Ninety years ago this month, George and Mary McKovich welcomed an 11th child into their family.
Baby William was brought into the world at his parents’ home on Winans Avenue in East Akron. He was born two months prematurely, however, and his little body would not survive for long.
Thirty-three hours and 50 minutes to be exact.
William was buried at Akron’s Holy Cross Cemetery. His grave was not marked — something an ancestor worked to change nearly a century later.
Thomas Koch, 69, of Copley Township — a retired broadcast journalist with WHLO (640-AM) and WEWS-TV and the retired director of external affairs for BP — became involved in genealogy with other family members.
Koch knew that his mother, Helen McKovich Koch, had a brother who lived only about a day, but he knew nothing more about that child.
Through research with others, including his cousin Maureen Pulignano of Atlanta, Koch learned where his uncle was buried in Holy Cross: an unmarked plot in the cemetery’s infant section.
“I looked and there was just a blank spot,” Koch said in a recent interview.
Koch, Pulignano and other family members decided they would share the $500 cost to buy a marker for William. His birth and death dates on the stone would read Nov. 4, 1923 and Nov. 5, 1923.
“He had been here for 90 years, and we felt the least he deserved was some kind of recognition,” Koch said.
Earlier this month, seven family members along with Robin Adair, the deacon at Guardian Angels Parish in Copley, gathered at the grave site for a service to bless the new headstone and to mark William’s birth and short life.
“I read from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 10:13-16, where people were bringing children to Jesus for a blessing,” Adair said, “and he stated, ‘Let the children come unto me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.’ ”
Adair commended William’s family for coming from across the country “for a wonderful cause.”
The memory of a child, Adair said, “just 1 day old is important toward the dignity of life no matter how many days, years, decades. ... We are all equal in God’s eyes, and [William] deserves the honor of a dignified grave to remember him.”
Koch said he now plans to turn his genealogy work toward finding the grave of his mother’s twin sister, Susan McKovich. She was only about 2½ months old when she died in June 1914 in Pennsylvania.
Helen McKovich Koch died in 1985 at age 70.
Koch said only one of George and Mary McKovich’s 14 children is still living: Mabel McKovich, 85, in California.
On a cold day last week, Koch, a father of two and grandfather of four, stood over William’s grave. Bright autumn light illuminated the expansive cemetery.
He is pleased that future generations who see the marker will know that his uncle lived, if only for a little more than a single day.
“We wanted him to be remembered,” Koch said.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com.