My Dad (Pop) was a very good Dad for me. He modeled for me what a family physician should be, because he really loved and cared for his patients. He practiced medicine in El Dorado, Arkansas from the mid 1930’s until his death in 1966 while enduring a number of hardships many of us will never experience.
The country was beginning to come out of The Great Depression when he started practice with his Dad, Dr. John Aaron Moore.Granddad Moore was a dedicated family doctor and modeled for his son the importance of making any sacrifice of personal comfort for the sake of his patients. He never failed to treat any patient seeking his help regardless of the time of day. No one was turned away, as is so often the case in modern medical practice. Their personalities were exactly opposite. Granddad was serious, seldom smiled and was always immaculately dressed. Even when making house calls in the middle of the night Granddad always had on his suit with a tie, and gold chained pocket watch in his vest pocket. Pop was jovial, outgoing always having a funny story to tell concerning any subject one might mention. He was also an immaculate dresser, but much more casual when making after hours house calls.
Although Granddad kept meticulous accounting books; whenever a patient was unable to pay their medical bill, it was always forgiven, and usually never mentioned to the patient. Turning a patient over to a collection agency was unthinkable for the Moore Clinic. I well remember as a young man seeing some of Pop’s patients bringing a chicken, or a bushel of tomatoes or a bunch of turnip greens in exchange for their medical bill. Pop used to jokingly say, “I would a lot rather receive turnip greens for my fee from a patient. I never have to send 35% of them to Washington!”
During our years at home my brother Berry Lee (Bubba), my sister Marilyn and I occasionally heard Pop speak about the amount of insurance he had purchased to protect us. These were policies on him which would provide monies for our education should he become disabled or die before we had completed our studies. He once said in my presence and in Marilyn’s presence, “When I get you two out of college I am going to cash in all these insurance policies and maybe make a trip to Europe! Right now I am insurance pore (poor).” He always had a funny way of telling us what he was planning, but in matters like insurance and finances, we never knew really what he had in mind. He never discussed the financial aspect of his and Mom’s life, partly because of the culture of the day. Serious family matters were never a subject of family discussion except where there was a transgression of one of the children, and this was done in private.
Even after I completed my internship and started my surgical training as a doctor. I knew nothing about the business aspect of Pop’s practice. Only after Pop died in 1966 and Bubba, Marilyn and I were going through his books did we discover the extent of Pop’s generosity and kindness toward his patients. He had between $25-30,000 of unpaid debts from his patients, and he never sent out a collection letter or ever turned anyone over to a collection agency. He simply marked their debt toward him forgiven. In today’s economy this would amount to approximately $200,000. Pop enjoyed practicing medicine and loved his patients.
During the week following Pop’s death, Bubba, Marilyn and I along with Mom had to go through his bank records and in particular his lock box at The National Bank of Commerce in El Dorado. The bank official opened the lock box then left the room for our privacy. There were multiple personal things in the box including some gold coins, a few watches and various important papers. One curious group of papers were all of his insurance policies, which on face value amounted to well over a million dollars. I first thought, “That will be more money to me than I ever imagined.” As we went through every policy, they were all cashed in, or had been borrowed against so the final value for all combined policies was no more than a few hundred dollars! They were all bound together with a large piece of twine and had a note attached. The note read, “See, I told you I was going to spend it! Love Pop”
The day Pop went to the bank to place that bunch of worthless policies with his note I know he had a big chuckle with his familiar smile on his face. I can only imagine his laugh from heaven when he saw our faces and heard us laugh at his one last promise to us.
PS: He never took that trip to Europe, but I sure wish he had.