Friday, February 1, 2013

The History of the Valentine Name

I have to begin this February blog by giving credit to my two sisters, Terri and Sharon who gifted me with a beautiful hydrangea when they visited last spring.  The blog picture shows the first cuttings from the plant.  Thank you girls!

Most of my posts are about decorating, up cycling or cooking.  This one is a bit different.

Because this month is so special to all of us Valentine's, I wanted to tell you a story that I thought was just precious.  A little back story first.....

This story begins with a bit of Peoria, Illinois history. St. Joseph's Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Peoria, was founded in 1865 by the pastor of St. Joseph's Parish, Rev. Henry Bors even before the Diocese of Peoria was formed.  The original nine acres of land was purchased from the Thomas S. Dobbins family and deeded to the Bishop of Chicago.(Chicago is 3 hours away from Peoria)  In 1877 the title was transferred to Bishop John Lancaster Spalding, the first Bishop of Peoria.  Acreage was added to the cemetery in 1873, 1877 and again in 1934, when land was purchased from Peter Heine to increase it to its present size of approximately 25 acres.

Originally, the cemetery was for those  Catholics of German descent in the area.  Instrumental in the construction of the angels  were John Merkle, his son and grandson.  Merkle, a stone cutter who arrived in Peoria in 1854 brought his talents to start a monument company.  He and his ancestors placed numerous "Angels of Stone" throughout the cemetery to stand guard and symbolize their constant Spiritual presence.(httpL//

This is one of my most favorite angels from this cemetery.  She stands atop the Jumer family plot.

Every summer since we moved from Peoria, I take the girls home to visit Mom, friends and relatives.  One of our regular stops are the two Catholic Cemeteries where many family members are buried.  I believe it is important to talk about those relatives that they had never met, but left a legacy on their lives.  St. Mary's is the Catholic Cemetery was for the Irish Catholics and St. Joseph's Cemetery was for the German Catholics.

Back to the story.....So my eldest was about 5 years old and youngest was 2 1/2.  We were walking around St. Joseph's visiting some of the family sites, when we came upon my paternal great-grandparents, the Novaks.  My oldest looks down at her great-great-grandfather's tombstone, looks up at me a bit puzzled and then looks back down at the tombstone.  I asked her what was wrong?  She tells me, "Mom, if Valentine Novak was my great-grandfather, then I could be Valentine Valentine."  I got such a charge out of that.   I had forgotten to connect the two names.  So I was born with a Valentine in my ancestors and now I am a Valentine.

Here is a picture of the girls that year on our visit to St. Joseph's  Cemetery.

Here is my Grandmother's Birth and Baptismal Certificate.  Her father's name on the certificate reads 'Valentinus Nowak' which is the Polish version. His Americanized name was Valentine Novak.

                                                   How is that for a Valentine story?


  1. Love the story of your Valentine Valentine! You are so organized to be able to find those pictures!

  2. Thanks. Mentally, I place them in certain locations. The majority of the time, I can remember where I put them.