Saturday, August 29, 2009

Typhoid claims last of once notoriious Kozaks

This story was published by The Ypsilanti Daily Press on Thursday, August 28, 1929.

There was a simple funeral in Wyandotte this afternoon. A few flowers, a song, a sprayer, then they carried Irene Walling Smith to a little cemetery near New Boston and buried her besides her mother, Nettie Walling.

There were few left of Irene’s friends to form the funeral cortege which accompanied the body to its final resting place. Her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Leonard of Rawsonville were there: the Leonards are loyal to their own. Her little son, Earl Smith, is ill in Children’s Hospital, Detroit, with typhoid, the disease which claimed his mother.

Irene’s heyday passed three years ago. The girl for whom one man was ready to kill his pal, the girl on whom he spent ‘ten grand,’ the ‘queen of the Kozak gang’ was working in a boarding house in Trenton just before she died.

There was a time when Irene Walling Smith did not have to work. Shorty Kazak’s gang knew where the money was, knew how to et it and how to spend it, and Irene was the banit queen. That was in the days when the Michigan Central safe in Ypsilanti, stores and oil stations here and in Ann Arbor as well as Detroit were yielding rich harvest and the gang was planning to venture into richer, if more dangerous field of bank robberies.

Then Frankie and Jimmie quarreled over Irene, and Frankie fled to Canada, fearful of his life, for Jimmie had already killed Patrolman Rusinko in the course of a Hamtramck ‘job.’ Jimmie, brains of the Kozaks, had become a killer.

Hard days followed—anxious days, bitter days. Trailed by police of two nations, the Kozak gang was brought together again at the bar of justice. Shorty first, then Frankie, were sentenced to long terms in Marquette for robbery armed.

“They’ll never get Jimmie—not alive,’ Shorty had said.

But they did, and Jimmie stood before the judge without a friend to help him, without means to gage an attorney and deserted by the girl he had loved.

Irene could not stand a killer. She did not question the source of the wealth which they showered upon her, but when they killed she fled. So the judge sentenced Jimmie to life in Marquette and the Kozak gang passed from the front page into the archives of Detroit’s criminal history.

Queen no longer, Irene returned to her girlhood home in Rawsonville, and has worked since the glamorous days of the Kozaks to support herself and her child. In February her mother died. She cared for her during her last illness, then found work again, in the Trenton boarding house. It was here she and the little nine year old boy contracted typhoid. Monday, in the eerie hours before the dawn, she breathed her last, gone after 27 years of life.

The child will recover, physicians have told the grant-grandparents. His father, who lives in Chicago, has been notified of the tragedy and may come for him; if he does not, the aged couple, both past the allotted three score and ten, will carry on.

The Leonards are loyal to their own.

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