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Topic: Valentine (05/16/05)
TITLE: Henry Valentine Hack
By Mishael Witty
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I glanced down at the old family Bible that my grandmother pulled down off the shelf. It was inherited from her mother, Emma Hack Woehler. Henry V. Hack was her father. My first inclination was that Valentine just wasn’t a masculine name at all, even though St. Valentine was a man. A quick glance at babynames.com confirmed my thoughts. It is listed as a name for a girl. Valentino, of course, is the masculine form.
This shouldn’t have been so surprising. I come from a family of strange names. I think what struck me most about the name was the association with St. Valentine’s Day. I wondered if he had been born on Valentine’s Day, but another look at the Bible told me that he was born in December 1865. Why Valentine, then? Maybe it was a family name. I’m not really sure. The only information I’ve gotten on him since then has been from online sources, and no one with the name of Valentine has shown up in his ancestry there. Perhaps it was because of the meaning. Valentine, after all, means health or love. And as far as I know, Henry V. Hack did have very good health right up until his death in 1940, when my grandmother was nine years old.
Who was this man with the fascinating name? He was born, as I said, in Kentucky in 1865, the son of James Amos Hack and Mary Ellen Moss. He married Eliza Jane Cockriel in 1885. She died 14 years later, at the age of 29. He married Fannie E. Jones, my great-great-grandmother, a little less than a year later. She died in the massive influenza epidemic of 1919. She was only 35. Whether Henry had decided he had enough children (at least 6 between the two marriages), or if he was just too heartbroken because of the untimely deaths of two wives, he remained a bachelor for the rest of his life.
I, of course, never knew him. He was dead 37 years before I came into the world, but my grandmother remembers him fondly. He came to live with her family for a while before his death. He was a kind man who loved animals. In fact, he used to help my grandmother smuggle food out to the stray cats that would come up on the farm. He also taught her how to churn butter with her grandmother’s old-fashioned churn that she has in her own kitchen now. I’ve seen one picture of him – a large man slumped down in a chair, wearing denim overalls and a plain white t-shirt with his small granddaughter on his knee, a kitten in her arms. These facts and this image are all I know about this man whose blood flows – in part - through my veins, a fact that is made that much more apparent because of my own love for animals and children. Is this the legacy that Henry Valentine Hack passed on to future generations – the legacy of love, as his middle name suggests? I’d like to think so.
Note: In some of the genealogy research I have conducted online, I find him listed as Henry Virgil Hack - not Valentine. Since the notes in the family Bible were written by my own great-grandmother’s hand, I’d like to think that she was the one who got his name right. He was her father, after all. But even if she didn’t, just the fact that she might have changed his middle name to Valentine is telling, in itself, about the man’s life and personality.
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