A mountain of names—mine included

I’m cleaning house and ran across some old essays. I’ll post them on here just for fun (and for my kids).


By Jacque White Kochak

This essay was first published in The Auburn Villager

It’s happened again. I’ve been referred to as “Mr. Kochak.”

I don’t have anything against men. Really I don’t—but I am definitely of the female persuasion. Let me explain. But where to begin? At the beginning, I guess.

My given name at birth was Jacqueline Lee White. I was named after my father, Jackie Lee White. He was named after his father, Jack White.

You may note that we’re not very creative with names in my family. In fact, I’ve definitely traced my ancestry back to about 1760. Patrick White begot James White, who begot Patrick White, who begot James White, who begot Patrick White. The photo above is one of those Patrick Whites (my great grandfather) and his wife, Minnie Boyd White.

Then, for some reason, Jack makes an appearance, followed by Jackie and Jacqueline. I couldn’t possibly be known as “Jackie Lee,” now could I? I would have been confused with my father. Therefore, somebody got creative and spelled my name “Jacque.” That’s where the trouble started. Add an “s” to Jacque and you’ve got Jacques, a perfectly respectable name for a French male—which I am not.

I’ve been known as Jacque—Jack-ee—all my life. I don’t like to be called Jacqueline, because it sounds pompous.

When I started writing, however, I soon found that if I used Jacque as my byline, I got letters addressed to “Mr. Kochak.” I quickly adopted the byline “Jacqueline Kochak,” so people would know a woman penned the brilliant tracts I regularly produced. A little feminist feeling there, I guess.

When I wrote for a national publication it didn’t matter much, because I didn’t run into my readers on the street. When I started writing locally, however, I cringed every time someone addressed me with that cumbersome, haughty first name. “Just Jack-ee,” I usually replied.

When I started writing for The Villager, I cast caution to the wind. I know everyone anyway, don’t I? Guess not.

I find names fascinating. When I started studying genealogy, I found names are almost like DNA markers, passed down from generation to generation. In the past, they have taken on almost mystical importance, honoring those who have passed.

In Scots, Irish and English tradition, the eldest son was usually named for the father’s father, and the next eldest son for the mother’s father. The third son was named for the father, and on down the line until all the father’s brothers were included. Female names followed the same pattern.

In recent times, of course, we’ve abandoned that pattern in favor of the nom du jour. My parents were no different. As the oldest daughter I really should have been named Melva, you know.

That brings me back to all those Patricks. There are still Patricks in the White family, my cousin and nephew included. When my cousin was born, my grandmother told my uncle (Joe Pat, by the way), “You have to name him Patrick, because there has always been a Patrick in the White family.”

Turns out she was right. The first Patrick White appears in Virginia records in 1653, and his name is commemorated through generation after generation, some far removed from me. I discovered a long-lost cousin in Texas named Patrick White, and his line branched off in the 1850s.

The point? I don’t have one, really. Just call me “Jack-ee,” please!

 

 

 

 

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Racism, or honoring one’s family?

I saw an article yesterday about ‘a new Memorial Day tradition—burning the Confederate flag.’ My visceral reaction was that these were my ancestors who died in a bloody, awful war that literally pitted brother against brother. I hate it when the heartbreak of this history is trivialized to make someone’s point. I thought this article, although brief, captured different points of view, both valid. We need to hear each other.


By Jacque White Kochak

This article was first published May 6, 2009, in the Auburn Villager.

As a prelude to what turned out to be a poignant but peaceful Auburn City Council meeting Tuesday night, police stopped those attending at the door to check for weapons.

The Rev. Arthur Dowdell, the only African-American council member, stirred up a bee’s nest the week before Confederate Memorial Day when he removed miniature Confederate battle flags from the graves of Confederate veterans at Pine Hill Cemetery.

At the beginning of Tuesday night’s meeting, the council passed a resolution asking Dowdell to apologize for the act and, after a long meeting filled with citizen comments, Dowdell did so.

Dowdell said news reports had not told the whole story; when he was contacted by students about the flags, he didn’t know who placed them and feared a hate group might have been responsible.

Dowdell said he called Mayor Bill Ham as well as City Manager Charlie Duggan’s office, and no one could enlighten him. He even asked Mary Norman, a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, if she knew who placed the flags, and she said she didn’t.

In fact, the UDC did place the flags, but Norman was no longer a member of the Admiral Semmes Chapter that sought to honor the veterans at Pine Hill Cemetery.

“If I had known that the UDC put the flags there, we wouldn’t be here tonight,” Dowdell said.

“I’ve always thought I was American by birth and Southern by the grace of God, but I know racism is alive and well. Still, it is painful to me for someone to tell me I can’t honor my family members.”

As news raced across the Internet, many were enraged. Attending the meeting were Sons of Confederate Veterans from as far away as Tallahassee, Fla., and cities in Georgia.

One after another, they said placing the flags was not about racism, but about honoring their forebears. They said Dowdell had desecrated the graves, which are on private property, and violated their right to free speech.

Dowdell’s supporters were equally eloquent in explaining the flag’s power as a symbol to them of racism and terror. One showed a picture of three lynched black men that had been sent to Dowdell, and Dowdell described e-mails describing him as a “greasy monkey.”

In the end, however, even Dowdell seemed to agree the issues were free speech and property rights, not racism.

“The First Amendment doesn’t only protect things you like,” noted Sandra Fagin of Auburn. “I’ve always thought I was American by birth and Southern by the grace of God, but I know racism is alive and well. Still, it is painful to me for someone to tell me I can’t honor my family members.”