Uncle John


January 31, 2008

Ex-FRA Administrator John Ingram dies
John W. Ingram, who was Federal Railroad Administrator from 1971 to 1974, died Jan. 27 at the age of 79. From the FRA, Ingram went to the troubled Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific and served as president of that railroad until it went into bankruptcy in May 1985. Ingram’s first railroad job was as a brakeman with the Long Island. Trained as a transportation economist, he held marketing positions with both the New York Central and Illinois Central.
The above information tells the average person what Uncle John’s career was about. In fact, the picture of the train engine above shows the “John W. Ingram.” Apparently they named their trains:) I remember as a teenager just starting college seeing news reports about the troubles of the Rock Island Railroad. I remember being told when I was a young child that Uncle John lived in Chicago. My Grandma taught me that song about Chicago (“that toddlin’ town? – but I remember singing – “that talented town”). I have a few very young childhood memories of Uncle John – when he was young and still married to Aunt Helen. When my mother was alive, Uncle John, Aunt Helen and my parents would get together. There was a lot of laughter and they seemed to be having fun together. But life changes things. Dad and Uncle John had a falling out (actually, quite a few, I was later to learn) and went their separate ways, much to the sadness of my Grandma. But such is life. It says something about both men that neither let this rift be something among all in both families. But because they lived so far apart – Uncle John eventually in Florida and Dad in NYC – reality made it that way. The last time I saw Uncle John was at Grandma’s house when John, the kids and I went to visit my Grandma in late 1988. Grandfather had died about three years earlier and we thought we were doing her a favor by raking up her leaves and cleaning out the window wells. She probably did a better job of it than we did, LOL! The children had a fun day outside. Uncle John was visiting and smoking those little cigars he liked – an irony since his death was apparently from lung cancer as was Grandfather’s. I remember Uncle John seemed surprised that an impulse from childhood caused me to give him a kiss on the cheek, but he said nothing about it. I later found out from (my husband) John that he had told him how much I looked like my mother – a compliment I will treasure forever.
A few years later we corresponded very briefly. He kindly sent me a picture of my Grandma taken for her high school graduation and given to my Grandfather while they were still courting. They had met in a regional high school orchestra. Uncle John posited that if not for that picture, none of us might be here today:) He also sent our second daughter, Dori, named after Grandma (Dorothy) a picture of Grandma at 8 years of age outside in the yard where they lived in Pittsburgh, with her father, my great grandfather (and Dori’s great great grandfather), Louis Trombley. It was 1910, the summer before the Titanic went down in the North Atlantic.
Uncle John was not the warm and fuzzy type. And I didn’t really get to know him well, though I tried – and so did he. He just wasn’t that kind of guy. He and Aunt Helen never had children. Ironically it was Aunt Helen who stayed with us awhile after our mother died. She was so sweet. She was the only one in my whole world who knew what it was like to have your mother die. I felt a bond with her for that until the day she died, institutionalized for mental illness, sadly.
Uncle John remarried and divorced (I think) and was in a relationship last I heard from him. But the correspondence stopped and that was that. I think he was somewhat annoyed that we never went to Florida to visit Grandma in her last days. What he didn’t know is that John and I were poor as dirt in those days and could barely afford rent and groceries, let alone a trip to Florida. Talk about feeling inadequate!
What really amazes me is that he and my father – who is the quintessential mush and one of the most affectionate men around – came from the same parents. As sorry as I am that Uncle John died, I got the better deal in my father. But I am sorry that he’s gone. I am sorry that he and his brother, my Dad, never got to be friends in this lifetime. And that is terribly sad.
So, to my own dear brothers and sisters – all ten of them! I love you! Let’s never let a time go by when we stop caring for each other!
And Uncle John, may you rest in peace!
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Author: fuguestateknits

Wife of one, mother of six, gram of five (so far) and lawyer for many young persons, I love to sing, read, knit and walk. My politics are somewhat left of Marx and I want to hear what you think, too!

6 thoughts on “Uncle John”

  1. thank you, Indigo! I rewrote a lot of this (mostly to correct my horrible grammar). But the story is unfortunately still the same. It meant so much to me when I arrived at bell choir tonight to see you and Nancy.
    Thanks so much!
    Joan

  2. I too was saddend to here that Mr. Ingram had passed. My dad used to take me to the Rock Island yard in Chicago IL to watch trains. Loved watching the blue cars go by. Been a fan ever since. Mr. Ingram tried hard to keep the RR afloat, but couldn’t.

    Which leads me to a project I am working on today – a history of the final years of the Rock Island (1973 – 1984).

    A question I have is why he left the FRA to join the RI? Mr. Ingram mentioned in an interview that with the administration change, it was time for him to move on. I have a thought that it was John W. Barringer III that helped him make the decision.

    I’d love to hear more about the type of person he was.

    I’m sorry for your loss.

    Jeff

  3. Jeff, sadly I have no information about what happened in those days. I had virtually no contact with my uncle then. I hope your project is going well, though.
    Wishing you success,
    Joan G

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