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Elusive Memories of Iola

November 15th, 2013

Children (patients) on the roof of Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium (c.1939). [PHOTO COURTESY OF: Marilyn Casserino]
A couple months ago we took a look inside the Iola tuberculosis hospital on Westfall Road. The buildings have since been demolished. But for Marilyn Casserino, 79, those photos triggered memories, and questions that will linger on…

The Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium. Now demolished. [PHOTO: Sarah Barnes]
On July 24, Marilyn saw the photos posted here by Sarah Barnes and felt compelled to tell her story in the comments. She pleaded:

I have been searching for Iola information for many years… My mother died in Iola in 1940. At that time I was a patient there. I was about 5 or 6 yrs old. I have a photo of me with a few other kids on the roof of one of the buildings. I have a few very vague memories of being there. I will be 80 soon and would give anything to remember more, also to be able to see some records of my mother and me if at all possible…
We are packing to move out of state… No matter what state I’m living in I will always be searching for anything to do with Iola… Is there any way to view old records of Iola? I’m interested in finding out how long my stay as a patient was. No one in my family knew (they are all gone now).

I try to put myself in Marilyn’s shoes, but I can’t. Being a patient in a this hospital, away from home with all these strangers; and at just six years old having to deal with such a loss. Now, after a lifetime, all that’s left are very faint memories of that place. The place she said goodbye to her mom.

This is heavy. I had to try to find some answers for Marilyn.

Children (patients) on the roof of Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium (c.1939). [PHOTO COURTESY OF: Marilyn Casserino]
I contacted her and she sent me this photo of her with seven other children on the roof of Iola. She’s the one in the center – in the dark dress. Marilyn says she would like to know how long she and her mom were at the hospital. And she also wishes she knew who the other children in the photo were.

So I called around to see if I could find old patient records from Iola. And I did… right where I might expect to find them, at Monroe Community Hospital’s patient records office. The good people there dusted off several big old books of patient names from the mid 1930’s to 1940’s. Imagine my surprise when I cracked them open and found this…

Old Monroe Community Hospital records included patients of Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium. The records have never been digitized and are very difficult to search through. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]
Each book contains 200 to 300 pages – probably 10,000 names. Not digitized. Not searchable on a computer. Not alphabetical. Not even typed. All handwritten and entered in the order the patients were admitted to the hospital.

But all I know are the names of the patients, Marilyn and Vivian Casserino… and the date Vivian died: January 19, 1940. That means I’d have to scan over thousands of handwritten names line by line, backwards in time from 1940. So I did.

Over the course of two afternoons I searched all the way back to October 1, 1937. I found a Carmello Casserino, a Joseph Casserino, and a Russell Casserino – Marilyn’s grandfather and her two uncles, who at various times were admitted to Monroe Community Hospital. Unfortunately, I found no Marilyn and no Vivian.

I’ve come up empty. Now the question is, if Vivian died on January 19, 1940, and if she is in one of those books, how far back should I reasonably need to search?

Marilyn says she thinks she may have been there for as long as a year and a half. But was it typical for TB patients to be treated for a year? Two years? THREE years or more?

Children (patients) on the roof of Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium (c.1939). [PHOTO COURTESY OF: Marilyn Casserino]
It’s difficult to look at the picture of this little girl and not feel connected. It’s strange, I know. But I’m having a difficult time allowing myself to give up this search.

Read Part II of this story here…

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 15th, 2013 at 8:00 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

42 Responses to “Elusive Memories of Iola”

  1. Meghan says:

    Very Interesting Post & I think it’s awesome that you’re doing this for Marilyn! Good luck in your search :).

  2. Martin Edic says:

    Great post. I hope you find something for her.

  3. Excellent post Mike!!

  4. Thanks everyone.

    I’m hoping, by some miracle, someone sees this photo and recognizes one of the kids in it.

  5. Paula says:

    I hope everyone shares this to hopefully help. You’re doing a good thing…

  6. Patty Uttaro says:

    Mike, you should make an appointment with or call Christine Ridarsky or Cheri Crist at the Central Library. They can probably help. Or Carolyn Vacca at St. John Fisher. She has been doing research on the history of public health in Monroe County.

  7. Hi Patty! Thanks. I had contacted someone at the Public Library back in July and they directed me to the Miner Library at UofR Medical Center. Miner Library didn’t have anything.

    I will try to contact Christine and Carolyn. If you see Christine could you give her a heads up for me?

  8. Vivian says:

    Awwww. Marilyn is my mom, and Vivian Casserino was my Grandmother, whom, of course I never met. This pic of my Mom tears at my heart. I really hope more info can be found, and I appreciate all that you are trying to do to find it.

  9. Hi Vivian! You’re named after your grandmother! That’s so great! It’s no problem at all. I love historical stuff like this. Actually, you might be able to help. Can you confirm the date your grandmother died? Your mom says she misplaced the death certificate. I just need to make sure the date was actually January 19, 1940. So that I know I’m searching the right books.

    I’m also going to try to dig up some photos from inside Iola for your mom next.

  10. Susan Strickland says:

    Nice article. My Father, Charles Van Bell, was at Iola for at least one admission when he was about 12. His Father died while he, my father, was in there. The Funeral Director, Mr. Miller, went to Iola and picked my Father up and took him to the funeral. My father said that he did so in a hearse.

    Somewhere I have a autograph book from that time signed by other boys on his ward and some of the nurses.
    Since rest was considered a major part of the cure everyone spent a lot of time in bed. He told us that he and the other boys played a game with necco wafers. They would put one on their forehead and attempt to move the necco wafer into their mouths by moving only their faces. The first one to do so was the winner.

    I think it was usual for people to remain in the hospital for long periods of time. I have read about people being in TB hospitals for years at a time. I think another part of the cure was fresh air and patients would spend some time every day out in the air no matter how cold it was.

  11. Mark H says:

    Imagine our surprise when my sister and I, looking for information on Iola, happen across this great story and find a picture of our mother and aunt.
    The girl in the center with the short blonde hair is our mother Jean Bissiett and the girl with the curley hair on Marilyn’s left is her sister Beverly Ferguson (different fathers). They “cured” at Iola with their mother Esther, brother Bob and another sister Barb. Esther died there in 1945. It saddens us to see the buildings have been torn down, and so little written about the history of the place and the people who spent years there. I hope they put some kind of memorial up to commemorate the people who worked, lived and died there, so they aren’t forgotten. Thank you and good luck with your search Marilyn. Mark & Kathy.

  12. HOLY SMOKES! Mark, are you serious? Not that I don’t trust you, but are you sure those two girls are your mother and aunt?

    If this is true Marilyn will ecstatic! Are they still around? Marilyn will probably want to contact them.

    Could you send me an email? [email protected]

    Thanks so much!

  13. Christopher Brandt says:

    Looking through city directories, the last time that Marilyn’s parents Philip and Vivian appear is in the 1938 directory. They were living at 17 Baird Street and Marilyn’s father was a utility man. Their names are no where to be found in the city or any of the suburban directories in 1939.

  14. Thanks Christopher. Yes, it would seem to match up with the general timeframe in which I was searching the hospital records. I’m perplexed. I think I’m going to have to extend my search to before 1937. If it was fairly typical for TB patients to be treated for more than a few years at a time, they very well could have been admitted before that time.

  15. Melissa Colvin (Casserino) says:

    Hello. My great Grandfather was Carmello Casserino. His Son, Russell, was my Grandfather and his son, Joseph, is my Dad. My Dad is 76 years old. His Brother, Carm, is my uncle and he is about 79 years old. If you think my Dad Joe or my Uncle Carm could help, email me. THanks

  16. Hi Melissa! Thanks for offering to help.

    If I’m drawing the family tree correctly, this would mean that Joseph (your dad) and Carm are Marilyn’s brothers. Is that correct?

    If so, either of them may have information that could be useful. We’re trying to figure out how long Marilyn was at Iola and when she and her mother were admitted.

  17. Melissa Colvin (Casserino) says:

    Who was Vivian married to? Seems as if she married a Casserino unless she had Marilyn out of wedlock?

    Carmello was my great grandfather so I think he was Marilyns grandfather. Brothers–Russell and Joseph are Carmello’s sons. So that would make them Marilyns uncles. Carmello had alot of children not just Russell and Joseph. My grandfather Russell had three children, my father named Joseph (named after Russells brother Joseph) Carm, and Mary (deceased).

    My father Joseph and his brother Carm would have been cousins to Marilyn.

  18. Marilyn (Casserino) Murphree says:

    Hi..I haven’t been in contact with anyone from Rochester Subway since days before Christmas. I was directed to this site by my daughter Vivian regarding the email from Melissa. To clarify my relationship with Melissa and her dad. Carmen and Joey (we called him Joey when we were young) are the sons of Russell and Margaret Casserino. Russell was my father’s (Philip) brother. Carmen and Joe are my first cousins. I saw Carmen occasionally when I lived in Rochester. I haven’t seen Joe in many, many years. By the way, I have only one half brother and one half sister…Carmen and Rosemarie. There is Carmen my cousin and Carmen my brother. Rosemarie is a resident of Monroe Community Hospital and has been for about 20 years. I know this is very confusing but I hope this info helps.

  19. vivian says:

    Hi Mellisa. My mom, Marilyn, above. Her father was one of the other sons of Carmelo, Phillip. I believe your father is my cousin. I know your uncle Carm. That means we are 2nd cousins? Anyway, noce to meet you. 🙂

  20. Marilyn (Casserino) Murphree says:

    Another thing I was wondering…if Jean Bissiet and Beverly Ferguson remember being at Iola when I was there and whether or not they might remember me at all. As I said before, I don’t remember that part of my past. In fact I don’t remember any thing before the age of eight when I went to live with my paternal grandparents (Carmelo Casserino). I would be extremely grateful is someone could give me any info.

  21. Melissa Colvin (Casserino) says:

    Hello! Ok so Vivian was married to Phillip? I have a little bit of a memory of him. I seem to remember he was very short and chubby, a very cute little guy. I must have been around you and your Mom while growing up in Irondequoit. My nickname is Missy.

    Was Uncle Carm able to help you at all? Not sure if my Dad, Joe, would be able to.

  22. vivian says:

    I remember spaghetti dinners at great grandpa, Carmello’s house every Sunday. There were kids running around. Maybe you and i played together then? Yes my grandpa Phil was short and a little chubby. Carmello was my great grandfather.

  23. Melissa Colvin (Casserino) says:

    I was born in 1967. Carmello and his wife Mary were my Great Grandparents too! This gets confusing. Are you and I among the same generation then?

  24. vivian says:

    No. I was born in1954. I believe we moved to az in 1966. Explains why we never met. Those dinners at grandpas every Sunday were awesome. They lived in Irondequoit. Off Waring but for the life of me i cant remember the name of the street.

  25. Melissa Colvin (Casserino) says:

    Bennett Avenue was the place I remember them living. My grandparents lived about two or three houses down the street from them.

    Vivian passed away so early in life, did Phil remary?

    Has your Mom had any luck finding out any information about her Mom at lola? I never even knew the place existed until today. I googled my maiden name and found this website.

  26. vivian says:

    Wow. U just found this today? Awesome. No she hasnt had any luck yet. I guess the records kept back then are.not easy to navigate but bureau of vital statistics orn newspapers should have something. Probably on microfilm. Im gonna try digging a bit myself. Yes grandpa phil remarried. He had a son and daughter. Carmen and Rosemarie. Carmen now lives in Greece NY and is an.electrician. we have a lot of Carmens in our family. Lol

  27. Melissa Colvin (Casserino) says:

    It has been so great corresponding with you! Please keep in touch and I will do the same. You mentioned how great those dinners were all those years ago with all the family and kids everywhere. It’s so sad that life is not like that anymore. My parents divorced when I was 25 and my brother and sister and I do not keep in touch. I hope one day when my two daughters have children we can start the family gatherings and closeness again. My husband and I have been married for almost 25 years and have empty nest now. Makes me appreciate life and family so much more.

    Take care and I hope you and your Mom find out all the answers to the many questions~ Missy

  28. Marilyn (Casserino) Murphree says:

    Hi, Melissa..This is Marilyn. We are cousins. I am 80 years old. It is nice to meet you. Isn’t this interesting, meeting long lost relatives this way, from a simple request of remembering my past. We will see what happens…..

  29. vivian says:

    The census website has an archived section. They have nothing on vivian casserino. However they have 5 records on v casserino including a death certificate. Not sure if it is my grandma as i cant access it on my phone. Can anyone else. I dont have my computer right now.

  30. vivian says:

    Missy. Great talking to you too. Yes lets keep in touch. I am on facebook. Last name is stephanus.

  31. How cool is this?! I’m so happy you guys were able to reunite on this web site.

    although I wasn’t able to find your grandmother Vivian and Marilyn in the records at Monroe Community Hospital, I still believe they are in those books. But I only searched back three or so years from the date of Vivian’s death. That took me two solid afternoons and I just haven’t had time to go back and continue. If you or I went and searched back even further (pre-1937), it is possible we’d find them.

    I heard back from the gentleman who identified his mother (Jean) and aunt (Beverly) in your photo. He said that he showed the photo to his mom and her face lit right up. Unfortunately she has memory problems now and she didn’t remember much about the other girls in the photo.

    But she did say that she was at Iola from ages 3 to 6. She was born in 1932, so that would be about 1935-1938.

    Like I said, I think if we searched back to 1934/35, we just might find your name in those record books.


  32. melissa colvin says:

    Hello Marilyn. What a pleasure this is. I feel so blessed to be connected to my long lost family. If you would like phone numbers for carm and joe please email me at [ … ]

  33. Marilyn (Casserino) Murphree says:

    Missy, I don’t know how to retrieve your email address and don’t know how to give you mine.

  34. Marilyn & Melissa, I will send each of you an email with each other’s addresses.

  35. Robin (Casserino) Somora says:


  36. My name is Cassandra Casserino. I for some odd reason started googling my last name today because I could not for life of me remember my Great Grandmother and Grandfathers first names, Carmelo and Mary (we use to call them little gramma and grampa) I have the fondest memories of them. My Father is Joseph Casserino and his father is Russell Casserino. My sister you’ve chatted with, Melissa “Missy” and have brother Russell J Casserino. I just wanted to drop a note…this has brought me to tears for some reason, so many memories flooding over me now. My Dad, Joseph, for those of you that may not know passed away on November 11, 2016…I’m sure something to do with the tears…….
    I will check back in here

  37. Betty Marshall Calenzo says:

    I am looking for any information or photos of Iola in the 1940s. I had several relatives who were Residents there.

  38. Mary H says:

    Hi — I love your website. I’m a Rochester native, and I remember my grandmother being taken somewhere in 1963-ish because she had dementia. Is it possible that a woman would be placed in Iola for this? We “kids” were told to stand on the sidewalk; Grandma would wave. She was probably up on the third floor. We could not see her wave; the windows, as I recall, seemed obscured somehow. We never saw her, and, as kids, we were not allowed inside. Would Iola have housed older people with dementia in the 60s? Thank you!

  39. andrea tuchrello says:

    My grandmother Carol devereaux was one of the little girls in the photos.She was born in 1938. It seems her father is a bit of a mystery. If he had treatment for TB , would he have been housed in another area of the compound and allowed to visit his daughter sometimes? For the child it would have been like an “orphanage” being that there was no one else to take care of her at the time. Urgent that I find information on my grandfather if he was there or just a visitor.

  40. Deb Bishop says:

    Hello, I would also love information on Iola. I’m researching my family tree. I believe my grandmother, Florence Yandow, died there is January 1945. I cannot find an obit or death certificate.

  41. Lori Decker says:

    Hi. I am searching for any information for dad Thomas (Tommy) Decker who was a resident in the late 1940-50s. He was estimated to be young boy, grade school age.

  42. clint says:

    hello. i am looking for information on Iola of who she was. Was she a patient? Was she a state official? Was she nurse? If anyone can help that would be great. A picture would be nice too.

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