Monday, August 29, 2016

My Name

My full name is Paul Maurice Earl Moorman. As names go, I’ve always been happy with mine, unlike some folks that wish their first and middle names were reversed, or not the same as five other people in class or just because there is just no good nickname to be had. My parents liked short, traditional names and never gave us a nickname or variation. In other words, they never called me Paulie. While I like my name, it’s not a good fit for the current fad of abbreviating stars names like J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez) and A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez). Mine ends up as P-Moor. Not cool in the least.

Each of my names comes from somewhere and has its own story.

I’m been told that Paul comes from the name of a highly regarded friend of my parents, Father Paul Schaaf, a missionary and religious leader. Father Schaaf served as a missionary in Chile, working among its rural population, among many other positions before retiring in 2002. He passed away in 2007.

Paul only has one spelling, so everybody gets that right, very much unlike my last name. But Paul is actually fairly hard to pronounce clearly. It starts with the hard and fast consonant “P”, which is similar to a “T”, and then trails off to the very soft “L”. People quite often think my name is Tom when they hear it, particularly over a phone. I’ve had to learn to very clearly pronounce Paul, or just use my middle name, which people seem to hear better, albeit have more trouble spelling.

Maurice is my mother’s father’s name and my favorite grandpa, but to be fair my other grandpa, Leo, died when I was five years old. Maurice died on my 14th birthday, one of the saddest days of my life. I have so many memories, going back to his Dayton house on Oak street where he had a train set that spanned two rooms and I loved watching the engine poof smoke as it travelled over the tracks. He was also a big cigar smoker and his garage was stacked with empty boxes. His house in Beavercreek was the focal point of most Sunday’s, with my family and my many aunts, uncles and cousins regularly converging. We kids mainly played outside, both for the lack of room inside and the choking cloud of smoke, as it seemed everybody smoked back then. But it was the best of times.

Earl, my confirmation name and my father’s name, is the only name I got to pick for myself. My dad grew up in west Dayton, served in the Navy, graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in engineering and worked at General Motors, mainly Frigidaire until it was sold, until he retired. Unlike most engineers that I know, my Dad was a cheerleader at U.D. and an actor. He met my mother, Rose Marie, while performing with the Dayton Blackfriars Guild, most noted for actor Martin Sheen. I think that combination of the left-brain engineer and right-hand actor defined not just myself but also my siblings. Our father died at 62 and our mother at 64, far too early in both their lives and ours.

Moorman is German, which I’ll get to in a moment. It’s not a name that most people are familiar with, which leads to spellings like Morman. But I’ve learned over the course of time to spell it for them using “M-double-o-r-pause-m-a-n”. The double-o helps them get the two “o”’s part, but the critical piece is the pause. The pause makes them think about what I just said instead of listening for more. During the pause they comprehend the double-o part, just about the time they’ve finished the “o” and are just about to write the “r” and skip the second “o”, which I think their brain would just skip over if I said “o-o” instead. The “man” is pretty normal, so they almost always get that right.

The German spelling is Moormann and that’s how it’s spelled on my great-great-grandfather Franz’s tombstone in Saint Henry's Church Cemetery. Franz and his wife Maria immigrated to America in 1854 from Oldenburg, Germany, settling in Mercer County, Ohio, a favorite place for my ancestors to land. Franz and Maria gave birth to John Henry, and he and Anna had Leo, my grandfather. Leo and Walburga conceived Earl and he and my Mom, Rose Marie, over a ten year and one day period, had Greg in 1952, myself in 1955, Mary Rose in 1957, Martin in 1960 and David in 1962. During recent research into my heritage going back four generations, families with the names Eggenschwiller, Geis, Kastle, Leimeister, Liddy, Little, Maria, Meier, Otto, Overman, Paulick, Reichert, Schneble and Siemer are great-great-grandparents. If you have one of those names in your family tree, we might be related somehow.

But the person that truly defines “Moorman” was Franz’s first son, August Moorman, who fathered 21 children. Can’t think of anyone who represents a “more man” any better than that.