Walter Anthony Dreffs was born June 12, 1900 in Gaylord Village, Livingston Township, Otsego County, Michigan. His parents were Joseph Dreffs (1866-1941) and Anna Kozminska (1867-1926), both from Krakow, Poland.
Walter was the eighth in a line of eleven children. His siblings were: Martin, Ida, Nicck, Jennie, Vera, Mary C., Francis S., Paul A., Andrew S., and Casmer.
Not much is known about Walter’s early life. His family has been found in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 US Census images for Michigan. He registered in the mandatory draft for World War I at age 18, but we do not think he served during the war. Sometime between 1910 and 1918, they moved from Otsego County to Saginaw City in Saginaw County, Michigan.
He met his only known wife, Mary Stroik, around 1924 when she arrived in central Michigan. They were friends for many years before finally marrying on November 3, 1951. The couple already had six children before their wedding, and had twins Danny and Diane on the way (seen here in their wedding photo). Walter left Mary in 1956 and moved to Bay City, Michigan.
Walter’s brother Francis S. Dreffs had a son, Edward Dreffs, who married Rose Mary Karpuk in 1945, his future wife Mary’s daughter from her second marriage to Andrew Karpuk. Technically speaking, Walter actually married his nephew’s mother-in-law, known at that time as Mary Karpuk.
To many neighbors and his children, Walter was known as a very strict man. He did not like his children playing around a lot or yelling loudly. He was known to carry his youngest twins on his shoulders around the block and make up stories for them to hear. On more than one occasion he was known to retrieve his cat-o-nine tails to spank the older children when they misbehaved. He was a grinder by occupation, according to his death certificate.
Walter died on December 3, 1958 in Bay City, Michigan. He was 58 years old, and his youngest daughter Diane was a mere six years old. He was running across an open field with two heavy buckets of water, trying to help a neighbor put out a fire in a nearby home, when he tripped and had a heart attack. His children have since joked that he literally “kicked the bucket.”
Walter is buried in Floral Gardens Cemetery in Bay City. His grave remained unmarked until 1970, when his youngest daughter Diane bought him a headstone, shown below.
A Matter of Public Record: Walter Anthony Dreffs
1900 US Census, State of Michigan, Otsego County, Livingston Township, ED 144, Sheet 8, Line 71
(Shows Annie Dreffs, Mother of how many children? [6 crossed out] “7”; census was taken June 9-11, 1900; Walter was born on June 12, 1900)
Certificate of Live Birth, State of Michigan Department of Community Health, State File Number 121-5-308 Filed July 23, 1901
1910 US Census, State of Michigan, Otsego County, Livingston Township, ED 168, Sheet 14B, Line 76
World War I Draft Registration, State of Michigan, Saginaw County, Saginaw City, Draft Board 1, Draft Card D, Serial Number 2830, Order Number 462, Image 262/346, Registered on September 12, 1918
1920 US Census, State of Michigan, Saginaw County, Saginaw City, ED 192, Sheet 17, Line 32
Marriage License, Saginaw County, Michigan, Local File Number 62029, November 3, 1951, Walter Dreffs and Mary Karpuk
Certificate of Death, Michigan Department of Health, Saginaw County, 12-5-1958 Local File #1162
Floral Gardens Cemetery, Family Services Department, Bay City, Michigan