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  • Writer's pictureIlka Knüppel

Ruth's connection to the U.S. Naval Academy Band - via her musician cousin Willy Perlitz.

This blog post is a bit of a reprieve from the heavy topic of Aktion T4 and an interesting bit of history I found while doing my historical research. Willy Perlitz Jr. was a musician and a contributing writer of the Naval Academy’s fight song, "Anchors Aweigh". He is also Ruth's first cousin, once removed.

William “Willy” Perlitz was born on January 12, 1879, in Jülich, Germany, to Wilhelm (William) Perlitz Sr. (1852 – 1925) and Maria Magdalena (Rüttgers) Perlitz (1859 - 1932). Frequently in documents, Willy is referred to as William Perlitz, Jr.

Born into a family of musicians, his father and all his uncles could play almost any instrument that they could get their hands on. (I can honestly state THAT gene did not get passed down to me or my siblings!) Between the ages of 8 and 13 years old, Willy studied under Professor Carl Reinert of Magdeburg, Germany. In 1893, Willy immigrated to the United States with his parents, and they initially lived in Hartford, CT, where they had other Perlitz relatives. There Willy continued his musical studies under Frank Sedgwick, leader of the orchestra at Parsons Theatre. In May 1897 until 1901, the family lived in Meriden, CT, at 54 1-2 East Main Street.

Young Willy Perlitz in a band uniform in an undated photo.

The Journal Meriden CT 1 April 1899

In April 1899, at the age of 20, Willy published his first piece of music, known as the “Meriden Journal March.” The music composition is shown below:

The Meriden Daily Journal 10 April 1899

After 1899, Willy gets a job instructor the High School orchestra in Meriden, CT.

Willy gets as job as 1st violinist in ‘Down on the Farm’ band.

On April 1, 1901, Willy gets a job playing with “Down on the Farm” company as first violin in the orchestra and he also plays in the brass band.

On May 16, 1901, Willy is reported by the Meriden Journal to be in Pittston, PA where is the leader of a band of 23 men and plays 1st violin. It is unclear what happened with his job with the “Down on the Farm” company.

In September 1901, it is reported that Willy moves to Annapolis from Cape May, NJ, where he had been playing with a band there for the summer. Willy moves to Annapolis to marry Frances Stürmer, formerly of Meriden, CT.

Willy married Frances Augusta Stürmer on November 11, 1901, in Annapolis. In 1902, Willy enlisted in the Navy to serve as a member of the Naval Academy Band, including as an assistant bandleader. His parents in the meantime had moved to Manhattan in New York City where his father was employed as a musician as well.

Willy serves under the well-known Naval Academy bandleader, Lieutenant Charles Adams Zimmermann, and Willy arranged at least part of the musical score for the Navy’s song “Anchors Aweigh”, written by Lieutenant Zimmerman.

Family lore has it that Willy wrote the music and sold the rights to Zimmerman for a bottle of whiskey. Willy gets no credit for having helped write the music.

Willy publishes more music which he copyrights, including this score he composed for Governor Edwin Warfield:

In 1920, William Sr. and Magdalena moved to Annapolis, Maryland, where William Sr. became a naturalized citizen of the United States on 30 April of that year. The family lived at 173 Green Street in Annapolis. Willy lived there with his parents and his wife, Frances Stürmer (1880 – 1978), and his son, William Frances "Frank" Perlitz, who was born in 1902; and his daughter, Victoria “Dollie” Magdalena Perlitz, who was born in Maryland in 1908.

The following is from the architectural write up of 173 Green Street by the Maryland Historical Trust:

Frances was very active in St. Mary’s Church and the Charles Carroll House. She also worked for St. John's College in Annapolis for over 30 years.

Here she receives recognition for her work from the Dean (left) of St. John's College as her son, Frank, looks on:

The Dean of St. John's College presents Frances Perlitz a watch for retirement while her son, Frank Perlitz, looks on.

In 1912, William purchased a house at 74 Conduit Street for his family, while his parents remained at Green Street. He and Frances then had a second daughter, Mildred “Millie” Perlitz, in 1913.

In 1917, Willy visited Germany on the liner, Amerika:

In the ensuing years, Willy’s marriage to Frances began to fail, and they divorced in July 1920. Willy then returned to live with his parents at Green Street while the rest of the family remained at Conduit Street. Willy’s mother, Magdalena died in 1932 bequeathing him the house on Green Street, Annapolis. Willy retired from the Navy in 1921, and for his service during World War I, he was awarded the World War I Victory Medal.

Willy later met and married Augusta Caroline Sophie Elise (Bornemann) Bause (1874 – 1962) on August 7, 1935. She had arrived from Germany on 27 September 1928, with her two sons, Wilhelm H. G. and George E. T. Bause. Willy and Augusta lived in Reno, Nevada, for a time.

When William remarried, he left Annapolis to live with Augusta, initially in Philadelphia, at 4118 Howell Street. In March 1959, they moved to Athens in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, at 127 South Main Street. He lived there until his death at the age of 86. He died from cardio-vascular disease on 7 September 1965. He is buried in Athens, along with Augusta, in Tioga Point Cemetery.

Willy’s obituary had no mention of his three children by Frances. It also stated that he was the person that wrote "Anchors Aweigh" although to this day the Naval Academy Band does not officially acknowledge any part he may have played.

The house at 74 Conduit Street remained in the family until the death of Millie, when it was left to St. Mary’s Church. It was later sold to be used as a private residence. All three of William’s children are buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery on West Street in Annapolis, along with their mother, Frances. Millie remained single, and none of the three children had children of their own.

Millie takes her sailboat, Termite, out for a sail on Spa Creek in Annapolis, Maryland.

Frances Stürmer Perlitz, with cousins Helen Perlitz Rakowski, Frank Perlitz, and Elsbeth Perlitz in Annapolis, Maryland, circa 1930 or 1931.

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