Tracking Down the Past: Finding Facts About Persons Long Dead

Some years back, while browsing in an antique store,  I found a copy of the San Jose State College yearbook for 1924.  Only then the college was called San Jose Teachers College.  I graduated from San Jose State in 1972, so the connection was meaningful to me, though I didn’t know its original owner, one Kathryn Sevy.

The yearbook was called “La Torre,” or the tower, after an iconic structure on campus that served as an administration building.  The owner of the yearbook signed her name inside the front cover:Sevy Signature

Kathryn Sevy was her name.  I looked through the yearbook.  It was full of articles, poems, picturKathryn Sevy Pic 1924es and autographs.  I found Kathryn Sevy’s picture and scanned it.

Kathryn was a pretty young woman, as you can see.  I decided to colorize her picture with Photoshop, to get a sense of how she may have looked in life:

Finally, what could I learn about this woman on the internet?  I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see what I could find.  At, I discovered that she was born in Feb 9, 1905 in West Virginia and died in Campbell, California on November 29, 1973.  She married Elliott Francis Marrs in 1925 when she was 20 years old.  They had one child, a daughter, Marilyn E. Marrs, born December 9, 1936 and who died March 19, 2003.  Marilyn graduated from Carmel High School in Carmel, California in 1953.  She later married one John G. Nystrom.Kathryn Sevy 1924 Colorized

Kathryn’s final resting place is in Oak Hill Memorial Park in San Jose, California.  There is a find-a-grave memorial to Kathryn at this link.  I added my scanned photo of her to the memorial.

The photo just below is Kathryn Sevy’s daughter, Marilyn E Marrs, from a picture from her 1952 high school yearbook:

The picture just below this one is of Marilyn on her wedding day in March 1958, with her Marilyn E Marrshusband Jack Gordon Nystrom.  Jack died on June 9, 1989.

Well that settles it:  if you know where to look, you can often find a lot of details about someone long dead.  So my chance encounter with Kathryn Sevy’s 1924 yearbook led me to this journey of discovery.  I now know a little better my fellow alumnus of San Jose State, though I graduated 48 years after she did.

Marilyn E Marrs Nystrom Wedding

The Tower at San Jose State still stands and looks much like it did in 1924.  The picture just below is of the Tower in 1924, and below that the Tower as it looks today.  The Tower is well over 100 years old.SJS Tower 1924

SJS Tower Today


Can Psychic Investigators Find Mollie Tibbetts?

I have been concerned with the recent disappearance of college student Mollie Tibbetts, age 20, in Brooklyn, Iowa.  She disappeared on July 18, apparently while on an evening run for exercise.

So far, the authorities have been unable to find any strong clues as to what happened to Mollie.  It’s as if she fell through a hole in reality into another dimension.  In all probability, she was abducted by person or persons unknown.  Young women are abducted often it seems, then raped and murdered.  This seems to happen to women joggers more often than not, when some evil man hides in ambush and nabs his victim when no one else is around to see the crime.

I suspect the perpetrator was a man, perhaps someone she knew.  However, it is all conjecture at this point.

I have heard of psychic investigators that the police sometime call upon, when stymied on cases like this.  Sometimes those investigators turn up important clues that crack the case.  The possibility of psychic phenomena is related to the theory of a universal mind which is a kind of cosmic repository  of the thoughts and memories of all human beings, living or dead.  (This mind is sometimes called “the Akashic Record.”) The theory is that psychics can somehow access this cosmic database and learn things not available through the usual methods.  How much of this is true is anyone’s guess, but I certainly hope it’s true.

In any case, if there are any skilled and effective psychics out there, please see what clues and facts you can turn up.  Help find Mollie Tibbetts, and bring her abductor to justice.

Rod McKuen’s Poetry

Recently I sent away for a copy of Rod McKuen’s 1969 book of poetry, “In Someone’s Shadow.”  I had purchased a copy when it first came out, and I always loved the title even more than the contents.  “In someone’s shadow” implies a connection and a need for another person, a wife or other mate.

I have reread several of the poems, and some of them are just plain awful.  A few, though, are pretty good.  I am currently making notes on which are good and not so good.  I don’t know why I bother on a book so long out of print, by an author who passed away in 2015.

The dust cover lauds McKuen in this way:

Rod McKuen has become not only the most influential and best-selling poet of our lifetime, but quite possibly the best-selling poet of all time.

Well it was the sixties.  They smoked funny stuff back then.

Could I write non-rhyming poetry like Rod McKuen?  Here’s an attempt:

Dogs on the Floor

My two dogs sleep on the floor beside my desk.

They want to be near me, all day and all the time.

Warm and fuzzy, they salute me with wagging tails

And kiss me with warm, wet tongues.

They belong to me, but the truth is

I also belong to them.

A purer love does not exist.

Nah, probably too good to be a Rod McKuen poem.


The Big Picture Eludes Us

Recently I got iUniversento an argument with a militant atheist on Twitter, who insisted that any belief in a deity was obviously and irrefutably stupid and asinine.  He wouldn’t even admit to the possibility of a higher power underlying all creation.

Militant atheists, like him, seem to believe that man’s five senses and intellect are capable of observing, sensing and detecting all of reality that exists.  If we can’t see it, touch it, smell it, taste it or hear it, it doesn’t exist.  Those who believe otherwise are simply spinning fairy tales because, as Stephen Hawking put it, they “are afraid of the dark.”

However, I believe that man’s perception is incapable and inadequate to sense all that is behind the cosmos, or determine its cause, its existence or its purpose, if there is one.  Man is like a bacterium (one with a brain and good eyesight) living on the surface of a postage stamp.  He can detect some of the physical features of his environment — ink, for instance.  However, he cannot see the whole picture, or determine that the postage stamp has a picture of George Washington on it.  He is physically incapable of rising to such a height to view the big picture.  His view is limited to the tiny section that he inhabits.

Another analogy I like to use is that of the boll weevil.  Boll weevils are incapable of understanding higher math.  No boll weevil has ever worked a calculus problem.  They just don’t have the mental capacity.  In like manner, man does not have the intelligence or the sensory perception to fully understand the big picture:  why is there a universe, who or what created it, what’s its purpose, and how do human beings fit into the scheme of things?  Logic doesn’t work here, as it is a construct of human experience.  Logically, there should be no universe, no life, nothing at all, because logically we know that something cannot come from nothing.

Yet here we are.

Scene From the Past: a San Jose Man, 1899

I like to browse in antique stores, where I view and purchase old photographs.  Here is one I found of a San Jose, California man of 1899.  The date of the picture was written on the back in pencil.  Who was this man?  What did he do for a living?  Where is his final resting place?

San Jose Man 1899

Journey to Another Dimension

MeditationNow that title above sounds all sci-fi or paranormal, but what it refers to is something quite natural:  the benefits of meditation.  There is an essay by Andrew Z. Cohen at this link that is worthy of your attention.  Cohen writes about stopping your busy thoughts and emotions, what Buddhists call “monkey mind,” to enter a meditative state.  In that state you may be able to glimpse a greater slice of reality than what you see everyday.

My favorite Cohen quote is this:

There is a great mystery there. In the infinite depth of that emptiness, there arises a knowing, a pure knowing itself that seems to answer all our questions and relieve us of all our existential doubts.

What Cohen is describing there is knowledge obtained by direct experience.  Some call this “faith,” and faith is not just believing any old thing blindly and without reason.  This direct experience of the infinite provides a knowing that is inaccessible by the logical mind or by the usual channels.

I have had this “knowing” three times in my youth, when I had the mystical experience, a knowing that suddenly floods the mind with spiritual insight and understanding.  I like Cohen’s words cited above, because they convey what I felt:  we exist for a purpose, and there is no doubt about it.


Here is a website with a lot of interesting information on meditation:  The Responsive Universe.

The Mystery of Death

CemeteryIn the past year I have lost several friends:  they died.  This was just plain rude, leaving me here in this world by myself.  However, I am long in the tooth and my own day of departure is not so far off.  I spend a lot of time thinking about that, and my departed friends.

Where are those friends?  Everything is so quiet in their absence.  I sit in the silence but don’t detect any part of them, not their personalities, their memories or anything else.  How can a human being just evaporate and disappear, like smoke in the wind?

I sometimes visit the local cemetery to pay my respects to departed friends and family.  I don’t find much of their essence there.  There is just lots and lots of masonry, headstones, plastic flowers and statues.  If I were a ghost, the cemetery would be the last place I would want to stay.  It’s boring and depressing.

Instead of trying to solve the perpetual puzzle of “why are we here” and “where do we go” many people just acknowledge that the answer is unknowable, that if there is a purpose to human existence, it isn’t obvious.  For that reason they just chuck the whole question and believe in nothing beyond this life.

I can understand this, and their view is as valid as any other.  However, being something of an optimist, I prefer to leave the door open.   I will never stop searching for a better answer.