Brownsville resident honored posthumously by Coast Guard

March 3, 2018 GMT

Pablo Valent was once a well-known name in Brownsville, with a park named for him at the east end of Elizabeth Street, though there’s no sign to indicate it or much of anything else for that matter but a concrete slab.

On Friday, Valent was honored posthumously with the dedication of Valent Hall, the new headquarters of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi. The Corpus Christi native made his mark in the service long before becoming one of Brownsville’s leading citizens.

According to the plaque that will adorn the lobby of the new, 170,000-square-foot facility, Valent joined the U.S. Life-Saving Service, precursor to the Coast Guard, in 1912. By 1915, he had already advanced to the No. 1 “surfman” position at the Brazos Life-Saving Station on BrazosIsland, just south of South Padre Island. The surfman designation means one is qualified to operate a surf boat in heavy seas.


In mid-September 1919, Chief Boatswain’s Mate Valent and six other personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard Brazos Life-Saving Station launched a 36-foot motor surf boat in the middle of a hurricane in an attempt to save the eight-man crew of the 77-foot schoonerCape Horn, which was sinking.

The storm, which would go down in history as the “1919 Florida Keys Hurricane,” one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history, had capsized and flooded the Cape Horn three days before. The crew had cut away the sails and rigging, allowing the ship to right itself, and were clinging to the stricken vessel as the Category 4 storm pushed them toward the Texas coast.

After two hours enduring of some of the worst sea conditions ever witnessed off BrazosIsland, just south of South Padre Island, Valent and crew reached the sailing ship. One treacherous approach at a time, the surf boat rescued all eight of the Cape Horn crew, and made it back to the station overloaded and through punishing waves only because of the expert seamanship of the surf boat crew.

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