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Would that he were still here…

Yesterday would have been his 96th birthday. Tall, slim, even stately in his bearing, he occupied a special place in The Legal Genealogist‘s family history… and he is missed.

Frederick M. Gottlieb

Frederick Merledon Gottlieb was born on 17 May 1917 at Wichita Falls, Wichita County, TX.1 He was the second child and only son of Morris Gottlieb and Maud Lillian Cottrell, my grandfather’s sister.

By 1920, Fred’s father Morris had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and the family moved to New Mexico where the climate was expected to be better. In 1920, when Fred was not yet three, they were in Gallup, in McKinley County.2 In 1930, the family was in Albuquerque.3

His parents were far better off — better jobs and many fewer kids — than my grandparents and Fred’s and his sisters’ outgrown clothes were always packed up and shipped off to my grandparents. Though I suspect Fred’s hand-me-downs were intended for one or more of my uncles, it was always my mother who snagged his clothes and made them over into the best things she wore as a child.

During the 1930s, Fred’s father Morris owned a trading post on the Laguna Indian reservation and that’s where Fred learned to play polo. He was recorded on his own in Magdalena village, Socorro County, New Mexico, on the 1940 census, as a retail clerk.4

Fred attended college for a year but on 2 April 1941 enlisted in the United States Army.5 He served throughout World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corp as a flight instructor.6

He married, first, Margaret M. Robinson in January 1948 at Santa Fe, New Mexico,7 and the timing of that marriage is the backdrop for one of the best of my family’s stories.

My own parents were married in Colorado only a few days after Fred’s wedding. About 10 days before my parents were married, my mother telegraphed her cousin Fred in Santa Fe and asked him to walk her down the aisle. Fred telegraphed back on January 14th: “Am getting married January 22nd but will arrange honeymoon so I can ditch her long enuf to escort you. Fred.”8

Years later, after Fred and I tracked each other down researching our family history, Fred gave me the rest of the story in an email:

“Did your mother ever tell you what a hard time I had trying to give her away in marriage? We left Santa Fe after our own marriage for the Broadmoor hotel in Colo. Springs but ran into a heavy snow storm. Didn’t get to the hotel until after midnight and then had to get up early to drive on up to Golden. The roads were quite slick and in my rush, I slid into a sign post and smashed the fender on my father’s new Buick which I had borrowed for the trip! Geez! The sacrifices I make for the women in my life!”9

Fred owned a Mayflower moving franchise in Santa Fe and was the owner of Moore’s Generator Exchange in Albuquerque. After Margaret’s death in a car accident, he married Beatrice Bassett Roach, who served as New Mexico Secretary of State from 1951 to 1954. Between them they raised three children and enjoyed seven grandchildren.10

As with so many others in my extended family whom I hadn’t met, I had long wanted to meet Fred. I enjoyed our email exchanges and letters back and forth, but I wanted to meet him face to face.

And there was something — some intangible than was more than just Fred’s advancing years — that made me feel it was imperative in 2004 to just pack up and go. I went out to New Mexico and had an absolutely glorious time not just with Fred and his wife Bea but with his nephew, my second cousin Dick Moore and Dick’s wife Julie.

I’m so glad I went. Just a few months later, Fred was gone — a sudden unexpected illness had sapped his strength and stolen him away. He died 9 January 200511 and his cremated ashes were buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery with military honors.12

He was my Mom’s special cousin. He became my special friend. And I miss him.


  1. Texas State Board of Health, birth certif. no. 20585, Frederick Gottlieb, 17 May 1917; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin. And see “Personals,” Wichita Daily Times, Wichita Falls, Tex., 18 May 1917, p. 8.
  2. 1920 U.S. census, McKinley County, NM, population schedule, Gallup, p. 77, enumeration district (ED) 192(A) (stamped), sheet 3(A), dwelling 46, family 52, Morris Gottlieb household; digital image, ( : accessed 15 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T625, roll 1074.
  3. 1930 U.S. census, Bernalillo County, NM, population schedule, Albuquerque, p. 20(B) (stamped), sheet 18(B), enumeration district (ED) 6, dwelling 408, family 438, Morris Gottlieb household; digital image, ( : accessed 9 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 1392.
  4. 1940 U.S. census, Socorro County, New Mexico, Magdalena, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 27-9, sheet 8(A), page 100(A) (stamped), household 152, Fred M Gottlieb; digital image, ( : accessed 17 May 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 2453.
  5. “World War II Army Enlistment Records, ca. 1938-1946,” Record Group 64: Records of the National Archives and Records Administration; enlistment record of Fred M. Gottlieb, 2 April 1941; database, ( : accessed 17 May 2013).
  6. “Frederick M. Gottlieb,” obituary, Albuquerque Journal, 11 Jan 2005.
  7. Frederick M. Gottlieb, (Albuquerque NM), interview by author, 5 Apr 2004; notes privately held by author.
  8. Western Union telegram, Fred Gottlieb to Hazel Cottrell, 14 Jan 1948; privately held by author.
  9. Email, Fred Gottlieb to Judy Russell, Sep 2002; privately held by author.
  10. “Frederick M. Gottlieb,” obituary, Albuquerque Journal, 11 Jan 2005.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Personal knowledge of the author, cousin of the decedent, who was present at the funeral.
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