Hans F.P. Jahn was a very special man. He really was part of a dying breed, a consummate diplomat and an absolute gentleman.
I came to St. Thomas in 1984 with all baggage in tow – books, a dog and a cat – on the promise of job. The job didn't work out and I ended up three months later with no job, no car (mine had been provided by the corporation who employed me) in the middle of a horrible tropical wave which drenched everything. Notwithstanding excellent stateside employment credentials, the over 30 resumes I sent out were only responded to by one prospective employer who said I sounded great but they weren't hiring right now but they would keep my resume on file.
A friend of a friend heard of my plight and directed me to Hans Jahn. I was finally able to reach him on the telephone and when he picked up the 'phone to answer my call I delved right in.
"Mr. Jahn," I said. "I understand you're looking for an Executive Secretary?"
"Yes," he said rather cautiously.
"Well, I'm IT," I said.
There was a pause and then he said, "Well, don't you think that maybe we should meet?"
We met the next day and we were a great team for the next ten years.
His most untimely and unfortunate demise hit me very, very hard. I was delighted to read that a request was made for those who knew him to donate to The Danish Cemetery Restoration Fund.
Back in 1985 and curious about the monthly statements that came across my desk for "maintenance of the Danish Cemetery" I went to visit the site. And it was a sorry sight indeed.
The "maintenance" consisted of monthly weed-whacking but the majority of the gravesites were totally overgrown with nasty entangled bush suffocating all the tombstones. Garbage was regularly being tossed over a stonewall separating the cemetery from the street.
During the summers of 1985 and 1986 when HFJ took his annual trip back home to Denmark, I took time out from the office duties (with his permission) and started hacking away at all the debris, exposing the hidden gravestones and even digging and finding some buried gravestones. There was such a wealth of history there encompassing all colors and all races.
I got really excited about the project, set up a basic "plot plan" of the four quadrants of the cemetery, documented every gravesite there on a database and HFJ not only started getting excited about the project, but before you knew it, we had a real project going.
The cemetery today is a very long cry from what it was before the Danish Cemetery Restoration Fund was established when HFJ and I were the first trustees. New fencing and plantings and benches have turned what was a very neglected part of Virgin Islands history into a real little paradise.
The wonderfully aged mahogany trees continue to tower over this special little sector of Hospital Ground and I urge anyone who knew Hans Jahn to not only contribute to The Danish Cemetery Restoration Fund but to also visit this incredible cemetery, walk around, read and absorb the history contained therein on the tombstones.
Hans Jahn left his mark in many different arenas. He was a real pain sometimes where I was concerned but I always respected him, we ended up having not only a good working relationship but a friendship – and I sorely miss that friend.
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