William J. Koonce Sr. 1920 – 1976

My grandfather, William J.  Koonce Jr, pictured her with my grandmother Cora in the 1970′s, died 31 years ago on January 1, 1976. He died as a result of a car accident on the Major Deegan Expressway in NYC. I’d always known this growing up, and also always known that he had been drinking that night in celebration in New Year’s Eve, but because he always went to work to provide for his family, he then decided to drive himself to work early on the morning of the 1st. Bad decision.

Around 1997, I was talking family history with my grandmother and she gave me a folder of documents that she had. In them, was a hearing transcript “In the Matter of Edmond Alston -and- William Koonce (Dec’d).” Case No. 6-100016 in the State of New York Department of Motor Vehicles. This transcript was of the hearing held against the driver of the other car that my grandfather collided with to determine if there was any cause to revoke his license (which did not happen). What is so important to me about this document however is that Mr. Alston was the only eyewitness to the accident as it was his car that my grandfather hit, and describes it in detail. In the transcript, after he describes the accident, are these words:

  • Q: Did you have any conversation afterward with the other driver?
  • A: Conversation, no, he was unconscious at the time.
  • Q: Was he alone in the vehicle?
  • A: Yes. And they pronounced him, before they took him away, they pronounced him dead or deceased.

When I first read these words, I cried. Here in words in front of me was a description recounting the almost exact moments when my grandfather died. It still brings tears to my eyes now to read it, but I feel fortunate to have it.  My grandfather’s last words to my father was that my father better always treat me right and take care of me as he should. Or, my he (my grandfather) was going to come back from the grave and get him.  :-).   I was only six months old at the time.

I write this post because I have finally gotten around to scanning the transcript as a PDF, adding it to my online files, and filing it away in my print files.  Had my grandmother not had this to give to me, I can’t imagine that I would have ever located it on my own now as I work on the family tree.

2 thoughts on “William J. Koonce Sr. 1920 – 1976

  1. I have been researching since 1996 and I’m still going strong. Genealogy is addictive. While surfing for blogs on African-American genealogy, yours kept coming up. There is a possibility we are related. We do share a name–Koonce. My great-great-grandfather was Solomon Koonce. He was a slave on the farm of a descendant of John Koonce from North Carolina. I would love to compare notes with you. Please contact me if you would like to do the same.

  2. I remember your grandfather quite well and remember being drug out of bed the next morning to go to granddaddy’s to let Veronica and granddaddy know what was going on. As a matter of fact that picture (looking at the things in the background) looks as if it was taken at granddaddy’s house.

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