“I Didn’t Know You Would Be My Neighbor”

In my medical practice life of 45+ years, I have had the privilege of serving with many outstanding doctors. The two most outstanding to me were my Dad, Dr. Berry L. Moore Sr. (Pop) and my brother, Dr. Berry L. Moore Jr. (Bubba). Upon our return to El Dorado, Arkansas in 1971 when I begin my general surgical practice I was introduced to some very colorful men who were practicing medicine there. All were older men with lots of practice experience, and I was excited to have the chance to learn from them as much as possible. Pop had died from heart failure 6 years earlier, but Bubba was near the top in his practice experience and wisdom.

Mom was still living in the family home on North Madison, but the home and gardens were far too large for her to continue living there, and a decision about her future residence would soon have to be made. Living next door on the north side in a home they had custom-built were Dr Frank and Lillian Thibault. They had been good neighbors to Mom and Pop for years and never caused any significant neighborly problems. Their yard and grounds were not neat and well-manicured like Mom and Pop’s, but they didn’t have a boat and trailer or a junk car in their yard and had their yard mowed at least once or twice each summer.  They had not been very social with Mom and Pop and pretty much kept to themselves. I don’t remember ever seeing either one of them at our home nor hearing any account of them having Mom and Pop over for a cup of coffee.

The stories concerning Dr. Thibault were myriad and most were focused either on his personal appearance or his automobile driving exploits. For reasons known only to him he seldom had a clean-shaven face. When seen at his medical office or the hospital he had a 3-4 day growth of facial hair which was never groomed. In addition he wore bedroom slippers the majority of the time. I don’t remember ever seeing him in a pair of shoes. Perhaps he had a medical issue with his feet which made the wearing of regular shoes painful, but I never heard that explanation given. An account was told by Dr. John Henry Pinson, the Union County Coroner how he over-heard a radio transmission from a trooper of the Arkansas State Police on their frequency. The trooper called in to report an individual with no personal ID had been stopped for speeding on the highway near Sheridan, Arkansas. The individual identified himself to the trooper as Frank Thibault, an El Dorado physician, and the trooper wanted to know if anyone could confirm the identity of such a person. Dr. Pinson keyed in on the frequency and identified himself to the trooper, and told him he was a friend of Dr. Thibault. He told the trooper if the individual was “clean-shaven and wearing shoes” he was an imposter!

Another story told me by Dr. Thibault himself involved a later traffic stop by a different Arkansas State Trooper. The doctor had just purchased a new Pontiac and was “breaking it in” by driving to Little Rock to attend an Arkansas Razorback football game. About half-way to his destination he was pulled over for excessive speed and given a ticket by the trooper. Dr. Thibault asked what the fine would be, and the trooper said, “It will cost you $50 which you must pay now.” Dr. Thibault handed the lawman a 100 dollar bill and told him, “I’ll be coming home tonight around 10 PM following the game and this will cover that fine!”

Dr. Thibault had a long career practicing Family Medicine in El Dorado, and I think he had a large number of of loyal patients who depended on him. He never referred any patients to me for a surgical procedure, but we collaborated on a few acute trauma cases assigned to us as on-call doctors. From my observation of these patients he had sound judgement and current medical knowledge. I heard from several people who had been patients of his for years they believed despite his unusual personal traits he was a “brilliant doctor.” I had no reason to doubt their assessment, but he was surely different.

I was in the Emergency Room at Warner Brown Hospital on a cold December afternoon when Dr. Thibault was brought in having sustained a shotgun injury to his right hand. He had been duck hunting that afternoon and was getting out of the boat while pulling his shotgun out of the boat barrel-first. The gun was still loaded with the safety off, and when he pulled on the weapon the trigger struck an object and the shotgun discharged through the middle of his right palm. I assisted Dr. J.C. Calloway, Orthopedic surgeon with an operation to save his hand. The operation was successful, but for the remainder of his life Dr. Thibault had a severely deformed right hand which hampered his doing any more medical procedures. His gun safety judgement was certainly faulty.

I heard Pop once say, “Old Frank is strange, but I think he is a pretty good doctor. He and I get along just fine.” As a teenager I was present in our side-yard one afternoon when Pop made this comment tongue in cheek to Dr. Thibault, “Frank, the Lord says in the Good Book I am to love my neighbor like myself. But he didn’t tell me Frank Thibault would be my neighbor!” Frank just laughed out loud without making any comment. When Cathy and I moved into the family home years later I occasionally reminded Dr. Thibault of Pop’s comment about being his neighbor and told him I concurred with Pop. He always laughed and once said, “Unfortunately we don’t get to pick our neighbors.”

Dr. John

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2 thoughts on ““I Didn’t Know You Would Be My Neighbor”

  1. Love it! I still remember Mother pointing out Dr. Thibault’s medium blue Buick and warning my brother and me to not just get off the street if we see him coming but actually get up in a yard. The sidewalk wasn’t safe! They still don’t have any grass growing on that corner.

  2. I had the Warner Brown experience as a student nurse from 1961-64 and this is a great, kind remembrance of those gentle years. Thanks, Dr. John.

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