Markell's mother, Rose, died young. In the 1910 Census, Joseph (then 16) is shown as living in his grandmother Fanny Leibowitz's apartment with her widowed son-in-law (Joseph's father), plus uncles Morris Leibowitz (23 yrs old) and Samuel Leibowitz (18). According to one of my cousins, Joseph (called "Pappy" by his grandchildren) later ran away from home after his father remarried because of conflict with the new stepmother.
Why would the USS Niagara be off the Mexico coast? Well, the Mexican Revolution was underway and the US and Mexico had been skirmishing along the border.
In 1914, there was an incident in Tampico (an oil-rich area of Mexico) involving the Mexican authorities arresting US sailors. This "Tampico Affair" escalated into a US occupation of Veracruz. During WWI, Germany secretly tried to forge an alliance with Mexico, which only heightened tensions along the border.
In December of 1919, the USS Niagara was dispatched to intercept another vessel, the San Jacinto, before it could land at Tampico. The goal was to prevent the Mexican government from arresting someone thought to be on board the steamship San Jacinto, a person believed by the Mexican government to be a spy. However, the Niagara was unsuccessful in convincing the San Jacinto to stop, and it took no further action to avoid provoking an unnecessary international incident between Mexico and the US. And that's probably a good thing for Pappy, too.
This prompt is part of the "Genealogy by the States" series by Jim Sanders.