The One-Hit Wonder Name Deltina

deltina, 1956, baby name
Deltina in the news (late April, 1956)

The name Deltina was in the U.S. baby name data for one year only in the mid-1950s:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 6 baby girls named Deltina [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

Why? Because of a sad news story.

On March 24, 1956, 7-year-old Deltina “Tina” Norvall of Tennessee got too close to a burning trash pile. A spark from the flame landed on her dress, the dress caught fire, and she received third-degree burns to over 65% of her body.

She had two major skin graft operations — one with the help of a donor, Pfc. Gene E. McDonald (pictured above). Ultimately, though, neither operation was successful. Deltina died on May 12.

Deltina…was happily munching a cherry popsicle seconds before her death. She had craved the treat for days. She looked at a friend, Mrs. Mary Summers, who had brought her the popsicle, and said: “I feel so funny. Something is happening.” She closed her eyes and died.

Newspapers nationwide covered the story, but Nashville newspaper The Tennessean followed Deltina’s seven-week ordeal particularly closely.

(It looks like her name was inspired by the middle name of her father, William Delton Norvall, who had drowned while swimming less than a year earlier, tragically.)

What are your thoughts on the baby name Deltina?

Source: “Plucky Little Girl Loses Fight Of Life.” Lubbock Morning Avalanche 14 May 1956: 8.

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