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born 1912 in New York City - died March 20, 1931, age 18 years.

Father: John Kazalski (1890-1981)
Mother: Amelia Leier (1889-1969)

Cause of death: Tuberculosis

Actually, her death certificate lists her cause of death as Laryngeal Phthisis - Ulceration of Glottis - contributed by Pulmonary Phthisis, all fancy words for Tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly communicable and often deadly disease caused by the tubercle bacillus and characterized by toxic symptoms or allergic manifestations which primarily affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is spread through the air, when people who have the disease cough, sneeze or spit.

The typical symptoms of tuberculosis are a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats and weight loss.

In the past, tuberculosis has been called consumption, because it seemed to consume people from within, with a bloody cough, fever, pallor, and long relentless wasting.

Before the Industrial Revolution, tuberculosis may sometimes have been regarded as vampirism. When one member of a family died from it, the other members that were infected would lose their health slowly. People believed that this was caused by the original victim draining the life from the other family members.

Furthermore, people who had TB exhibited symptoms similar to what people considered to be vampire traits. People with TB often have symptoms such as red, swollen eyes (which also creates a sensitivity to bright light), pale skin, extremely low body heat, a weak heart and coughing blood, suggesting the idea that the only way for the afflicted to replenish this loss of blood was by sucking blood.

In the 1800s, the disease was responsible for more than 30% of all deaths in Europe.

In the early 20th century, some believed TB to be caused by masturbation.

Even today, tuberculosis treatment is difficult and requires isolation in a clinic and long courses of multiple antibiotics. Unfortunately for Bertha and several other family members, antibiotics weren't developed until the 1940's.

Bertha was known as Birdie. Three of her aunts and one uncle died from TB before her: Minnie Leier Fretz (1919), Louisa Leier Lanzaro (1920), Charles Leier (1926), and Bertha "Birdie" Leier Hunter Saunders (1941).

18-year-old Birdie had just started work as a telephone operator when she contracted tuberculosis in early February of 1931. She suffered for several weeks, slowly wasting away until her death on March 20. Two years later her younger sister Dorothy died of the same disease. They are buried together in St. John's cemetery in Queens, NY.