by Chris Clemens
This past December I published a story about having discovered a birth announcement designed as a theater ticket. When I first found the ticket at a garage sale, I hadn’t given it much attention. Later, after doing a little research, I became more and more intrigued by how unique it was.
Recognizing the baby in the announcement would be turning 70 this year, I began to do a little research in an attempt to track down David Bruce Kohler. I had hopes of giving him the announcement of his own birth as a 70th birthday present. Sadly, I discovered that wouldn’t be happening.
Nonetheless, such a unique announcement wasn’t something I felt I could keep to myself. So, I shared the story here. As you’ll see in the previous story, I was able to find some newspaper articles about his death, and then visited the cemetery where he rests.
But, a few readers pointed out that David Kohler was survived by a daughter. In fact, a couple of you even went so far as to find her contact information and send it to me in hopes that I could get some resolution to this story for us all.
I’m happy to report back that I did make the awkward phone call to Terri Ann that started with, “Uh, hi. You don’t know me, but I found the announcement of your father’s birth and then tracked you down…”
Terri Ann was only two years old when her father passed. Much of her knowledge about David Kohler comes from stories passed on from her mother, and the few family photo albums. One recent Sunday afternoon, Terri Ann and I met for coffee. She shared some family photos with me, and explained why the birth announcement had been designed as a theater ticket.
David’s Birth Announcement
David Bruce Kohler was born on March 22, 1948 to Carrie and Jack Kohler. Jack was the son of Grace and Chester Kohler, who were prominently featured in Rochester theatrical acts. As the Kohlers were so deeply a part of the performance world, it seemed only natural that the birth of their newest family member be announced in the same manner that someone may have been invited to one of their shows. While my research did uncover a few other birth announcements from the mid-1900’s that looked like theater tickets, they appear to have been infrequent. The Kohler family was definitely on to something unique.
The ticket I found was mailed to a Mr. and Mrs. Reformat of Lux Street in Rochester. Grace and Chester Kohler also lived on Lux Street, just a few doors up from the Reformats. Terri Ann has memories of visiting the house as a young child, so the Lux street address was an easy riddle for her to solve. Our best guess is that the Reformats were friendly enough to have received an announcement for their neighbors who had become proud new grandparents. Ironically, there’s a good chance that the Reformats’ ticket is the only one still in existence.
David’s Later Life
Quite unfortunately for this story, there are sections to David Kohler’s life that are unknown. We know that for a time he lived in Webster. We know he married on August 6, 1968 to Carol Ann, who is the mother of his only child, Terri Ann.
Terri Ann did share with me that she knew her father had trouble with alcohol. That struggle is one that put a strain on his personal relationships with those around him.
Regardless of that battle, we also know that he was Honorably Discharged from United States Air Force on August 31, 1972–the same year his daughter was born. It’s easy to imagine that these two achievements would have been some of David Kohler’s proudest moments.
During the early morning hours of April 11, 1974, David was driving alone on Maple Ave in Webster, an east side suburb of Rochester. The article I found from that week doesn’t mention alcohol, but other articles do. Additionally, David’s death certificate states that alcohol played a role in the crash.
This whole story was way harder to write than I thought it was going to be. I hadn’t anticipated going to a garage sale that day and finding an artifact that I would become so fascinated with. I hadn’t anticipated the idea of trying to track down the man in the birth announcement. I certainly hadn’t anticipated meeting up with his daughter and getting her to share personal family history with a total stranger while sitting in a cafe.
Decades ago, someone told me that,
An alcoholic has no idea how many lives they truly influence. There’s a rippling effect that carries on far longer than we’ll ever realize.
As I sit attempting to choose my words about this random slip of paper I found in the bottom of a shoe box at a garage sale, it occurs to me that the short life of David Bruce Kohler has affected even me, decades after his passing. I believe my friend’s insight about an alcoholic’s influence was meant to expose the reality of harms done. But, in this story, I’m choosing to find hope in the reminder that life is precious and connecting with others holds incredible value.
Thank you, Terri Ann and Carol Ann, for helping piece together some of the mystery surrounding this ticket. More so, thank you for being open to churning up a family history that had most likely been at peace for decades, simply to allow my curiosities about a fascinating little slip of paper to rest.
Hopefully, those of you who became just as interested in this story as I have been will enjoy knowing that the ticket now is in the possession of Terri Ann, joining the few artifacts their family has of David’s life.
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens