She was only 16 when she died. May Belle Cook was born in New Orleans, LA on July 23, 1907. Her mother, May Belle Harris, is my grandmother’s oldest sister. So, she is my first cousin once removed. We were always told that she passed away as a result of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Her story always intrigued me. All we had was the family story and this picture. May Belle is on the far right.
I began to wonder if the story was correct. The flu pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920. May Belle died in Omaha, NE on November 5, 1923. That death year didn’t make sense if she indeed died from the flu. So, I obtained her death certificate from the state of Nebraska. On it, the death date was confirmed and the cause of death was listed as diphtheria. Diphtheria was a dreaded disease in the 1920s. There were an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 cases per year in the US, causing 13,000 to 15,000 deaths per year. She had only been sick for a couple of weeks. Maybe she did have the flu, at one time, and her health was compromised because of it. I don’t think we will ever really know for sure. May Belle’s death certificate also indicated her burial was in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Omaha.
Through the help of a Find A Grave Volunteer, I now have this photo of her tombstone.
It’s sad that someone so young was taken so suddenly. I’m glad to be able to have some answers and know where she rests.