996, my mom thought that they were the only siblings her grandfather had, and she have very limited information. What she did know she'd learned in the late 1960s, when she'd been contacted by a lawyer for the Estate of Estella Wersel, as one of 27 heirs who would be receiving a portion of Stella's, as she was known, estate.

George, Agnes and Stella had moved from Cincinnati, Ohio, where they'd been born and raised, to Orange County, California, sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s. George purchased a 20 acre tract of land, which he turned into a very productive walnut farm. To my knowledge, none of the three siblings ever married. As my mom and I were talking about them, she off-handedly mentioned that Stella's estate had not been disbursed at the time of her death in 1956, but at the time of the death of a friend of hers in 1965. And, to be honest, I wasn't really very curious about it because I had more 'important' facts to find. *sigh*

Fast forward to the early 2000s when I had the opportunity to visit southern California with my parents. And you KNOW we drove nearly 200 miles just to go to a cemetery, right? The Cavalry Cemetery is very large, but thankfully the people in the office were super friendly and helpful. They provided location information to us on the graves of George and Agnes; they're buried side by side in an older part of the cemetery, which was established in 1896. However, Stella Wersel, it was noted, is in the mausoleum. And this is what we found:

I remember standing there and saying to my mom, "What the heck...?" and "Who's Stella Piper?!"

As I wrote last post, I had contacted the Cemetery to find out what I could about Stella Piper, but the only information that they had that I didn't was the name of the mortuary that had taken care of her body. Goodbody Mortuary (insert chuckle) is located in San Diego, which is where Stella died at the age of 92. I had spoken with Chris Ebert at the Mortuary last week, and he'd told me he'd have to go downstairs (of course) to locate the old book with Stella Piper's record in it. He'd also warned me that he couldn't provide information due to privacy rules, but that he could confirm information. So I left it with him, was Stella Piper a widow?

Chris didn't get back to me until this Wednesday. But he DID get back to me and was kind enough to take the time and share what he could. Stella Piper had made and paid for her own arrangements at the mortuary, which did NOT include a service or obituary. She indicated that she had no heirs. But...she was A WIDOW. 

At least I now have a bit more to go on. Whether it helps or hinders is yet to be seen. In the meantime, I realized I made a 'newbie' mistake regarding seeking other records. Estella Wersel's estate was fairly large: when it was disbursed to the 27 heirs in about 1966 or 1967, each person received about $3,000. So, I need the Probate record, right? Well, like a dummy, I thought I'd need to go to San Diego to get the record. Except, Estella Wersel died in Orange County...duh!! So I'm off to find out how I go about getting my hands on what must be a voluminous Probate Record from Orange County, California. One that will provide information to me on TWENTY-SEVEN of my relatives. And, hopefully, a tiny bit more about Stella Piper. Please, let there be something more about Stella.


  1. Love it! I can't wait to find out about that probate file. A widow.... Looks like you are on the trail!

  2. What an intriguing tale, Laura - looking forward to the next instalment, and PLEASE, someone must know about Stella Piper! Jo :-)

  3. No obituaries in local newspapers? Just wondering.

  4. Interesting mystery. Can't wait to see what you find out.


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