Families of Ann Storck's Nursery or Ann's Nursery in Norfolk, CT

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Art of Helping: What to Say and Do When Someone is Hurting

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's Never Too Late

True love can be whispered from heart to heart
When lovers are parted, they say.
But I must depend on a wish and a star
As long as my heart doesn’t know where you are.
“Goodnight, My Someone”
The Music Man

“I was seven years old when my year old brother Freddie disappeared from my life as completely as if he’d died,” said Lauren Littauer Briggs. “I was nine when my second brother Larry disappeared.”

Both Lauren’s brothers were born with severe disabilities and no cognitive functions. Freddie was one year old when his severe convulsions and the care he required became too much to be handled at home. Lauren’s parents, Fred and Florence Littauer, placed him in a home for severely disabled children in Norfolk, Connecticut. He died there at age two. Two years later the Littauers had the heartbreak of having to place their second son in the same home. Larry lived there until he was nineteen.

For Lauren, an intense, sensitive child who loved mothering her two baby brothers, their “disappearance” was very traumatic.

“I know now that my parents were trying to shield my sister Marita and me, but at the time I didn’t understand why my babies were suddenly gone. As a girl, I took piano lessons, and I often played the song from The Music Man that includes the lines about true love being whispered from heart to heart when those who love are parted. It also talks of depending on a wish and a star because your heart doesn’t know where the loved person is. I didn’t know where Freddie and Larry were, so I played this song to them.”

Through the years Lauren developed a strong interest in genetics and at one point wanted to be a geneticist. As early as third grade she did a paper on embryology, and some day she was sure she would grow up and solve the mystery of what had caused her brothers’ severe problems.

When Lauren was thirteen, the family moved from Connecticut to California. The years passed, and Lauren married Randy Briggs and wanted to start her own family. Now the issue of genetics was much more than an interest. Should she and Randy have children, or were they risking the same tragedy that had struck her parents? Lauren searched for answers.

“My father flew to Connecticut to visit Larry. Dad had tissue and urine samples drawn and flew back that very night to California and took them to my geneticist. Nothing conclusive was discovered.”

Randy, Jr. was born, a healthy boy. He was still very young when word came that Larry had died. Lauren called immediately and asked for an autopsy. It just might be possible to learn something that way.

“I was watching my parents’ house while they were on a trip, bringing in the mail and such, when the autopsy report arrived. I remember so clearly sitting on the tile step in their foyer as I read that paper. I also remember the crushing disappointment when it provided no clues to the genetic mystery.”

The years flew by, and Lauren and Randy had two more healthy sons. During this time Randy, Sr. becomes interested in genealogies, tracing his family back several generations.

“Often on family vacations we would go looking for a clue about the Briggs family,” Lauren said. “We’d go to a specific cemetery, and I’d say to the boys, ‘We’re looking for the name ----. Spread out and search. Whoever finds it first gets a banana split when the rest of us get ice cream cones.’

“The boys had grown to young adults when it struck me that we could use some of the methods Randy had developed in his genealogical searches to find my brothers, for you see, we didn’t know where they were buried. In order for the finances of the boys’ care to be met, they had had to be declared wards of the state. I know that sounds harsh, but back then, that was the way things like such prolonged and serious situations as Freddie and Larry’s were handled. One of the ramifications was that we didn’t handle their burials.”

The only information Lauren had was that both boys had been cared for at Ann Stork’s Nursery in Norfolk, CT. When she and Randy made a trip East in 2004, she called the town’s offices and spoke to Mrs. Moses, the town clerk. Did she have death certificates for Frederick or Laurence Littauer? She did. Lauren and Randy drove to the tiny town of 1700 in the northwest corner of the state and met Mrs. Moses who presented them with the certificates.

“While we were there, I wanted to see the place where my brothers had been cared for. It was important to me to visit the place they had lived. Mrs. Moses gave us directions on how to get to the big white house, a plain Victorian. When we found the place, my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. I told Randy he was going to have to do the talking because I couldn’t.”
A woman greeted them at the door and asked, “Can I help you?”

Randy explained who they were and why they had come.

“Oh, please, come in.” She invited them into the house.

“I’ve just gotten my brothers’ death certificates, and I believe they were cared for here,” Lauren said, finding her voice in their warm welcome.

“When was this?”

Lauren gave the dates, and the woman said, “Oh we should get Petey. She’s been here a long, long time.”

Petey came out in her nurse’s uniform. “If your brothers were here, I would know them. I’ve been here forty years.”

The great benefit Lauren received from talking to Petey was seeing the depth of her love and concern for these children under her care. “These are my kids,” she said.

“Knowing my brothers were cared for by people who had their welfare so much at heart eased something in me. It gave me peace.”

It turned out that Lauren and Randy weren’t at the right house. Ann Stork’s sister had established a second home called Ann Storck's Nursery, and that’s what this house was. Freddie and Larry had been at the original home.

While Lauren and Randy spoke with Petey, Madeleine Byrne,the Office Manager of the house, joined them. As she studied Freddie’s death certificate, she said, “This is a crematorium mentioned here. Your brother was cremated. Now here on Larry’s certificate it says he was buried at Center Cemetery. That means he’s right here in town, and my husband has all the cemetery records. He’s substitute teaching today and won’t be available for a while, but there’s a part of the cemetery that was set aside for the children from the Nursery. I can show you where that is if you’re interested. In fact, the town tax collector has records too.”

Soon Eleanor LaForge, the town tax collector, joined Lauren, Randy and Madeline in the small caravan to the cemetery. The women took Lauren and Randy to a ridge, peaceful and lovely, where there were many small unmarked graves. The burial area was provided for the children from the Nursery by the generous people of Norfolk.

In spite of the visit and the search of the records, neither Mr. Richard Byrne nor Eleanor LaForge was able to determine which grave was Larry’s. But Lauren still had the name of the Kenny Funeral Home on Freddie’s death certificate. A phone call revealed that a new owner, Brian Kenny, now had the place, but he promised to see what he could find about Laurence Littauer.

“We are so blessed that we were looking in a small rural area where people still helped each other. We might not have found such a gracious attitude in a large metropolitan area. Several of the people we talked to said that the community viewed the children as the town’s to care for.”
Lauren and Randy flew home. Two days later the funeral director, Brian Kenny called to say that he had found Freddie’s cremains. “I found them in a cardboard box in a storage cabinet. In fact I’m holding them in my hands right now. On the sealed lid it says Fred Littauer III.”

Lauren’s amazement at the way all the pieces fit together is obvious. “I was given incorrect information at the town hall, but the incorrect information led me to those who could give me the correct information. If we had been told Ann Stork’s Nursery had closed back in the eighties, we would have left town.”

One of the interesting things Lauren learned was that she was not the first sibling who came looking for information. It wasn’t unusual years back for children to be put in homes and essentially forgotten. It was the current thinking about protecting the healthy children.

“One of the things I learned from this experience is that it’s never too late. Some things can’t be undone, but they can be healed. When something in our lives, a source of heartache, a burden, is always in the background, niggling, I believe it’s there for a purpose. We can’t force it, but when the time is right, when we have the emotional strength and spiritual perspective to deal with it, I believe we must be diligent in following whatever it is to its conclusion.

“Another thing I learned resulted from a comment by Randy. We had had equal success on this trip in solving one of his genealogical puzzles. When we were leaving Center Cemetery, he said, ‘God must really care about a legacy.’

She smiled. “We could see so clearly that every step of this trip was guided by the Lord, and the logical conclusion is that to Him legacy is important.
Copyright 2005, Lauren Littauer Briggs

Monday, August 08, 2005

Nursery has closed

While I live in California, I was is New England for the Fourth of July and to dedicate the memorial stone in Center Cemetery, Norfolk, CT. It was during my visit that I found out Ann's Nursery would be closing on the next Tuesday and the residents were being relocated.

My Brothers

I have had two brothers cared for at Ann Storck's Nursery from 1961-1981. I never knew where they were. I only knew when each one died. I have always wondered what happened and if they were buried. After a year long search, I have uncovered death certificates, burial permits and have recovered the cremains of my first brother Frederick Jerome Littauer, III. I am now aware that my second brother, Laurence Chapman Littauer has been buried in Center Cemetery in Norfolk, CT. He is in an unmarked grave and I have not yet been able to identify exactly where he is. As a tribute to all the children who were residents at either Ann Storck's Nursery and Ann's Nursery, both of Norfolk, CT I have had a memorial stone placed in the Children's area of Center Cemetery.