Recently: Give me two a’s with an e on the end

By Valarie Schwartz

Besides the story of how they met, my favorite story about my parents is the one where they named me while sitting on the pale yellow “glider” that now sits on my front porch. During a visit in 2002, my mother told my partner, John, and I the story while we repainted the bench (the glider part disappeared years ago).

Mama was two weeks away from delivering me on July 22, 1953, when my father came home from work and found her sitting on the glider in the backyard of their home in Dallas, Texas. She had just finished reading the Dallas Times Herald, an afternoon daily, which had a front-page story about golf legend Ben Hogan of Ft. Worth, who, with his wife, “Valarie,” had been treated to a ticker-tape parade upon arrival in New York City after he had won the British Open. It was the only time the Texas native would play in that venerable tournament, but it was the third major that he had won that year, creating the Hogan-Slam, because nobody else had ever won three majors in a year (nor would anyone again until Tiger Woods in 2000).

Hogan’s triumph was even more dramatic given that he had almost died in a car accident on Feb. 1, 1949, when, returning home to Ft. Worth, his car collided head-on into a bus on a desert road 110 miles west of El Paso. His life was saved when he flung his body across the seat to protect his beloved wife, who, even after he had gone broke twice while trying to make a golf career, had been the one who believed that the quiet, small-framed, south-pawed Hogan could be successful.

She was unharmed.

Ben survived because he had dived — the steering column had stabbed through the driver’s seat — but he suffered injuries that had doctors telling him at age 37 that he’d never walk again, much less golf competitively.

Eleven months later he came in second in a tournament and five months after that, won the U.S. Open.

After reading about the Hogans, Mama decided that if this third child was a girl, she wanted to name her Valarie, and spell it the same way as Mrs. Hogan — with two a’s.

When Daddy sat down next to her on the glider, she offered up the name, which he liked, saying that “Kay” would sound nice as a middle name.

On Aug. 5, I was born and named Valarie Kay Wise.

And like Mrs. Ben Hogan (that was how she always signed her name when asked for an autograph), whose name was really “Valerie,” my name has been misspelled pretty much ever since.

Check out last week’s Carrboro Citizen: “Recently by Valerie Schwartz.”

As soon as editor Kirk Ross saw it, he e-mailed an apology saying he had no idea how it got spelled wrong. On Saturday, he stopped by (we are neighbors) with ice cream, saying that before the copy went to press he had known something was wrong and that it had to do with a “v” and an “a” and had double-checked both “Valentine” and the spelling of County Commissioner Valerie Foushee’s name, finding nothing amiss.

I laughed and told him how I had come to have such a differently spelled name — through a newspaper typo — prompting this column.
While researching the facts, besides learning that Ben Hogan, like me, was a left-handed Texan (and my size), two other things I learned sent chills down my spine: the date and location of Hogan’s accident. You see, also on Feb. 1, (like the Hogan accident), but 17 years after I was born, my father had a car accident that left doctors telling him that he would never walk again — that accident occurred 100 miles EAST of El Paso. He too proved the doctors wrong and, though he did nothing to merit a ticker-tape parade, lived a life that brought pleasure to others, as the cook at his church and a guitar-playing singer of faith and cowboy songs.

Both men lived to be 85. Valerie Hogan died two years after her beloved, whom she knew for 74 of her almost 88 years.

Ben Hogan loaned his name to some of the best golf equipment available for serious golfers because he only wanted his name associated with the best.

He once told a golf writer something his mother had taught him, saying, “Your name is the most important thing you own. Don’t ever do anything to disgrace it or cheapen it.”

All this puts fresh perspective on a misplaced vowel.

My mother, who now lives around the corner, says she’s never regretted spelling my name “wrong.”

Contact Valarie Schwartz at 923-3746 or