Clinton resident Wendy K. Hagen was surprised when she saw a picture and article in the Beacon Journal about a pair of initials carved in a dying tree on the grounds of Perkins Stone Mansion.
For one thing, she’d lived in the mansion as a kid, so the tree stood on what was once her playground.
For another, she recognized the initials.
She believes they were those of her parents.
The letters have grown indistinct over the years, but when Hagen looked at the picture, she saw “J.T. loves P.C. ’55.” Those letters were the first and middle initials of her father and mother, John Theodore and Phyllis Corrine Hagen.
Hagen’s parents were the caretakers of the Perkins mansion at the time, in its early years as a museum. And as Hagen noted, it’s unlikely anyone but her dad would have been climbing a tree on the stone-walled property. “Surely a stranger would have been run off,” she said.
Hagen’s theory intrigued Leianne Neff Heppner, executive director of the Summit County Historical Society, which owns the Perkins property. Heppner wants to delve into the records, but she suspects John Hagen might have been involved in measuring the copper-leafed European beech before it was named the largest of its kind in Summit County in 1958 and, later, in all of Ohio.
That might explain what he was doing 30 or 40 feet up in the tree, which was where the love note was carved.
“It absolutely makes perfect sense,” Heppner said.
Hagen said she was “pretty blown away” by the news of the carving, which was discovered in December by a worker removing limbs from the ailing beech.
The carving would have been made the year before she was born, she said. Her father would have been 49 and her mother, 39.
Hagen’s parents are both gone now, so she doesn’t have a lot of details about those days. What she does know is that her mother came to Akron from Wisconsin when she was 19 and went to work for the Raymond family, which owned the mansion then. Its last occupant, George Perkins Raymond, was the great-grandson of the man who built the home, Col. Simon Perkins.
Her mother later married John Hagen, who worked for Firestone. He continued to do so while the couple looked after the mansion, which was purchased by the Summit County Historical Society in 1945 and turned into a museum.
Hagen’s grandparents and aunt lived there, too, in the old carriage house that burned when Hagen was 6. Her grandfather took care of the lawns, she said.
The family was living there when Hagen was born in 1956, and it stayed there through her kindergarten year, she said.
She remembered that her family lived in quarters in the back of the house, which were closed off from the public portion. The Hagens had a kitchen and living room on the first floor, as well as bedrooms upstairs.
After the museum closed each day, though, they had the run of the place. “It was kind of like, it’s our house after 5,” she recalled.
Hagen said she liked living so close to her aunt, who shared her love for animals. But otherwise, it wasn’t a great place to grow up as an only child. There was no one to play with, she said.
And she remembers having to be careful her pet hamster didn’t escape into the public part of the house. That happened once, and the creature ran across the hall while her mother was taking visitors through the museum.
“I never heard the end of that,” she said.
Now the evidence of those times is relegated to snapshots and to Hagen’s memory.
And perhaps, to a love note carved in a tree.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.