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 Lareta “Loretta” <I>Coleman</I> Lee

Lareta “Loretta” Coleman Lee

Wheeler, Gratiot County, Michigan, USA
Death 11 Mar 1926 (aged 26)
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Burial Alma, Gratiot County, Michigan, USA
Memorial ID 101367939 · View Source
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Her maiden name was actually: Lareta Coleman. Loretta is one of her nicknames as was Laureta.

Lareta Coleman was born October 14, 1899 in Wheeler, Gratiot County, Michigan to Charles C. Coleman and Edith E. Angell. She was orphaned at the age of seven. Her father died the 6th of June, 1906 and her mother died the 29th of March, 1907. Lareta then lived with her mother's sister, Martha/Mattie (Angell) Russell and her husband Isaac Russell, who had no children of their own. She was boarding at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Gargett in Alma while attending the Alma High School in 1915 and 1916.

Lareta and Glenn/Glen Clarence Lee ran off and got married June 10, 1916 at St. John's Church, Alma, Gratiot County, Michigan. Although the marriage license says she was 17 years old, she didn't turn 17 until October of that year according to her birth date. Their son, Gerald Dale Lee was born, March 14, 1917 when she was just 17 1/2 years old. In 1918 Lareta and Glen were living on what had been her parent's farm of 80 acres in Wheeler township, Gratiot County, Michigan. According to the farm journal they had 3 horses and 3 cows.

According to a newspaper clipping from 1956, Lareta left Glenn and went to the Detroit area where she became involved with a "wild bunch of companions" who swindled her out of her money and talked her into participating in a jewelry store robbery. According to family oral history, Glenn was part of a gang and he and this gang involved her in the robbery. There is no evidence he was arrested or charged. We don't know the validity of any of these stories.

Recollection of Janis Elaine Lee of her father's one conversation regarding his mother: "She was the driver of a car during the robbery of a jewelry store. She kidnapped Gerald from his paternal grandparent's care and went into hiding. She was located by the police and sent to jail. She was afraid Glen Lee would take her son from her." We are unsure if she went into hiding to escape the police or Glen or both. According to a newspaper clipping written in 1956 Lareta and Gerald were in hiding for a year in the hills of Kentucky before her arrest.

Lareta Lee was sentenced to prison in October 1922 for her participation in the robbery of the Meier Jewelry Store in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit women's club members were upset by the severity of her sentence and protested on her behalf. By July of 1924 Glen and Lareta had divorced. Glen married his second wife, Edna Florence Phillips the 25th of July, 1924. This marriage was kept secret from the imprisoned Lareta as was the birth of Glen and Edna's first child in 1925.

In 1926 Lareta contracted double pneumonia because of the terrible conditions for women inmates in the Detroit house of correction. She was sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a cold, wet, dilapidated building. While hospitalized she became a local curiosity with processions of hundreds of people filing through her hospital ward to see "Detroit's girl bandit." She relapsed and died the 11th of March, 1926 and was buried the 15th of March, 1926 in Riverside Cemetery, Arcada Township, Alma, Gratiot County, Michigan.

Loretta Lee of Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan signed a legal document on Mar. 10, 1926 deeding her property (It had originally belonged to her parents.) designated East 1/2 of the N-E 1/4 of section 16, town 12 North, Range 1 West in Wheeler, Gratiot County, Michigan to the lawyer James J. Spillane who came to her bedside. She deeded her farm to him as trustee for her son, Gerald Dale Lee to insure that Glen, her exhusband, wouldn't sell it and take the money. She wanted the farm, or money from it, to go to her son when he reached adulthood. She hoped it would further his education.
Loretta signed this legal document as Loretta (not Lareta) Lee.
Witnesses included a notary and
Kenneth W. Doyle
W. Lalorery

According to correspondence to Gerald D. Lee by James J. Spillane, he met Gerald two times. The first time was in 1922 when Loretta and Gerald came to the Stroh Building where he, James J. Spillane, was an attorney. A second time was when James J. Spillane took Loretta Lee to Douglass Township, Montcalm County, Michigan after her aunt died (I believe this is referring to Martha (Angell) Russell.) where he again met Gerald who was living at his grandparents' home at the time.

James J. Spillane told Gerald Lee in his letter not to believe anything anyone said about his mother, even his father. He said she was a good woman.

Compiled by Susan Kimes Burgess #47528859

Family Members





  • Maintained by: Susan Kimes Burgess
  • Originally Created by: m-space
  • Added: 27 Nov 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 101367939
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Lareta “Loretta” Coleman Lee (14 Oct 1899–11 Mar 1926), Find A Grave Memorial no. 101367939, citing Riverside Cemetery, Alma, Gratiot County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Susan Kimes Burgess (contributor 47528859) .