VALLEY VALENTINES Heartfelt message is a sign of his love

Before the snow hearts, Hank Bokesch used to give chocolates and a card.
AUSTINTOWN -- Chocolate hearts and sentimental cards just don't express how much Hank Bokesch loves his wife.
His affection fills the couple's back yard -- at least the years when there is snow on Valentine's Day. For more than 25 years, the 85-year-old Austintown man has etched heart-shaped paths in the snow that he dedicates to his wife, Pat.
This year the double heart measures roughly 50 feet wide and 50 feet from top to bottom, Bokesch estimates. Even though his wife of 56 years has come to expect the snow hearts, Bokesch said he tries to present them to her when she least expects them. Sometimes he sneaks out of the house to complete the work in the morning before his wife wakes; other times he does the work while she's out of the house at a meeting.
Pat is president of the senior citizens organization at the Saxon Club.
'So perfect'
"I don't expect it but I'm always delighted," Pat says, a wide smile spreading across her face. "I was just wondering if it would be done this year," she admitted, shortly after discovering the artwork her husband had completed Thursday afternoon. "It is so perfect."
Pat has photographed some of her husband's Valentine's Day tributes and proudly displays one of the framed pictures in her kitchen.
The first year he did it, she recalls, "I came in and he was just smiling and smiling. He said, 'I didn't get to the store to buy a card, but look at this.'"
Before he came up with the idea for the snow hearts, Bokesch said he'd celebrate Valentine's Day by presenting his wife with a box of chocolates and a card. "Nothing too expensive," he said. "I don't go for the diamonds and that stuff."
Although she enjoys chocolates, Pat said, "I much prefer the snow. It's much better for me."
Putting in the time
Some Valentine's Days, Bokesch still buys the chocolates and card, but puts his time -- at least two hours -- and energy into making the hearts.
The couple has four children and seven grandchildren. So far, Bokesch chuckles, none of them has followed in his boot tracks.
"The kids always loved it, when he'd make hearts in the snow, and I do, too," Pat said. "But I think they think that's Dad's thing, and they wouldn't do his thing."
Pat doesn't write her Valentine's message in the snow, either. "Sometimes I buy a card," she said, "but usually I write my own."

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