Then and Now — 1936 & 2024 — 124 Aranda St NE 33704 (Snell Isle)
From 1936: “The latest addition to homes on Snell Isle is that of Maj. J.R. Cygon, US Army Ret., just being completed. It has two bedrooms, two tile baths as well as every modern convenience, with an attractive garden and lily pond in the rear.”
Joseph Ray Cygon was born on January 29, 1887, in Meadville, Mississippi. Joe was the eldest of five children, his father a German immigrant who established himself as a merchant.
Joe was reared in Meadville where he received his schooling, graduating from Meadville High in 1905. He immediately entered Mississippi College, but in his second year was accepted to the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he graduated on October 1, 1911, as a 2nd Lieutenant.
While at the academy Joe met Ms. Grace Lucille Armstrong, an 18 year old local girl whose father was a teacher at a military school. The couple fell for each other and one month after Joe’s graduation from the Academy (November 2, 1911) they were married. Their first home was at Fortress Monroe, Va.
Joe would make a career of the military and in so doing his family became used to the constant changes of address. Joe and Grace had four children, each born in a different state, John (1912-Boston); Vivian (1913 – Maryland – died the same year); Katherine (1916 – California); and Elizabeth (1917 – Alabama). In 1920 Joe was doing a tour at Fort De Lesseps” Panama Canal Zone, 1925 in Iowa and 1927 in Kansas.
In 1928, Joe and his family moved to Annapolis, Maryland where his son John entered the Academy. John was an extremely smart young man and excelled in electronics and the science of electricity. During his sophomore year at the Academy, young John fell into some trouble with the school. John had created and developed a device that would remotely control electrical devices, a device he put into play by mysteriously controlling the elevators, clocks, lights and even cutting in on telephone conversations without operator assistance. He was caught by happenstance because during the time he was on a cruise with his family, the interruptions stopped, and then abruptly began again when he returned.
John was asked by the school to resign, which he did in December of 1930. John’s antics didn’t go unnoticed, and he was soon being visited by numerous companies wanting to hire him as an electrical engineer. John didn’t accept the offers because he had been offered a spot at West Point by President Hoover, pending entrance test results. It seemed although his days at his father’s alma mater were over, he had other, and important, offers for a bright future. But it was not to be…..it was on a chilly February morning in Baltimore in 1932 (John was 19), that his father Joe came home before lunch to find John dead in bed, holding a tube of poisonous gas in his hand. The medical coroner declared that it was suicide. Joe refuted the allegation and ruling in the paper by saying that John was not at all distraught and that he had been experimenting with this type of gas for quite a while. No matter what Joe said, the decision stood, and his death was deemed suicide.
The stress of losing his son caused Joe to retire from military service and to relocate with Grace to St. Pete, where they could have a change of venue and slow their pace. Joe and Grace arrived in St. Pete in 1933, but Joe wasn’t ready to spend his retirement in a rocking chair. He immediately began to dabble in real estate and construction, purchasing properties, building homes, and making sales. He built this featured home in 1936.
Joe and Grace had been here three years when sadness again struck the family. Elizabeth, who had married Robert Vehling in St. Pete in 1936, died in 1939, either during or shortly after giving birth to a son. Her husband was left to raise their 2-year old daughter and an infant son. It seems that Joe and Grace helped by taking the infant son (Robert) to raise, at least for a while, as he was listed as living with them in the 1940 census.
Joe was restless and missing his military life and in 1941 took a position as Commandant of the Morgan Park Military Academy in Chicago. He stayed in this position for a few years until he and Grace moved to Washington DC, living there from c1949 – 1973. In 1966, sadness struck once again when Joe and Grace’s last living child, Katherine died at age 50.
In 1973 Joe and Grace moved to Melbourne, Florida to be near their eldest granddaughter.
On October 1, 1979, Joe died (age 92) and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Grace lived five more years, dying in 1984.
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