Frederick Adolph Speik Jr. (1910-1924)

The first-born of Fred and Edith Speik’s five children was, during his short lifetime, their only son. He took after his father, growing up athletic and intelligent, and doubtless his proud parents had high hopes for his future.

about ten years old

Tragically, young Fred took suddenly ill in the summer of 1924. The family had just returned to South Pasadena from their vacation home on Balboa Island. Fred had gone swimming with friends down at La Jolla, and it was not clear, in the confusion and distress of his rapidly-progressing symptoms, what disease he had contracted or where he had contracted it. His father believed it to be diphtheria at first, as he helplessly watched his son struggle for breath. He took a throat culture and sent it out for analysis.

Fred Jr. passed away before the results came back. He had died of acute bulbar poliomyelitis (a form of polio that causes difficulty in speaking, swallowing, and breathing). His father amended the death certificate, providing the name and address of the physician who had worked up the throat culture, and carefully noting that it was unclear whether his son had contracted polio at Balboa Beach or at La Jolla. Even in the extremity of grief, he followed the protocols of a physician and a scientist.

age 14, a few weeks before his death