A Farewell to Stanley and Sophia
In the past year, the two orphan train riders who were included in our documentary passed away.
We were so sorry to hear that Stanley Cornell, 96, died Sept. 22, 2016, and Sophia Kaminsky Hillesheim, 101, passed away May 22, 2016. Both were resilient enough to survive difficult early childhoods yet, according to their families, kept their abilities to love and laugh intact.
Stanley Cornell and his brother, Victor, were sent on the “orphan train” twice from New York state after their mother’s death, and were passed from one home to another. Their story, which had its happy ending when the J.L. and Ethel Deger family in Wellington, Texas adopted the boys in 1926, was one of those at the heart of our film, West by Orphan Train. He is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter, grandchildren and his brother, Victor.
Sophia Kaminsky Hillesheim was sent in 1917 by the New York Foundling Hospital on an orphan train. She was two years old when she was taken in by a Minnesota family, but, after the woman who would have been her mother died. She was then taken in by another Minnesota woman, who family say treated her as an indentured servant. Sophia was married in 1936, and the couple had five children. Sophia, who remarried after losing her first husband, attended 50 orphan train reunions. She was the last surviving orphan train rider in Minnesota, according to family. One of her daughters, Renee Wendinger, served as an expert in our documentary.