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Friday, February 12, 2010

1920 :: T.W.A. Smith Hopelessly Ill Ends Life

On this date in our family history . . . the 12th day of February . . . in the year 1920 . . .
Thomas Warren Alonzo Smith, Sr. ends his own life at his home, 43 Prospect Street, in Biddeford Maine . . . this T.W.A. Smith is a great-grandpa of the Keeper of this family history blog . . .

Biddeford Daily Journal
Friday Evening, February 13, 1920
Page Eight.


Connected Tube to Gas Range
at Home on Prospect Street -
Was Dead When Found by Wife

Thomas Warren A. Smith, the landscape gardener and retired florist, during a short absence of his wife, asphyxiated himself with gas at his home, 43 Prospect street, Thursday afternoon, between 4 and 5 o'clock.

His lifeless body was found by his wife, sitting in a large easy chair, with gas escaping from a rubber tube, which was connected with the gas range in the kitchen and held close to his mouth. The end of the rubber tubing had been tied by Mr. Smith on his breast with the end about half an inch from his mouth. The end attached to the gas range had also been tied on, as Mr. Smith, who had made two other attempts to end his life, it is claimed, evidently wanted to make sure he would succeed this time.

Mrs. Smith left her husband in the home about 4 o'clock to come downtown and make purchases of food and articles for the family. When she returned she found all the doors leading to the house locked and her suspicions became aroused at once.

Hurrying to the home of ex-Councilman Daniel B. Finnell across the street, Mrs. Smith secured the loan of a shovel in order that she might remove some snow which prevented her getting a ladder which was under the barn. With the aid of the ladder Mrs. Smith was able to get into the house through a chamber room window on the second floor. When she went downstairs the odor of gas was very noticeable. Quickly opening her breath [sic], as the odor of gas was something terrible.

Quickly opening windows and shutting off the gas cock, Mrs. Smith went to her husband, who sat in a large easy chair in front of the range and one look satisfied her that he had been successful in taking his life.

Mrs. Finnell arrived at the house and she was followed by Carl Hall, also a neighbor, and Dr. J.F. Trull was called by telephone. The physician on his arrival found that Mr. Smith was beyond all aid. Medical Examiner Charles F. Trayneg was notified and after learning the facts of the case, concluded it was a case of suicide.

Mr. Smith had carefully planned taking his life, according to the way he arranged everything. He removed a shelf from the range and used papers to keep the rubber tubing from touching the stove. The end of the tubing was tied to the gas cock of the gas stove, while the other end was securely held with string on his breast so that the end would come close to his mouth and nose.

Incurable illness is given as the cause for the rash act. Mr. Smith suffered an attack of influenza 14 months ago and double pneumonia set in and his life was saved only by a hard battle, in which his kind and devoted wife took a prominent part. Heart trouble developed and his condition was such that it was plain to his many friends that he would not be able to do much more work. Only recently in talking with a friend he said he could walk but little and had to ride if he wanted to go any distance.

T.W.A. Smith was well known in the two cities and the news of his death was received with profound sorrow. He had made other unsuccessful attempts to end his life, by inhaling illuminating gas, while a revolver was taken from him only a few days ago.

Everybody has a good word for Mr. Smith. Friends knew that he was suffering physically and that everything was being done for him in the line of medical aid, but his condition could not be helped. 

He was prominent in Masonic and Odd Fellows circles and was a member of the First Baptist church. Mr. Smith was born in Lewiston 15th September 1866, and was the son of the late Atwood and J. Morilla Baker Smith. He received a public school education, and was employed in the Pepperell mills before entering the florist business.

He was located on Prospect street, next to his home, for many years. As a landscape gardener he was in great demand, especially at the Pool, and his work was always highly spoken of. He was affiliated with many organizations, among them Laconia lodge, I.O.O.F.; York Encampment, J. H. Dearborn canton, Mavoshen lodge, K. of P.; Dunlap Lodge of Masons, Squando Tribe, Improved Order of Red Men, and Simon S. Andrews camp, Sons of Veterans.

Mr. Smith is survived by his widow, one son, Thomas W. A. Smith, Jr., and one daughter, Miss Elizabeth M. Smith. The funeral will take place Sunday afternoon with services at 2 o'clock at the late home, 43 Prospect street. Relatives and friends are invited without further notice.


Joan said...

Boy, o, boy, Vickie,
This is a hard one to comment upon. A sense of sadness, but that is defused by by his methodical planning and the feeling that he was well loved by friends and family. There was a sense of understanding along with the sorrow. Touched me deeply.

BeNotForgot said...

Mom was only 3 days old when her mother died in 1932 . . . and she was sent to live with her paternal grandparents in Texas shortly after her father remarried . . . so she was never around any of her mother's family . . . and never heard any of their family stories. Mom's 1st trip back to Massachusetts was with me, in the late 1970s. Imagine our shock when we came across this newspaper write-up -- we never had a clue! I was then, and am still now, amazed at the amount of detail as well as the apparent respect for this man who was the father of the beautiful young woman who died shortly after giving life to my Mom. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Joan -- you are appreciated, and always welcome to come and sit a spell in my home-on-the-web. V. . . .

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