Susanna Vasilievna Anisimoff Baeff Lawrence, c.1913-1949

At some point, in the near future, I’m going to do a post on the amazing Capt. Richard Lawrence, M.D. (1912-2000), or Richard Lawrence, Jr., as he was sometimes known, or simply, Cousin Dick. The man deserves as much.

In the meantime, there is this, almost as an aside: one small piece of the larger puzzle of his life, with the curious property that the closer one looks, the more the “piece” becomes a puzzle in its own right.

Roughly two years ago, I happened to be emailing with Robert Cutler, who, suffice to say, understands the (not-quite-lost) art of letter writing. He had embarked on a long and delightful tangent concerning Cousin Dick, whom at that point I had barely heard of, when, in the course of his excursion, he mentioned almost as an afterthought that before attending medical school, Richard Lawrence had spent a period of time in China, and while there, had met a Russian woman whom he married in Shanghai and brought back to America.

(Frankly, he said a good deal more than that, but this medium – which is obviously public –  has its limits.)

He went on to describe some of Dick’s better known activities in WWII, which as I said, I’ll get to someday, but, long after I’d finished reading, my mind kept going back to this Russian woman; China in the late ’30s; the circumstances of their meeting, and their exit; and what had really been going on?

Suffice to say, Robert had hooked me. I had to learn more, but, the more I learned, well, the more I realized I didn’t know, and– you get the idea.

Puzzles within puzzles.

This is part of what I found…


In the 1930 Census, Richard Lawrence is seventeen years old and living with his parents in Groton, Massachusetts.

It seems ridiculous to add, but mark that this is far from Harbin, Manchuria, which actually will be relevant.

1930 Census detail 1

1930 Census detail 2

Name Richard Lawrence
Age in 1930 17
Birth Year abt 1913
Gender Male
Race White
Birthplace New York
Marital Status Single
Relation to Head of House Son
Home in 1930 Groton, Middlesex, Massachusetts
Map of Home Groton, Middlesex, Massachusetts
Street Address Farmers Row
Dwelling Number 168
Family Number 189
Attended School Yes
Able to Read and Write Yes
Father’s Birthplace Massachusetts
Mother’s Birthplace New York
Able to Speak English Yes
Household Members
Name Age
Richard Lawrence 51
Marjorie P Lawrence 39
Richard Lawrence 17
Marion Lawrence 11

Fast forward eight years…

Honolulu port arrival 3 Jan 1938, one Richard R. Lawrence from Guam.

Is this him? The age is off, but still close. Interesting.

boat from Guam detail 1

Name Richard R Lawrence
Age 22
Gender Male
Birth Year abt 1916
Port of Departure Guam
Ship North Wind
Port of Arrival Honolulu, Hawaii
Arrival Date 3 Jan 1938
Race American

7 months later…

29 Jul 1938, following a ceremony in the Russian Orthodox Church of Beijing, a marriage certificate is issued from the US Consul in China for Richard Lawrence and Susanna Anisimoff Baeff.

Lawrence Anassimoff marriage cert cropped and adj 1

A closer look…

Lawrence Anassimoff marriage cert cropped and adj 2

Name Richard Lawrence Jr
Age 25
Birth Year abt 1913
Birth Place New York City, New York
Spouse’s Name Susanna Anisimoff Baeff
Spouse’s Age 25
Spouse’s Birth Year abt 1913
Spouse’s Birth Place Echo, Manchuria
Marriage Date 29 Jul 1938
Marriage Place The Russian Orthodox Church
Consular Location Tientsin, China
File Number 133
Certificate in File Yes

A word on places. The city Tientsin is the old spelling for Tianjin. Peiping is the old spelling for Beijing. And Echo, Manchuria is… something of a riddle.

The closest hit I can find for Echo, Manchuria is an agricultural facility named Experimental Station Echo 547. It is mentioned in numerous agricultural texts and photos dating from the early 20th century, and was run by the Chinese Eastern Railway.

History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Austria and Switzerland (1781-2015)

from History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Austria and Switzerland (1781-2015). William Shurtleff; Akiko Aoyagi. Soyinfo Center. 2015

There is also this tantalizing photo:

N.E. Hansen in a Kaoliang sorghum field at Echo in Manchuria, Ch
N.E. Hansen in a Kaoliang sorghum field at Echo in Manchuria, China in 1924

According to the above history of soy, Echo Station was at Tiehlingho in the Kirin Province of Manchuria. Unfortunately, googling Tiehlingho, Manchuria only produces more articles on soybeans. No kidding.

There is this though. A notice from a stamp auction:

“Lot 942 – Michael Rogers Online Auction #14 of China, Hong Kong, Japan and Other Asia Stamps and Postal History


Russian Offices in China, 1928 (May 3), Chinese Eastern Railway cover front from Tiehlingho to Sweden, flanked by four Chinese Ki-Hei overprints tied by Tiehlingho c.d.s.’s. Sent by botanist L.W. Smirnoff, with the original contents plant samples. Cover was posted at St. Echo, which was between Mudangtiyang and Modaoshi, east of Harbin. [Emphasis added–LSL] A wonderful item from a small town. Very Fine.
Estimate HK$ 2,000 – 3,000.”

That last bit was enough to go on…

Mudangtiyang is written today as Mudanjiang, and is in Heilongjiang Province, China.

Modaoshi, occasionally seen as Mo-tao-shih, is also in Heilongjiang, China. (There is apparently another city of the same name located far to the south.) Google maps doesn’t list the smaller northern one in a meaningful way, but some Chinese sites do.

The Harbin mentioned above is today in Heilongjiang, as well. Remember Harbin.

Lastly note that the general area of these three towns is really quite close to Vladivostok, a fact I’ll return to at the very end.

Honolulu port arrival 1938, Richard 26, and wife Susanna Vasilievna Baeff Lawrence, age 25, from Shanghai, China

[Note, in defense of Robert Cutler’s telling of the tale,  that while the couple were married in Beijing, they sailed from Shanghai.–LSL]

Lawrence arrival Empr of Canada 1


Lawrence arrival Empr of Canada 1st half

Lawrence arrival Empr of Canada 2nd half

Name Richard Lawrence
Age 26
Gender Male
Birth Year abt 1912
Birth Place New York, USA
Ship Empress of Canada
Port of Arrival Honolulu, Hawaii
Arrival Date 27 Oct 1938
Name Susanna Lawrence
Age 25
Gender Female
Birth Year abt 1913
Birth Place China
Port of Departure Shanghai, China
Departure Date 17 Oct 1938
Port of Arrival Honolulu, Hawaii
Arrival Date 27 Oct 1938
Race Russian
Last Residence China

The takeaway: her full name was Susanna Vasilievna Anisimoff Baeff.

In San Francisco, the arrival in Nov 1939 of two more people: a Vladimir Alexander Baeff, inferred DOB is 1929, in Harbin, Manchuria (I said it would be important), accompanied by a 29 year old Leo Anisimoff, also born in Echo Manchuria, c. 1910.

SS Pres Cleveland manifest detail 2

Name Vladimir Alexander Baeff
Gender Male
Birth Date abt 1929
Birth Place Harbin manchuria, China
Age 10
Arrival Date 10 Nov 1939
Port of Arrival San Francisco, California
Ship Name President Cleveland
Port of Departure Shanghai, China
Last Residence China
Accompanied by S A
Friend’s Name S A Lawrence
Name Leo Anisimoff
Gender Male
Birth Date abt 1910
Birth Place Echo manchuria, China
Age 29
Arrival Date 10 Nov 1939
Port of Arrival San Francisco, California
Ship Name President Cleveland
Port of Departure Shanghai, China
Last Residence China
Accompanied by S A
Friend’s Name S A Lawrence

After seeing the location  Harbin, Manchuria, again, this time as Vadimir’s place of birth, I did some further looking.

A general Wikipedia article  offers clues to the history and character of the city, and there is also a fascinating second piece, about the Harbin Russians, available here.

A brief excerpt:

“In the decade from 1913 to 1923, Russia went through World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the Russian Civil War. In the 1920s Harbin was flooded with 100,000 to 200,000 Russian White émigrés fleeing from Russia. They were mostly officers and soldiers involved in the White movement, members of the White governments in Siberia and Russian Far East. There were both the intelligentsia and ordinary people. Harbin held the largest Russian population outside of the state of Russia.”

In the 1940 Census, Richard Lawrence is found living in NYC with his new wife and presumably her son Vladimir, aka, per the census taker, “Ladismere Lawrence.”

Note, it’s worth adding, Richard could not have been his biological father, as he was in Groton in 1929-1930, but he probably served for a time as Vladimir’s foster father, or step-father. Note, this is the only time Vladimir uses the surname Lawrence, and he soon resumes with Baeff.

m-t0627-02654-00582 1940 Census detail

Name Richard Lawrence
Respondent Yes
Age 27
Estimated Birth Year abt 1913
Gender Male
Race White
Birthplace New York
Marital Status Married
Relation to Head of House Head
Map of Home in 1940 New York, New York, New York
Street East 54th Street
Farm No
Inferred Residence in 1935 Rural, China
Residence in 1935 Rural China
Resident on farm in 1935 No
Sheet Number 3A
Number of Household in Order of Visitation 82
House Owned or Rented Rented
Value of Home or Monthly Rental if Rented 125
Attended School or College No
Highest Grade Completed College, 2nd year
Hours Worked Week Prior to Census 0
Weeks Worked in 1939 0
Income 0
Income Other Sources Yes
Household Members
Name Age
Richard Lawrence 27
Susan Lawrence 27
Ladismere Lawrence 10

23 FEB 1943, Leo Anisimoff, the likely brother, dies in the Bronx.

Name Leo Anisimoff
Age 35
Birth Year abt 1908
Death Date 23 Feb 1943
Death Place Bronx, New York, USA
Certificate Number 2361
Wills and Probates Leo Anisimoff – 1943

In the spring of 1945, a V. Baeff is recorded in the yearbook of Sonoma Valley High School, in Sonoma California.  He is in the 4th row of boys, 5th from left. We know this because H. Wise and Angelo Sangiacomo are hand labelled.

Sonoma HS yearbook 1945 boys half

Sonoma HS yearbook 1945 boys half detail 1

Sonoma HS yearbook 1945 boys half V Baeff

Somewhere between 1940 and 1947, Richard and Susanna divorce. I couldn’t find a record.

24 May 1947, Richard marries Helen Kathleen Mahoney.

She goes by “Kathleen.” The ceremony is in San Diego. She’s a divorcee, previously married to Calvin Charles Waldroop, with whom she had three children: Kay Lorraine Waldroop (1931-2011), Calvin Charles “Kevin” or “Bud” Waldroop (surname later changed to Lawrence, 1932-2013), and Robert Donald Waldroop (surname later changed to Lawrence, 1934-2013).

9 Aug 1949, Susanna Lawrence dies.

The coroner’s report lists the cause of death as suicide by drug overdose.

SF Coroner's register, Aug, 1949

She walked into a San Fancisco bar at 6pm, sat down in a booth, put her head on her folded arms, and was found that way at closing time.

The subsequent autopsy recorded a nine inch scar over her left hip, and a scar the size of a quarter below her left shoulder.

SF Coroner's register, Aug, 1949 det1

Of course, these wounds could have been caused by anything, but given her history, I have to wonder what sort of violence she had been through. And what other wounds will we never know about?

I really have no words to describe the sadness I feel at the way she left the world.

This woman was a tried and tested survivor, who at some point found she was simply unable to continue surviving.


Returning to some of the more mundane matters to consider… Her death certificate states her father was indeed Anisimoff, or as the clerk spelled it, Anicinoff, confirming that Mr. Baeff, whoever he was, first name unknown, was her husband, and Vladimir was likely her son.

And, what was her relationship at that point with her ex husband, Richard? Were they on good terms? Bad terms? Had they ever actually been in love? Or was Richard simply helping her get out from a terrible situation? I won’t guess.

(no document image)

Name Susanna Vasilieona Lawrence
Gender Female
Birth Date 1 Jan 1913
Birth Place China
Death Date 9 Aug 1949
Death Place San Francisco
Father’s Surname Anicinoff

From the late 1940s, forward, Richard goes on to a long and storied career in military medicine…all told, serving as combat medic and trauma surgeon in three wars: WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

On 11 Dec 1954, Vladimir, aka Walter, Baeff marries Lenore K. O’Donnell.

(no document image)

Name Walter A Baeff
Gender Male
Estimated Birth Year abt 1929
Age 25
Marriage Date 11 Dec 1954
Marriage Place San Francisco, California, USA
Spouse Lenore K ODonnell
Spouse Age 19

On 15 Dec 1959, in a San Francisco court, Vladimir Alexander Baeff petitions for US citizenship, and uses the Americanized first name, “Walter.” Names of their two children withheld out of respect for their privacy.

Vlad aka Walter Baeff nat papers 2 detail 1b no chldrn

Vlad aka Walter Baeff nat papers detail 1

Name Vladimir Alexander Baeff
Record Type Petition
Petition Date 1959
Petition Place California, USA
Petition Number 8122842
Household Members
Name Age
Vladimir Alexander Baeff

The name change from Vladimir to Walter is made official.

V Baeff nat form

What happened to Richard’s step-son? Is Walter still living? I can’t find any more information…


Now for the penultimate entry before I sum up:

If you unpack Susanna’s full name, using the Russian system, Baeff, which attaches to her son, is clearly her married name, from a husband previous to Richard Lawrence.

Anisimoff, which is shared with brother Leo, is her maiden name, and Vasilievna implies she is the daughter of a man named Vasily.

Putting it together, if we were to go looking for her father, we would do well to search for someone bearing the name Vasily Anisimoff.

Curiously, a Wikipedia search for this name, Vasily Anisimoff, produces a single article.


“Vasìly Onisimovich Afanàsiev (alias Vasìly Anisimovich Anìsimoff) [1878-1938] was a revolutionary and a propagandist of Marxism as well as a prominent activist and supporter of the Russian and international socialist movement. He was among the active members of the RSDLP and was a Menshevik. In 1925 Anisimoff became the deputy head of the economic department of the Supreme Soviet of the National Economy of the RSFSR, managing the “Exportles” [sic] trust.

“Anisimoff was the younger brother of a famous Soviet pedagogue Pyotr Afanasiev, grandfather of the Soviet writer Vladimir Amlinsky, and the great-grandfather of the composer and physicist Vladimir Anisimoff[1]


“Vasily Anisimovich Anisimoff (alias, né Vasily Onisimovich Afanasiev), the youngest child in the family of protopriest Father Onesimus (Onesimus Afanasiev), was born in 1878 in the remote village of Apanasovo-Tamashi of Kazan province (now Kazan region), to which his father, a graduate of the St. Petersburg Seminary, has been sent in the early 1870s to serve as the Dean of the local church.

Vasily Anisimoff entered the Kazan pedagogical Seminary and in 1898 successfully passed the examination for the title of magister. In 1905 Anisimoff graduated from the Kazan pedagogical Institute….

During the years of study at the Kazan pedagogical Institute, about mid-1902, he adopts a program and joins the social democratic movement which was spreading in the Saratov and Kazanprovinces. Whilst a teacher at Kuznetsky mining school, on 6th of February 1907 he becomes a member of the II State Duma from the Saratov province.


A second portrait of Vasily Anisimoff, c. 1907, when he was a member of the Duma

“Vasily Anisimoff was a big supporter of the democratic element in the Social democratic movement and as a result becoming a member of the Committee of the Social democratic faction and joining the Mensheviks. Vasily Anisimoff actively worked as a member of the food commission and commission for public education. In 1907 he is elected as the delegate of the 5th Congress of the RSDLP, which was held from April 30 to May 19, 1907 in London.

‘After the dissolution of the second State Duma by the decision of the special presence of the Senate on December 1, 1907 Vasily Anisimoff becomes one of 16 deputies from the Social Democrats, the issuance of which the government demanded on the eve of the dissolution of the Duma,[2][3] and he was sentenced as a member of the Social democratic faction of the II State Duma to 5 years of Russian Penal colony.

[The article doesn’t say where the penal colony was, but this time includes 1913, when Susanna was born in Echo Station, the agricultural facilty in Manchuria, northwest of Vladisvostok.–LSL]


“From 1918 to 1924 he worked in Siberia [as] the employee of the newspaper “Our Business”… 

“In 1923-1924 Vasily Anisimoff was nominated for the post of Chairman of the State Trust “Far Eastern forest” in Vladivostok.

[In other words, after being freed from the penal colony, he was working, for much of the period of Susanna’s childhood, in a semi-agricultural capacity, in far eastern Russia, near Manchuria, and the cities I mapped above.–LSL]


“In the revelry of Stalinist repression in 1937, as was usual in those days, after a tip-off… Vasily Anisimoff was arrested and sent to the Stalinist camps. On April 25, 1938 by the decision of the notorious triple he was declared an “enemy of the people” and sentenced to execution by firing squad. The sentence was enforced immediately in Kommunarka village of Moscow region…”


So, was he her father?

There’s not enough information at present to say with any certainty. But the circumstantial evidence is compelling.

Regardless, approximately three months after the summary execution of Vasily Anisimoff, Susanna Vasilievna Anisimoff Baeff, identifying herself as “stateless,” marries Richard Lawrence in the Russian Orthodox Church in Beijing, and, from Shanghai, embarks with her new husband for Honolulu, and America…

If you know, or knew, any of the principals in this saga, and have information to pass on, please do not hesitate to contact me through this blog.


ADDENDUM: Late Summer, 2020

In a testament to the power of the internet, this post has allowed me to at long last connect with Susanna’s granddaughter, Jennifer. She and I are now collaborating on further research. At some point, when I think I have enough substantive new material to add, I’ll do a second post describing the main results of what we find. In the meantime, Jennifer has kindly sent this, along with her permission to post it: a scrapbook page with four photos of Susanna and Richard in happier days. (Likely China, c. 1938.) Yes, they’re only a few snapshots. And they’re not in great condition. But they’re visual proof of Susanna’s existence, and, however fleeting, two young people’s love.

(To be continued…)

6 thoughts on “Susanna Vasilievna Anisimoff Baeff Lawrence, c.1913-1949

  1. Thomas Fife April 29, 2017 / 9:47 am

    How ironic that you had been researching Cousin Dick while I have been researching his father! I love your blog and wanted to ask about Caroline Estelle Mudge Lawrence’s photo album. Do you have it? It is a wonderful documentary of your family history.

    If you would allow it, I’d like to speak with you sometime. Here is my number: 540-273-2148

    Warmest Regards, Tom >

    • LSL April 29, 2017 / 9:55 am

      Hi Tom, I do not have the album. A relative does. But I scanned and posted all its photos… Would be happy to talk! I’ll email you about a time. All best, LS

  2. Joanne Mahoney Santacroce August 19, 2017 / 11:29 pm

    Hi LSL,
    I just came across your blog about the Lawrence family. I am the niece of Helen Kathleen Lawrence, 2nd wife of Richard Lawrence, Jr., MD. I have most of this info on my tree on, however, I was always curious myself to know why Uncle Dick was in China at that time. By any chance, do you know how he met my Aunt Kathleen? I always wondered. Her daughter told me that he loved her very much, until the day she died. Kay Lorraine said he absolutely adored her. I am so happy to read your blog and will continue to follow.
    Joanne Mahoney Santacroce

    • LSL August 20, 2017 / 4:37 pm

      Hi Joanne, Great to hear from you! I am sorry to say I don’t know the answer to either of your questions. If and when I find out, I’ll email you. In the meantime, I may take a day or two to think out some questions of my own for you, and send them along. Great to have a chance to talk like this, and thanks for following, LS

  3. Jennifer Biron August 14, 2020 / 5:08 pm

    Susanna was my grandmother. Her son Walter (Vladimir), still living, is my father. Presumably, his father’s name (in true Russian fashion) was Alexander Vladimir Baeff. Richard was his step-father.

    I know that the 3 of them lived in New York for a short period (census records), then moved at some point to San Francisco. From my father’s recollection, Richard at some point, was attached to Stanford (hospital or university I am uncertain). Given my father’s age at the time Susanna and Richard divorced, it is difficult to know with any certainty.

    I understand there was another son (name unknown to me) born during their marriage, which may not have been Richards. From what has been described to me, their divorce was anything but amicable. What happened with or to that son is also unknown to me, but I did find some photos a few years ago that my father stated was his half-brother.

    • LSL August 14, 2020 / 5:59 pm

      Hello Jennifer—

      It’s a true pleasure to finally meet you (online)! I’ve left this long blog post up for all this time wondering if someone from your family would see it. I didn’t want to intrude by emailing or writing, but I’m so happy you reached out.

      What you’ve written above is both helpful and thought provoking!

      I’ll send you an email to keep this conversation going. There is so much I’ve wondered about since starting this research.

      Again, thank you for getting in touch. I really look forward to corresponding with you a little. My end goal, if it wasn’t obvious from this post, is to try to restore as much as possible the memory of your grandmother. She lived an amazing life, overcame any number of obstacles that would have stopped anyone else cold, and suffered a tragic death. It seems only right to help her example live on.

      With sincere appreciation,

      L.S. Lawrence

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