52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – #4 John Sved: 1930-2014

Here is my 4th post for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, a challenge posed by Amy Johnson Crow.

Last week, I got one of those phone calls. The kind where you look at the caller ID and know your family has just gotten a little bit smaller.
John as a young child
John Sved was my mother’s second cousin. They spent some time together in their youth, but had gone years with little contact. Then, maybe 10 – 15 years ago they reconnected. John- divorced and living alone in New York City, my Mom – an only child whose parents had passed away years ago, rekindled a relationship that most likely began in 1938 when my mother arrived in the United States.

John Russell Sved was the son of Alex Sved and Irene Oppenheim Sved. (I wrote about Irene’s brother Ralph in my last post) He was born on January 28, 1930. His sister, Erda was born 7 years earlier. A third child, Rose, died in infancy.

John and his family lived in at West 99th Street in New York City in 1930. By 1938, the family had moved to 186 Henry Street on Long Island.
My mother Doris, my grandmother Rose Lichtenthal, and my grandmother Sophie Spiegel arrived in 1938 after fleeing Vienna, Austria by way of Holland. For reasons I am not exactly sure of, the trio stayed at the Sved home in Merrick, Long Island before settling into permanent residence in New Rochelle, NY. I don’t know how long they stayed, but I would imagine that cousins Doris (aged 6) and John (aged 8) developed a connection during that time. John’s older sister, Erda was 15 – so perhaps a bit more removed from the two young ones. (I really should call Erda and get more of this story.)
1940 US Census
I know almost nothing about John’s teenage years and his adult life. I did find some information about his college years on the Internet. (I really need to chat with his son and learn about him!) In 1948 and 1949, John was attending Ohio Wesleyan University..

1949 Yearbook Picture


John – undated

Later, John married a woman named Terese. John and Terese had two children, a boy and a girl. (In order to protect their privacy I’m not disclosing more personal information.)
During all the years I knew him, John lived in an apartment in New York City. My mother told me
he had an arrangement with the owner – acting somewhat like a superintendent – in exchange for a lower rent. I was surprised at all the things John was responsible for taking care of – he was nearly 80! He didn’t own a car, so when he came to visit, he’d rent a car and make the drive to Connecticut.

2004: A cousin  reunion in my mother’s family room – L-to-R:
John, Marilyn S., Enid W.,
Doris Lichtenthal Falcone (my mom)
Anyway – that’s the back-story. My mother passed away in December 2011, but for years she and John would chat by phone every Sunday evening at 7 p.m. I’m not sure what they talked about – but I know they watched some TV show while they talked and conversation may have centered on that.

They also shared a love of “stuff.” John collected Ronson cigarette lighters and was interested in the work of artist Max Pollak. My mom loved…..well……EVERYTHING! For a few consecutive years, the two would travel to the gigantic flea market in Brimfield, Massachusetts. I joined them one time. I must admit, for two people in advanced age, they managed walking the large fields pretty well!

Brimfield Lighters – Source:

He was such a nice man. I was thrilled that my mom had family she stayed connected with – I had the feeling that John was like a brother to her. John had so many stories to share about the family. I learned a lot about his grandfather, Max Oppenheim. I remember him telling me something about a family connection to Max Pollak – we have several pieces of his artwork – but I can’t remember what it was. It’s the common lament of the genealogist – “Why didn’t it write that down?” “Why didn’t I ask more questions?” John left behind two suitcases of family photos. I always planned to take the train down to the city and go through the pictures with him, but……life got in the way. Now, he’s gone.
John Russell Sved passed away on January 11, 2014. He was 83 years old. Rest in Peace, John…….and say hi to my Mom!

One thought on “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – #4 John Sved: 1930-2014

  1. Thanks for remembering my dad in such a special way. No need to protect my identity – I am proud to be my dad's son, and besides – it's not easy to hide with a name like Sved. Still have my phone number? Call me, pls. James.


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