Rochester Mayor Peter Barry survived the attack at Pearl Harbor. So too did Rochesterian Anne Newell, only to die from polio nine years later.

Rochester Mayor Peter Barry survived the attack at Pearl Harbor. So too did Rochesterian Anne Newell, only to die from polio nine years later.

The grave site of Peter Barry in Mount Hope Cemetery, Plot, Section V, Lot 25. Barry was a member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. [Photo: David Kramer 12/06/20]

December 7th, 2020, the 79th anniversary of the day that will live in infamy.

Last year, Rochester lost Stanley Hwalek, its last surviving sailor from the battle.

The passing of Hwalek prompted me to take a closer look at Rochesterians who were at Hickham Field in Honolulu, Hawaii on that fateful day. As I looked into the archive, two people — Peter Barry and Anne Newell  — prominence and poignance — struck my imagination.

Peter Barry (1912-1973) was the great-grandson of Patrick Barry, co-founder with George Ellwanger of the Ellwanger and Barry Nursery. Peter Barry was employed for many years by the Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation. In 1965 he joined the Monroe Savings Bank as executive vice-president, becoming the bank’s president in 1968, and chairman of the board in 1972. He was a member of the Rochester City Council from 1950 to 1965. In 1955 he was selected by his fellow Republicans on the Council to become the city’s mayor. He served in that capacity until 1962.

The Whitmer House, 630 Mt. Hope Ave. [Photo: David Kramer, 12/08/20] Until his death, Barry lived at what is now the University of Rochester’s Whitmer’s House. Built in 1906 on the grounds of the Ellwanger and Barry Nursery Estate, the house was designed by J. Foster Warner, the architect of the George Eastman House. Peter Barry, a former mayor of Rochester, lived in the house until 1973, when the University purchased it. (Rochester Review)

Not always mentioned in the reporting of Barry was his service in World War II, especially during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Barry’s story came to fore in Henry Clune’s “OUR MAYOR WAS THERE,” written on the 15th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor (BELOW).

As we live through the covid pandemic, Anne Newell Burgher’s (1914 – 1950) story feels especially compelling. (BELOW)

Born into an upper class Rochester family, Anne’s life seemed typical. She graduated from the Columbia Preparatory School (now the Allendale Columbia School) and the University of Rochester. An adventurous and free spirited woman, Anne ventured to Hawaii where she worked for the Eastman Kodak’s Honolulu division. Anne was partying late into the night with airmen at Hickham Field when the Japanese air force  struck.

Anne survived, returned to Rochester to marry and begin a family. Then, during a surge of polio, on August 17th, 1950 Anne contracted the disease. Within two weeks, she was dead,

Peter Barry

From Henry Clune’s Seen and Heard:

Democrat and Chronicle, 06 Dec 1956

OUR MAYOR WAS THERE The waters of Pearl Harbor rippled pleasantly in the brilliant morning sun, the air was soft and balmy and a man felt good to be alive, when Ensign Peter Barry was relieved of his watch on the hospital ship Solace, anchored off Ford Island, at 7:50 a.m. 15 years ago tomorrow. The ensign had held the watch since 4 o’clock. He was being relieved 10 minutes early in order that he might get up to the officers’ quarters for 8 o’clock Mass. He reached the officers’ quarters and took a chair to await the beginning of the service. Two minutes later Ensign Barry and “the other men in the officers’ quarters were startled by a heavy volley of antiaircraft fire. “I was curious,” Mayor Peter Barry said, telling of the experience. “We all were In the officers’ quarters. Occasionally in the past the antiaircraft gunners had tried out their equipment, but before we had always been forewarned about this. I went on deck with the others to see what the shooting was all about.”

Democrat and Chronicle, JUNE 15, 1955 HIS HONOR, MR. BARRY Peter Barry, second from left; Joseph Farbo, to his right, smilingly accept congratulations from fellow Councilmen after election mayor, vice mayor, respectively. Well-wishers are Leonard Tomczak, left, and August Muehleisen. Barry, Farbo will succeed Samuel Dicker, Norman Kreckman.

Once on deck the mayor and the men with him knew at once what had happened and what, it seemed to him, continued to happen for hours. Airplanes were swarming in the air like hornets and the antiaircraft guns were shooting for keeps. Ford Island stands in the middle of Pearl Harbor and Hickham Field, the Army airbase, is some distance away. The planes had. blasted the airbase and were now concentrating on the bulk of the United States Pacific Fleet, many of the larger units of which were moored to the Ford Island docks. More than 100 planes were in the air and the bombs they dropped and the torpedoes they projected in a morning of dreadful havoc accounted for the worst disaster in the history of the United States Navy.

Democrat and Chronicle, 06 Dec 1956

Mayor Barry’s ship, the Solace, lay around a corner of Ford Island, a distance of a quarter or a half a mile from the main body of the fleet. It was marked, to conform with the terms of the Geneva Conference, as a hospital ship. It was painted white and a broad green stripe ran around the hull below the main deck level and a Red Cross insignia was displayed at port and starboard just below the beam. But the fact that the Solace was isolated from the main fleet, rather than its markings, may have saved it from attack, for this day the success crazed and blood-lusting Japanese were trying for every available target.

Mayor Barry had been a member of the Naval Reserve and Naval Militia since three years before the beginning in Europe of World War II and early in 1941 he was detailed to active duty with the Rochester units of these organizations. He and his fellow Rochester sailors were ordered to the naval station at Newport, R.I., for a refresher course in seamanship and navy practice and in April of that year they were sent to sea. Forty Rochesterians were put aboard the Solace and a similar number detailed to the USS Castor, a navy supply ship. The Castor also was in Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack, but like the Solace was in an isolated position and was not hit. Mayor Barry, with the rank of ensign, was assistant engineer office on the Solace.

By coincidence, this article appeared on the 20th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Mayor Barry’s service there is not mentioned. Democrat and Chronicle, Dec 07, 1961 BUSINESS HUDDLE City councilmen were all business yesterday as they met in attempt to settle bus strike. From left are Mayor Peter Barry, Frank T. Lamb, Mayor elect Henry E. Gillette and Vice Mayor-elect John G. Uittner.

The action of that fateful Sunday morning of Dec. 7, 1941, is probably indelibly etched on the memory of all who witnessed it and lived. But Mayor Barry’s coin of vantage was on the tide of the deck that prevented his observation of the main bombardment, which quickly sank to the keel such capital ships “as the West Virginia and the Arizona, and the one direct hit he saw was on the target ship, Utah, a short distance away, which seemed to erupt in giant spouts of flames. A moment later he was rushing down to the engine room to order the engines warmed up in anticipation of the Skipper’s command move.

But the Solace did not move that morning and the attack, from what Mayor Barry heard and occasionally saw for much of his duty was now below decks seemed to continue interminably. Eight battleships and 10 other ships were sunk or damaged in a period from 8 o’clock until noon. And the balmy, spring like morning, that made a man glad to be alive, before the last of the swarm of hornets, disappeared over the horizon, minus a few that the antiaircraft guns had killed, had become a carnival of death, with more than 3,000 killed or missing and the wounded an incalculable toll.

“The whole area seemed an unbelievable chaos,” Mayor Barry related, “but actually, in a comparatively short time, chaos had given way to order and constructive things were being done. Once we knew what had happened, I am sure that everyone on our ship was frightened. But there was no panic of any kind, and inside an hour our crew was performing the sort of service for which it had been trained. Our small boats and motor launches were set down and soon they were bringing the wounded to us from ships that had been struck. At the time of the attack we had only 20 patients aboard. By early afternoon we had more than 600. By then we were well organized. The wounded were brought on deck from the small boats by our deck force, classified according to the seriousness of their wounds, and sent either to beds or emergency operating rooms. When the regular hospital compartments were filled we put patients in the officers’ quarters, or any other part of the ship where there was room for a bed.”Mayor Barry said that like a Shakespearean tragedy there was a brief moment in that day of terror for a comic interlude.

A pharmacist’s mate had been detailed to the top of the gangway to administer a shot of morphine to each seriously wounded patient that was brought aboard. Mayor Barry, temporarily stationed in that area, had admiringly observed a huge and muscular boatswain who no sooner delivered one patient to the top of the gangway than he darted back for another. His exertions were mighty and effective. But suddenly he began to slow down, his feet dragged, his eyes were glassy, and he was having difficulty holding his end of the stretcher.

Mt. Hope Cemetery. Peter Barry’s gravesite, Plot, Section V, Lot 25 [Photo: David Kramer]

Curious about this sudden debilitation of a man who had seemed as strong and perdurable as an oak, Mayor Barry discovered that the pharmacist’s mate, swiftly jabbing his morphine needle into patients, had three times mistakenly jabbed it into the boatswain and the boatswain was virtually out on his feet, He was ordered off duty and spent the rest of that hectic day sleeping off the effect of the drug In a shaded corner of the deck.Filled with patients, late in the day the Solace moved to a quiet corner of the Harbor, and Mayor Barry never put foot on solid ground for two weeks. Then he was sent into Honolulu for supplies. In time the Solace left Pearl Harbor. The ship went far into the Pacific to transport the wounded from Guadalcanal I and other engagements to base hospitals in New Zealand, besides serving as a base hospital itself, while island hospitals were being built. Mayor Barry remained with the ship two years. Later he was sent back to the States for a brief period, and returned to the Pacific as chief engineer of a tanker that fueled the combat task force. He was in the Pacific most of the time from October, 1941, to October, 1945, and ended his active service as a commander.For four years following the war he served as commander of the Rochester units in the Naval Reserve and Naval Militia and was commander of the northern area of the state for a year after that. His duties as mayor of Rochester and an engineer for the Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. caused him to end his long career as a citizen sailor. But he saw our part of the war start with the attack on Pearl Harbor and he saw it end in the far Pacific. And the beginning for him may have been the more unforgettable of the two experiences.

Anne Newell Burgher

Excerpt from Ripple in Time: The Newell Family of Rochester, NY (University of Rochester research), I added D & C clippings and contemporary photos.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, The Newell Family Monument, Lot 205, Section C [Photo: David Kramer, 12/6/20]

George Russell Newell’s daughter Anne Newell was born in 1914. She attended Columbia Preparatory School and was a graduate of the University of Rochester class of 1938, where she was a member of Theta Eta Sorority.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Apr 26, 1930. To the right is Anne Newell.

In her early adulthood, Anne was employed by Eastman Kodak of Rochester. In September 1941, she decided to transfer to the branch office in Honolulu and sailed across the Pacific on the ship Van Buren. Anne apparently inherited her grandfather’s terrible luck and faced a series of unfortunate events during her travels. An article in her undergraduate file in the University of Rochester Rare Books Department stated:

On its maiden voyage from New York the ship (Van Buren) ran into the worst storm known on the Atlantic in many years. Passengers were strapped into bunks and fed sandwiches for eighteen days since the galley was completely destroyed and $1,000 worth of china ruined in the thirty-six hours of chaos. Recovering in the Caribbean the ship ran into the tail end of the Texas hurricane which Anne says was tame. They managed to get through the Panama Canal and on to San Francisco where, after gala night life and excitement, they sailed for Honolulu …Anne will be living with the Stewart Wilcoxes at 2040 Round Top Terrace, Honolulu, and will be working in the branch office of Kodak there. Her new home is right on the beach near the Royal Honolulu Hotel where broadcasts to America originate. Someday you may hear, ‘Hello, Mother, I’m washed up on the shore of heaven safely’ (Rochester Review Oct-Nov).

Once in Hawaii, Anne worked in the Honolulu branch office of Kodak, where she witnessed the Pearl Harbor attack on the dawn of December 7, 1941. An article from a Rochester newspaper in her alumni file quotes, “She could not believe the noise was anything but practice maneuvers until she heard the radio. At that point Anne doesn’t mind admitting, she was plenty terrified.” (Unknown Source, “Newell, Anne Burgher” File of Undergraduates, University of Rochester).

Source: Newell, Anne Burgher” File of Undergraduates, University of Rochester

Democrat and Chronicle WEDNESDAY. JANUARY 7, 1941 That’s Where She  Was When The First Jap Bombs Fell  Miss Anne Newell, 27, an Eastman Kodak Company secretary who returned to her home at 21 Edgerton St. yesterday from Honolulu, points to the approximate location of the home in which she lived near Waikiki Beach up to the time of the Japanese bombing’ of Hawaii. Diamond Head can be seen in the background of the picture. Miss Newell came home on a Navy ship which brought evacuees to San Francisco. Hawaii Evacuee Returns, Tells of Raid Experience Anne Newell went to sleep in her “Waikiki Beach home with the music of a Hawaiian orchestra in her ears. Three hours later she awoke abruptly to the crash of Japanese bombs on a nearby fort. Thus Miss Newell, a 27-year-old. Eastman Kodak Company secretary, learned first hand that “the day that will live in infamy” had begun. Home last night before a blazing fireplace at 21 Edgerton St., Miss Newell, who went to Honolulu in October to become secretary to Kodak’s assistant manager, Donald Bahrenberg, a Rochesterian, related the tale of the harrowing time, a story carefully told to avoid disclosing any information that might aid the enemy. Thought of Maneuvers She had been to an officers’ dance at Hickman Field the night before and left it only a few hours before the sneak attack. When she heard the first bomb, she thought it was noise of Army and Navy maneuvers, for such sounds were not uncommon. The radio brought the paralyzing news of what occurred. “I guess I was a sissy,” the brown-haired secretary said. “I stayed inside, close to the radio, except for a trip to the beach to watch the planes. “But the next day when I went to the office, I found I was the only girl there.” The radio urged all civilians to stay Inside to avoid Injury, Miss Newell said. The Jap planes not only were bombing but also machine gunning the populace. Most of the bombs in civilian quarters, she said, fell In the Japanese districts. Few white people were hurt. One bomb fell at a “nearby fort” and a second “around tho corner,” Miss Newell said. She was unhurt. Populace Stunned The populace was stunned by the attack but soon recovered and quickly fell In with tho martial order established. People accepted sacrifices willingly, she reported. Shrapnel tore through tho bed of a girl friend of hers, Miss Newell said, five minutes after the girl had fled the spot. Along with other Americans, Including some wounded, Miss Newell was returned to San Francisco aboard a Navy boat. No details of the trip were discussed. Miss Newell was high in her praise for the Red Cross which met the boat at the dock with transportation, food and other needs. She was greeted on her arrival home by her mother, Mrs. George R Newell, and her brother and sister. “She was lucky to be able to come back.” said Mrs. Newell quietly 

Anne would marry Lieut. John Laidlaw Burgher of Fort Sam Houston Texas. Together Anne and John Burgher had two children John and Mary (File of Undergraduates, University of Rochester).

(left) Source “Newell, Anne Burgher.File of Undergraduates, University of Rochester Rare Books Department; (right) Democrat and Chronicle, Oct 17, 1943

Site of the Burgher’s home on Park Avenue [Photo: David Kramer, 12/6/20]

Anne Newell Burgher died of polio on August 26, 1950 (Mt. Hope Interment).

Democrat and Chronicle, Aug 29, 1950 2 Polio Deaths, 8 New Cases Listed in Area 1950 Patients Now Total 36, Against 39, Year Ago Rochester’s first two deaths from polio this year were reported over the weekend, , the Health Bureau said yesterday. Mrs. Anne Newell Burgher, 36, of 1297 Park Ave. and Mrs. Patricia C. Barry. 25, of 31 Lattimore Rd. were the victims. Mrs. Burgher, ill since Aug, 17, died Saturday. Mrs. Barry, who first became ill Aug. 12, died Sunday. Both women died of bulbar polio. Dr. G. Harold Warnock, deputy health officer, announced. , Surviving Mrs. Burgher are her husband, John Laidlaw Burgher; a son, Peter L., a daughter, Mary A.; .her mother, Mrs. George R. Newell; a sister, Miss Ruth H. Newell, and two brothers, G. Taylor Newell and John M. Newell, A memorial service will be held at the Brick Presbyterian Church Chapel at 2:30 o’clock this afternoon.’ Mrs. Barry is survived by her husband, William T. Barry; two daughter. Regina and Mary; a son, William G; her mother, Mrs. Mary Pennylegion; a brother, William G. Pennylegion; four sisters, Mjs. R. H. Fell, Mrs. Clarence Kelso and Zelma and Lois Pennylegion. Burial will be in Toronto, Canada, pext Tuesday. Eight new polio cases over the weekend were reported by the Health Bureau. Dr. Warnock said five occurred within the city and three were non-city cases. Two were stricken in the same home. The new cases bring Rochester’s total for the season to 20, with 16 outside the city. This time last year, there were 39 polio cases in the Rochester area. Dr. Warnock said Health Bureau officials do not believe the new cases indicate a serious outbreak. He said the disease is at its height during the last week in August and the first week in September.

Source:  Mt. Hope Cemetery Plot Record. Lot 205, Section C

Ann Newell Burgher (1914 – 1950) Mt. Hope Cemetery. Lot 205, Section C [Photo: David Kramer, 12/6/20]


The Bulge and Rochester seventy-four years later

75 years ago when Imperial Japan surrendered and the Timeline at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Highland Park

Dr. Joseph Roby could not save Lenore Engel, 11, victim of the 1918 pandemic buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery


About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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