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Body of Girl Killed in 1944 Circus Fire Finally Goes Home

June 22, 1991

SOUTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) _ An 8-year-old girl who was killed in a 1944 circus fire was laid to rest in a family plot Saturday, 47 years after she was identified only as ″Little Miss 1565″ on her gravestone.

Eleanor Emily Cook’s body was exhumed Friday from a small memorial site at Northwood Cemetery in Windsor, Conn., and transported to a cemetery in Southampton, where she was reburied Saturday in a grave that bears her name.

She was buried beside her 6-year-old brother, Edward, who also died in the fire that killed 168 people July 6, 1944, in Hartford, Conn. At her family’s request, the burial service was private and attended by just family members and close friends, said Mark Talarski of the Talarski Maple Hill Chapel in Hartford, Conn., which handled funeral arramgements.

Eleanor was trampled to death by panicked spectators when fire engulfed a circus tent in during a performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The tragedy is known in circus lore as ″The Day the Clowns Cried.″

Eleanor went to the circus with her mother, Mildred Cook, and brothers Edward and 9-year-old Donald.

Of the three children, only Donald survived. He and his wife, Linda, flew from their home in Iowa for Saturday’s burial service.

Mildred Cook, now 85 and living in Easthampton, Mass., was burned over 90 percent of her body and remained hospitalized for nearly six months after the fire.

Mrs. Cook’s sister, Emily Gill, attempted to identify Eleanor among the dead but said she could not. Still, Mrs. Cook was told that her only daughter had died in the fire. Family members now believe Ms. Gill was never show the right body.

The little blonde girl became known as Little Miss 1565, the number given her at the morgue.

Eleanor’s identity remained a mystery until this spring, when Hartford Fire Lt. Rick Davey, whose nine-year investigation into the fire turned from hobby to obsession, revealed that Little Miss 1565 was Eleanor Cook.

Donald Cook matched morgue pictures of his sister supplied by Davey with family photographs. On March 8, the death certificate for Little Miss 1565 was amended.

The Talarski Maple Hill Chapel in Hartford donated its services, free of charge, as did florists. Friday morning, funeral home manager Eugene Kowalczyk unearthed Eleanor’s remains and transferred them to a child’s white casket 40 inches long for the trip to Southampton.

Davey was among the few at the grave Friday, watching as the little girl who came to dominate a large part of his life began her journey home.

″I had to go,″ said Davey, who conducted the investigation on his own time. ″I spent nine years looking for her. She became a surrogate daughter to me. I’m sure it was a protective act.″

The gravestone of Little Miss 1565 will be amended, and will return to the memorial site. It will read, ″Rested in peace here these 47 years as Little Miss 1565. On March 8, 1991, she became known to all as Eleanor Emily Cook, and is now buried with her family.″

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