by SOPHIA HELLER '17
A very brave man, without whom we would not have this holiday of hearts, was martyred on what could be considered the first Valentine’s day, considering that is the day we celebrate this holiday each year. St. Valentine was killed for his faith around the year 270 A.D. Although no one can be quite certain about St. Valentine’s life, we can be certain that he was a great man, and a faithful Christian. Valentine’s Day is not only celebrated in the United States, but also in Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and France. The holiday originated in Rome around the time of the festival of Lupercus, but the Catholic Church later changed the celebration to honor St. Valentine.
Interestingly enough, St. Valentine was not the only one who passed away in relation to Valentine’s Day. Three other very intriguing people and one very influential animal died on that special day. The same death day may very well be the only thing these five individuals have in common; each was unique in his or her own way. As we remember these people’s deaths, we must celebrate the vast accomplishments of their lives.
St. Valentine’s Day is a celebration of a great saint who gave his life for his faith. Most of his story is legend, and there are several variations. Though it is not clear what truth is in the tale, we can still honor the man of the myth. One story is that in third century Rome, Valentine was a priest who continued to perform marriages after they were outlawed to produce better soldiers, and Valentine was then martyred for this “crime.” Another version entails Valentine being martyred for attempting to aid Christians who were being kept in violent Roman prisons. Yet another story is one of Valentine falling in love while in prison, and sending the first “valentine” with an expression now commonly used, “From your Valentine.” Whatever story we wish to believe, St. Valentine died for his faith, and we celebrate his life on February 14th each year.
Believe it or not, the famous secret agent 007 of Britain had an equally charismatic namesake. James Bond (his full name) was born on January 4, 1900, and died on February 14, 1989. Bond was an ornithologist who specialized on birds from the Caribbean region. The author of the James Bond novels, Ian Fleming, published the first James Bond novel (Casino Royale) in 1953 after appropriating his protagonist’s name from the accomplished ornithologist. It seems strange that Fleming would have received the inspiration for his fictional British secret agent from a quiet man who studied birds and lived in Philadelphia his whole life, but inspiration can come from unlikely places.
The world lost a very important “person” on February 14, 2003. Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal, was euthanized due to a condition of severe arthritis and progressive lung cancer. The surprising part of this story is that the type of lung cancer that Dolly had been diagnosed with was common for sheep and most likely was not connected to being a clone. In her life, Dolly had six lambs. Her first was Bonnie, born April of 1998. In 1999 came the twins, Sally and Rosie, and the year after that, 2000, Dolly gave birth to triplets: Lucy, Darcy, and Cotton. Dolly was the first mammal successfully cloned from a single somatic (body) cell, and was a scientific breakthrough as well as a very sweet sheep.
William Tecumseh Sherman
The world may have become a safer place after this famous civil war general passed away on February 14, 1891. General William Tecumseh Sherman was a man of the North and an advocate of a war tactic appropriately entitled “total war”. Sherman was commended for his propensity for military strategizing, but was also subject to criticism due to his “scorched earth” policies, which basically involved burning everything in his path to the ground. Sherman may not have been known for spreading the love during his life, but he was a huge part of winning the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery.
When one discovers that one of the few survivors of the sinking of the Titanic died on Valentine’s Day in 1996, the irony of this date is enough to make anyone smile. Not only does this evoke memories of the famous necklace from the Titanic movie, the Heart of the Ocean, but also draws attention to her name, Miss Eva Hart. Hart was one of 706 people who survived the Titanic out of 2,223. This heart-warming holiday was an appropriate day for this loving woman to leave this world, after years of fighting to achieve better safety regulations for boats.