Harry – sometimes a short for Harold or Henry, sometimes a name of its own. Harry means ruler of the estate or the home. Spelled “hairy” it means one with lots of hair.
My grandparents on my dad’s side have, let’s just say, interesting names. This is their (mostly true) story…
Once upon a time there was a 16-year-old girl named Patricia Ann Bailey Cox. The Bailey in her name was indeed the circus folk, of Barnum and Bailey fame. She was a pretty girl with shoulder-length dark auburn hair, kept in wide curls. She was outgoing, but not too much. Smart, but not too smart. Pretty, but not knockout pretty. Her fingers were long and slender and she had the famous crooked pinky the Baileys were known for, as it says in the literature at the Bailey circus museum. In high school, she suddenly noticed a quiet guy. They’d been in class together since fifth grade but they didn’t know each other. But sophomore year, she saw Harry Wheeler Peters standing in the cafeteria, the sun catching his hazel eyes as she walked by and decided she had to get to know him. How had she not before? So Patricia, Patty to her friends, walked over and introduced herself to Harry. He was tall, six-foot-three-inches, and kinda skinny. He had brown hair, cut close, and he was handsome and shy. The two talked about baseball and dances and what their dads did. Harry’s dad was a sign painter, a talented artist, like Harry. He painted all the signs in town and Harry helped. Patty’s dad sold insurance, which Patty wanted nothing to do with. The two talked about a lot of nothing but got along smashingly. Harry Peters asked Patty Cox if she’d like to go out for dinner Friday night. She accepted. They never spent a Friday night apart after that until the war. Harry signed up for the Army and was shipped out to Korea. Patty stayed home in Ohio and worked as a secretary at the base. The two wrote letters every week, sometimes stories, sometimes poems, sometimes Harry just drew Patty pictures of the sunsets. One day Patty opened her letter and inside there was a pencil drawing of a diamond ring. At the bottom, Harry wrote simply, “Patty, I love you. Will you marry me?” Patty had thought about how she might get proposed to when Harry was back home, but she never guessed this was how he’d do it. No one else had a story like this, or a man like this. Patty’s letter that week was easy to write. She scrolled “YES!” across the page, put on red lipstick and kissed the paper underneath. Then she sprayed it with her perfume and mailed it off. When Harry opened the letter, all the other guys heckled him, then took turns smelling the sweet paper. No matter what else he was doing in the war, Harry carried Patty’s letter folded into a paper origami rose in his chest pocket over his heart. He swore it gave him good luck. He became a member of the Flying Tigers and received many awards for bravery, including the Purple Heart. When the war was over, Harry and Patty got married at the little Catholic church downtown Columbus.
No one ever mentioned to them how funny their names were or how even more odd Harry Peters and Patty Cox Peters were as a set of names, at least not to their faces. They had four children, one boy (Michael) and three girls (Julia, Susan and Cynthia), none with names that sounded funny in the least bit with their last name. The family moved all around the globe with the service for Harry’s job as an air traffic controller from Ohio to Ireland to Egypt then to Oklahoma and finally Texas, where they lived until Patty died of lung cancer at age 60. Harry lived for 25 more years, married Velma (aka Muffy) after ten, but never stopped talking about his Patty.