In My Ohio

On the Passing of Henry Hook

Darren C. Demaree
Henry Hook was poetry.

He was an M.D., a medical pioneer actually, who once examined the Prime Minister of Japan, and treated his patients here in Ohio admirably and with great fervor for decades. He was a Navy man, a sailor who loved the ocean and Lake Erie, and took great pleasure in the idea of just being a small part of something so indefinable that every attention needed to be paid to each rocking wave. He was an Eagle Scout, a Ham Radio operator, a great giver of time and money to Newark, Licking County, Ohio State, and a he had tremendous intellect that collected friends of every variety all over the world.

Most of all, though, Henry Hook was poetry.

He carried himself in a way that poetry could not only elevate his life, the experience of it, but also it could aid any hardships he might encounter. He was honorable and he listened, never more so than when he felt the genuineness and sincerity of the right verse might be the answer. He didn’t have to care about poetry. His mind took him wherever he needed it to. He wanted the answer to be found in poetry. You don’t normally get that kind of creativity, that light, springy kind of mind from a scientist of his caliber.

I think it made sense to him. I think he felt there were rhythms to the every day life, and as great as the responsibilities he handled were, there would always be room for the love that moved him so greatly.

I know for a fact that Henry wished I had more poetry.

He was overjoyed to find out that I was a poet and immediately began quoting Tennyson and Byron and Keats. I quoted one of my own poems and one of Robert Creeley’s. Henry wanted to know what else I had memorized. You see, I didn't know this yet, but Henry had hundreds of them at the ready. He and his best friend, John Hazlett, would recite them to each other while they walked together. Prompted sometimes by the sea he loved so much and prompted sometimes by the simple idea that poetry was a gift that needed to be given as often as possible, Henry wanted to know why I didn’t have more gifts to give him on that day.

I knew then I needed to be ready, just in case Henry would decide to one-up me at a family dinner. I was prepared from our first meeting, but I think he knew from that point on that I was still busy learning how to use my mind the way that he did.

He was an epic sort of man. He lived his life in unerring couplet. He was a lifetime family friend to my wife’s family, and even though I only got a few dozen encounters with him, I was incredibly sad when he passed last weekend. I felt tenderness towards my wife and her family of course, but I was heart-broken that a man who lived his life with such great accomplishment, with such beautiful verse, was gone.

Even if he never cared for poetry, our lives would have still been greatly improved by his efforts and passions. He was a giving and ecstatic person. Poetry was not necessarily something that might headline a paragraph about the man, but Henry wouldn’t want a paragraph about his life. He would want a poem. He would want it to have a verse and a structure to it. He would demand a tight rhyming scheme.

He would want me to memorize it and recite it to everyone I met.

Well, I got to meet Henry, and that experience was poetry enough, but not nearly enough of Henry.