by Robert A. Waters
Sixty-five-year-old George Marginean was a nobody.
He lived in a converted garage behind a small grocery market at 328 Grace Street in Mansfield, Ohio. The store's owner, Peter Such, and his wife took care of the feeble old man. In coming days, local newspapers would call Marginean “a frugal and temperate man" who had little money. Around town he was known as a hermit. In fact, he lived hand-to-mouth on city relief.
Even though he lived in deperate circumstances, Marginean had a dream.
It was 1942, and war raged in his home country of Romania. It seemed to the old man that his country was always at war. Nazis. Bolsheviks. Communists. It didn’t matter, they all seemed to love killing. He had two sons in that dangerous faraway land, but hadn’t heard from them in months.
On September 25, Mrs. Such and her son Emil walked over to the make-shift apartment to take food to Marginean. Emil, the first to enter the room, found Marginean dead.
The Mansfield News Journal reported that “police said Marginean was apparently asleep when his assailant crept into his home and struck him with a blunt instrument. There were two blows on the forehead and one across the nose. Because of Marginean's financial circumstances and the fact that nothing in the place was disturbed, officers ruled out all possibilities of robbery.”
Several neighbors informed police that they had seen a tall, thin stranger in the alley beside Marginean’s garage. Despite appeals, the man never came forward and investigators were never able to track him down.
A background check revealed that Marginean had come to the United States 27 years earlier. He’d moved to Mansfield 15 years before, after working in Willard, Ohio as a railroad section hand. In addition to his meager welfare check, he occasionally worked odd jobs around town.
The News Journal reminded readers of a previous unsolved crime: “Marginean's murder recalled the slaying of Sherman Reed, aged WPA worker in his three-room cottage on Seventh Ave. on March 30, 1938. Both men were found slain in their small homes where they lived alone. Both were killed by blows on the head from heavy instruments. Sheriff Frank E. Robinson, in office at the time of the Marginean murder and deputy at the time of Reed's murder, theorized the two men might have been slain by the same person.”
No suspects ever emerged in Marginean’s killing. It was as if a phantom appeared, snuffed out the old man's life, and vanished like smoke.
Marginean’s dream died with him. His single, obsessive hope in life had been to become a naturalized citizen of his adopted country. He’d taken the test twice, but had failed both times, possibly due to a language barrier. The News Journal reported that on the day the old man died “he’d been studying to prepare himself to pass the next citizenship examination.”
George Marginean's brief, inconsequential time on earth was soon forgotten.
Life is not always kind, and sometimes dreams die lonely in the night.