“Smallest” link to Powhatan

Published 6:02 pm Friday, October 25, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

SURRY — Homer “Hank” Zartman felt a special kinship with the newly employed Powhatan ferryboat at the Jamestown Scotland Ferry. Living in Surry, he was disappointed not be able to witness the christening, being that the public was excluded from the event. 

Zartman, 81, was born at Powhatan Courthouse in Powhatan County and said that was the special connection. But what’s remarkable about that fact is that he even survived at all. 

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Zartman weighted just 25 ounces, or 1 pound 9 ounces at birth and was eight inches long. In 1937, hospitals lacked the expertise and equipment they enjoy today and Zartman’s survival was proclaimed a miracle and written about in many newspapers. 

He was the smallest baby born in Virginia, and one of the smallest in the nation, to survive more than a few days during that period.

Years later, Zartman would receive a letter from the American Medial Association stating that another woman, born a year before him, weighed 12 ounces and survived. 

Zartman’s mother, Anita, had preeclampsia and he had to be delivered three months premature. Zartman was wrapped in cotton, put in an incubator and fed with an eyedropper. 

Doctors were not optimistic and at one point, the family lined up a Baptist minister to attend his death. 

But Zartman stubbornly held on. He grew quickly, topping out at 6’3” and went on to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.  

Zartman married, and he and his first wife, Ruth, had twin girls — both of whom were small, but weighed more than he did at birth. One twin was 3 pounds 11 ounces and the other was 3 pounds 9 ounces. The smaller twin, Lynn, had to remain in the hospital, not unlike her father, until she reached five pounds. 

Zartman said his father, Charles, had five children in all and he was the only one to survive. His first wife and child died in childbirth before World War I. Charles married again, and the couple lost a set of twins before Zartman arrived.  

Zartman said that these events, as well as his unusual start in life, have given him a different outlook than most other men. 

“I’m here by the grace of the Almighty God. Nothing worries me, never has,” he said.