Nathan Hale Is My Cousin

This week I will visit the Nathan Hale Cemetery in Coventry, Connecticut. Nathan Hale (June 6, 1755 – September 22, 1776) is my cousin.

My name is Peter Sanford Kahrmann. It is a name I am proud of. My name for the first five weeks of my life was, Paul Clark. It is also a name I am proud of. I was adopted at five weeks of age. In  1987, I reunited with my birth-mother. Her name at when she was born was, Leona Patricia Clark. She was born January 31, 1933 and died December 19, 2001.

My mother was Irish and French Canadian, the latter coming from her mother, Mable Milo, who died when my mother was only three years old in 1936. It was researching my grandmother’s family that led me to discover Hale is my cousin.

Hale was executed by the British in New York City for being a spy for General George Washington. He is reported to have said, “I regret that I have only one life to lose for my country,” just before his death.”

British officer, Frederick MacKensie, wrote this in his diary about Nathan that day: “He behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good Officer, to obey any orders given him by his Commander-in-Chief; and desired the Spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear.”

Nathan’s body was never recovered.

On October 1, 1985, the Connecticut General Assembly, declared Hale the official State Hero.

He was just 21 years old when his life ended.

Hale is the great-grandson of Reverend John Hale, a pivotal figure in the Salem witch trials. He was also an uncle to both orator and statesman Edward Everett and journalist Nathan Hale, and a grand uncle to Edward Everett Hale and his sister, Susan Hale, both writers. All of them, for me, family.

To learn that I am part of this family touches my soul, and brings tears to my eyes; it is a massively humbling reality. What skill I have with the words of my language cannot possibly express how much being part Hale’s family means to me. I can tell you this. If ever courage found its way through a family tree, Nathan Hale’s courage found my mother Leona. I’ve known no one more courageous in life than my mother, and no one with a more loving, compassionate heart.

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