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  • Katherine Dudley Hoehn

Naming the baby

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

The day my second grandson was born, his dad, my firstborn, called the house to inform the gathered family members. After assurances that baby and mother were healthy and happy, he spoke to me alone to reveal the baby’s name - my father’s, his grandfather's. Overwhelmed and emotional, I still have no idea what happened the remainder of that day.

This beautiful child, named after my father, his great grandfather, is quite the legacy for the man I grew up worshiping and who would be beaming with pride for having a namesake. Dad would be pleased that his very large ears did not make the genetic cut.

When he was only a weeks old, I carried my grandson around the room, rocking and swaying gently and singing old songs. Halfway through the second song, “Amazing Grace,” I realized I sang this same playlist to the baby’s great grandfather in his last days.

Dad, a few months before he passed

We had some emotional times those 20 years ago, as Dad couldn’t speak after his stroke, and we communicated by hand gestures, facial expressions, and gentle finger squeezes. It is said that hearing is the last remaining sense in the final hours of life and Dad endured a lot of my singing and talking as I spent nights and his last days in the hospital room with him.

In my grandson’s first week, my son and I talked about his grandfather, the influence he had on our lives, and how he would have loved having a namesake. Having been named for my father’s favorite aunt, the one who raised him after his own mother died, my comprehension of the significance of being a namesake has always been strong.

Big sis waiting for baby brother's arrival

I hope that my grandson will feel that same honor some day. That he comes to know his great grandfather, who was loved and admired by so many, through stories and photos that have been carefully preserved. My grandson’s own Dad, my firstborn and the first grandchild of the family, was very close to his grandfather.

Father of three

This new father of three helped me organize and categorize the hundreds of letters that his grandfather wrote – from the early 1920’s through Dad’s own fatherhood. Now my son has honored his prolific writer grandfather with a namesake.

My second son and his wife honored me by giving their second daughter my name as her middle name. It’s good to have another Katherine in the family, and this one is as impish as her Daddy was, and looks a tad like me, too. It’s a wonderful tradition to pass on a name and I am pleased both my sons kept it going.

As I prepared to write this, I read the letter that Aunt Katherine wrote to my Dad soon after being told she had a namesake.

“…my joy and deep feelings of appreciation for the honor and joy you heaped on me when you gave your first little girl my name…regardless of name, any child of yours would be something extra special in my book, however I must admit that bearing my name, she will be a bit closer. How precious she is…my hope and prayer shall ever be that she will be healthy and a great comfort and companion to you both. Your lives will be changed, but the sacrifices made for her will be compensated for many times over.”

Aunt Katherine doted on me; I have always felt that her strength of character and ability to withstand many challenges inspired and strengthened me. She passed away before I became a teenager, but her memory lives on in her letters and my Dad’s writings.

I hope that my granddaughter, with whom I share a name, will find that same strength and that she and I will always have that bond.

As we come full circle with names and great honors, I wrote the letter I believe Dad would have written to my son, when his namesake was born last month:


Grandad and grandson

You have honored me greatly by naming your son, my great grandson, after me. In the twenty years since we last saw one another, you have achieved so much. I know your mother is very proud of you, too.

All of your children are special and loved. By bearing my name, and my father’s name, this one will be extra special to me. How I wish I could take him to visit the fire engines, put shaving cream on his face, share meals with him, share my favorite snaks with him, and watch him grow up. But your Mom will be there for you, and for him. It is her turn to enjoy grandparenting.

My prayer for him is that he be healthy and happy, and a great comfort to his family; that his older siblings love and cherish him and become his friends. Your sacrifices will be many, for that is what parents do, but the rewards will be many more.

Your grandmother joins me in sending love and all the best to you.



1 Comment

Apr 13, 2021

How wonderful to have those letters. And the photos! The names are a tradition, and namesake so honored. Thank you for sharing the memories.

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