Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Warren Largay

Warren James Largay was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on November 4, 1894, according to his World War I and II draft cards which also had his full name. His birth certificate, at Ancestry.com, said his parents were Edward Largay and Elizabeth McPeck.

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census said Largay was the youngest of five children. Their father, a Canadian emigrant, was a lumber piler. The family resided at 41 Monroe Avenue in Oshkosh. Largay would be at this address through 1919.

A 1914 Oshkosh city directory listed Largay as a student. The 1915 directory is not available. In 1916 Largay was a commercial traveler.

On June 5, 1917, Largay signed his World War I draft card. He was an unemployed salesman and described as slender build, medium height, with blue eyes and black hair. The Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, at Ancestry.com, said Largay enlisted July 8, 1918 and was discharged February 1, 1919.

Largay was listed in a 1918 Milwaukee, Wisconsin city directory as a salesman residing at 130 13th Street. The 1919 Oshkosh city directory said Largay was in the U.S. Army.

In the 1920 census, salesman Largar was married to Lillian. The couple resided with her mother, Louise Fechtmeyer, a widow, in Milwaukee at 888 Wright Street.

Milwaukee city directories for 1920 and 1922, listed Largay at 890 9th Street. At some point, Largay moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 1926 directory said Largay was a clerk who lived at 4110 19th Avenue South. From 1927 to 1929, the directories recorded Largay as a sales promoter for the Dollenmayer Advertising Agency.

Largay, his wife and mother-in-law were Milwaukee residents in the 1930 census. His address was 999 59th Street.

Largay’s listing in the 1932 Milwaukee directory was supervisor at the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company. His home was at 2629 North 59th Street. The same address was in the 1936 directory that said his occupation was “advmn.”

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Largay produced the panel That’s Frieda. It appeared from November 30 to December 18, 1936 in the Milwaukee Journal, and January through March 1937 in the Milwaukee Leader. Up to this point, there is no evidence that Largay had any art training.

Largay was divorced in the 1940 census. He was in his brother-in-law’s household at 938 North 16 Street in Milwaukee. Largay was doing clerical work for a newspaper project.

Largay signed his World War II draft card on April 27, 1942. His home was 915 North 16 Street in Milwaukee and his employer was the WPA Newspaper Index.

A 1953 city directory had his address as 502 North 14th Street and occupation as post office clerk.

A 1973 issue of the Franciscan Message published the article “Mr. Largay’s Penny-Pinchers” and said in the first four paragraphs:

When the countdown to Easter 1956 began, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin postal worker decided upon a unique “little Lenten penance.” He would beg daily from fellow postal employees a few pennies for charity.

Some days he collected a mere 18 pennies; other days, a mite over a dollar. By Easter he had 4,500 pennies. He sent the amount to a Wisconsin priest doing missionary work in India.

Eighteen years and four million pennies later, Mr. Warren J. Largay, now 79, is still at his “little Lenten penance.” It has become a year-round labor of love. “Pennies trickle in any and every day that God wills it,” he comments, his eyes twinkling.

Launched as a Lenten project, Mr. Largay’s “Penny Pinchers” organization has practically orbited the earth with its highly appreciated help. Yet the humble penny program gets scant publicity and makes no effort to draw attention to itself. In this it constantly heeds the wise advice which Mr. Largay, a secular Franciscan, received from his spiritual adviser, Msgr. Julius Dorszynski, back in 1956: “Never get too big!”
The Milwaukee Sentinel, March 9, 1968, said Largay was the “founder, organizer, caretaker and sloganeer” of Penny Pinchers and the organization’s slogan was, “Our IQ may not be high but we do have cents.”.

Largay passed away July 20, 1982, in Milwaukee according to the Wisconsin death index at Ancestry.com and the Social Security Death Index

—Alex Jay


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