Wednesday, August 14, 2013


When I recently read that Karen Black had died at the age of 74 [read obituary and career summary here], I had the vague recollection that the Aschliman family had claimed her as some sort of relative.  My hunch was that it was via the Heller clan, so I contacted the font of all family knowledge, my cousin S Man, and here is what he had to say:

"Tom Foy was married to my sister Loretta.  Tom is a first cousin of Karen Black.  Their mother's were sisters.  Tom and Loretta's kids would be blood relatives of KB, and since you and I are blood relatives of those kids, we are blood relatives of blood relatives of Karen Black.  She was at my sister's wedding way back when, though only a teenager at the time and definitely not a celebrity."

So there is your daily dose of nearly worthless trivia!!


Steve Heller said...

A little more info. Forgive the overlap.

Do you suppose the president of Goshen College, James Brenneman, knows he is a blood relative of a blood relative of the recently deceased Karen Black? I don’t think so.

His wife, Terri Plank Brenneman, is a second cousin to Loretta Foy, who married Tom Foy, who was a first cousin to Karen Black. (Karen attended the wedding.) Tom and Karen’s moms were sisters. Tom and Loretta’s children would be blood relatives of Karen (first cousins once removed), and also blood relatives of the Planks. The children of James and Terri would be third cousins to the kids of Tom and Loretta.

Got all that?

You can check out Karen's bio on the internet, but there is an obscure part of her history that you won’t read in most of the bios. She was born in Park Ridge, Illinois and got married at quite a young age to a man named Charles Black who was a Purdue student. That is where Karen, nee Ziegler, got her last name. She and hubby lived in the Lafayette area and she attended Lafayette Jefferson high school (Lafayette Jeff). People remember her as being eccentric.

She also attended Purdue, though did not graduate. She appeared in a couple of productions there directed by Ross Smith of the theatre department. One of my professors in that department, Joe Stockdale, also remembered Karen as being eccentric. He said she tried out for a play he was directing titled No Exit, written by Jean Paul Sartre. He did not cast Karen because, as he told me, “I thought she was too ditzy.” She was devastated by that rejection. That may be why references to Purdue are omitted from her interviews. You will commonly read that she entered Northwestern at age 15.

Anyway, the rest is history, and all those Amish and others out there of Plank ancestry are blood relatives of blood relatives of Karen Black and don’t know it.

Steve Heller said...

Oh, forgot to add, BFD.