The Admiral

Captain Burt Renager
USS Farragut 1991

 

I might not have been as close friends with Burton Whitmon (Burt) Renager Jr. had it not been for a ukulele. In the fall of 1960 I was a freshman in medical school at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock and had gone to the lobby of Jeff Banks Dormitory to take a short break from studies. Seated on a couch surrounded by several other students was this short, nice looking, clean-cut guy playing his ukulele while singing a folk song with the group. The Kingston Trio was just becoming very popular, and they were singing “Tom Dooley” which was the signature song of the Trio. His playing and singing while not concert quality was pretty good, so I joined them in singing. I told them I would get my Gibson guitar and join them if that was alright. This was the beginning of a friendship born in Kingston Trio type folk music and nurtured through the years by many common interests including most of all, love of God, family, country and country music, especially Flatt and Scruggs bluegrass..

Burt was born and raised in West Memphis, Arkansas, the only child of B.W.  and Elizabeth Crow Renager. His Mom’s roots had been planted in eastern Arkansas in the town of Elaine where she was raised on a large cotton and soy bean farm. After moving to West Memphis following marriage she and B.W. directed the operation and management of the farm which was subsequently passed on to Burt. We have joked often about the current status of the soy beans in Elaine.

Among Burt’s many talents during his formative years (apart from the ukulele) was flying private planes. After learning the skills of piloting he continued flying small aircraft for many years until only recently. Never one to  refuse a challenge as a young man, he told me he once flew a single engine plane under the large bridge at Memphis for which he received a reprimand from the Federal Aviation Board and had his license temporarily suspended. He also told me he suspected he had been reported by the one who challenged him and was angry he had lost the bet over the stunt.

Burt was focused on his pre-medical studies in college and graduated with honors from Memphis State University before entering medical school in the fall of 1960. His initial goal was to become a family physician like his own doctor whom he admired. In those early days none of us really knew what rigorous training lay ahead, and where our paths would lead. It was important to have an outlet to help relieve the stress of the academic world, and music was a good one for us.

Our playing and singing gigs during the first year in medical school were lots of fun, and we probably spent too much time honing our musical skills in various ways. We made a memorable trip one weekend to Mountain View, Arkansas to the Jimmy Driftwood Folk Festival and even played a few of our songs on the square while surrounded by 10-15 mountain folks. They seemed curious to hear what these “city slickers” could do, but I don’t remember them being very impressed with our style of folk music! We were not invited to perform on-stage that evening, but loved the people and enjoyed the music which was everywhere that weekend in Mountain View.

I wrote about one of our more unusual performances in a previous post (One Night at the Rackensack, Jan. 2015). Burt had a gift for generating a background story for the songs we performed when in reality the songs we played and sang were learned from albums of Flatt and Scruggs and recordings of Bob Dylan and others. We always thought we were the only ones who knew the truth concerning those stories.

Burt’s professional career took a turn following our freshman year, and he dropped out of medical school to pursue a military career. I’m not sure his initial intentions were career military, but the war in Vietnam was beginning to escalate in the mid 1960’s, and all young men in those days were subject to being drafted into the war effort. Burt became a junior officer in the United States Navy via Officer’s Candidate School in Newport Rhode Island in 1965. About that time he married his longtime sweetheart Paula Kalder, also of West Memphis, Arkansas, and they started building their family and life together in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Early on Burt spent a tour of duty in Vietnam commanding a Swift Boat, the modern analog of the PT Boat of World War II. Some of his exploits were recorded in a book written by Jim Guy Tucker. (Arkansas Men of War, Penguin Press, 1968). Jim Guy Tucker was a war correspondent when he wrote and published the book. He was later elected Governor of Arkansas and subsequently resigned following conviction for fraud in the Whitewater Affair.

Burt had a distinguished naval career and rose in the ranks to Captain before retiring in 1991. His last command was aboard the USS Farragut which was a modern class of missile destroyers. (See above photo). Under his command were 400+ enlisted men and 25 officers. I thought he would stay on active duty in the Navy until achieving the rank of Admiral, but it was best for him and his family to retire when he did. Regardless I have always addressed him by that rank when calling and speaking to him by phone.

Burt and Paula have spent their years in Virginia Beach raising their sons Jason and Joshua who are grown now with their own families. There are 5 grandchildren to spoil and enjoy whenever they can be together. I don’t know if he has taught any of them to play a ukulele, but I’m quite certain he can still remember the chords to play and the lyrics to many of the songs we knew so well. Just like two old retirees, most of our songs are outdated!

It has been many years since Burt and I have been together, but we regularly stay in touch by phone, occasional letters and text messages. I’ve learned quite a few life lessons from him and even a few medical tips I have used which hearken back to our medical school days. (i.e. Shetley’s Rule of XRay Diagnosis). I still believe he would have been an excellent family physician, but God had another career path for him, and he excelled in it. I thank God for that evening 60 years ago playing and singing “Tom Dooley” and remember it as if it were only yesterday.

Dr. John

 

A Tribute To My Brother in Law George Berry

George, Marilyn, John
Budapest 2003

 

The first time I met George Berry in 1957 I didn’t like him even a little. It wasn’t his outward appearance which bothered me. He was a tall, handsome Texan , nicely dressed with a great tan and a pleasing outgoing personality. What really bothered me was his relationship to my sister Marilyn. She had decided after 1 year at the all-women’s Lindenwood College in St. Charles, Missouri to attend the University of Texas in Austin. I thought she had lost her sense of good judgement because the Texas Longhorns were bitter rivals of my beloved Arkansas Razorbacks. To add further fuel she had met and fallen in love with this man George Berry who was a stranger to me, and they had planned to marry in July, 1957 at the end of her junior year. My thought about him was he was stealing my sweet sister away to Texas, and I would never see her again. At the time I was a teen, and Marilyn had been a stabilizing influence on me since early childhood although she was only 3 years older.

Following their marriage in El Dorado, Arkansas and honeymoon in Cuba George completed his doctorate degree in business and finance, and they moved to Lubbock, Texas (even further away). He joined the faculty of Texas Tech University in 1961 and they remained in Lubbock until 1969 when he retired from academics as Professor and Chair of Graduate Studies at Texas Tech. He began his next career as a consultant to financial institutions, and they moved their family to Midland, Texas in 1969 where they remained until 1978. It was then they made their final move back to Austin. The majority of his consulting work was done in Austin, and the move prevented him from making the trip to Austin multiple times weekly.

By this time they had 4 fine sons; James, John, Robert and David. My initial attitude toward George had long since changed when I saw how much he loved Marilyn and his family  and was such a devoted a husband and father. I began loving what a cheerful, winsome and fun-loving personality George possessed. Whenever we talked he had the latest Aggie joke (and he had many), the most hilarious lawyer stories (I never cared much for lawyers until our son John became one), and many funny accounts of the Longhorn and Razorback tradition. George was the first person to tell me about a Texas holiday celebrated annually called Juneteenth. At the time it was an exclusive and official Texas holiday celebrated on June 19th commemorating Emancipation Day, and among other things many businesses were closed on Juneteenth giving everyone in Texas a welcomed free day.

Cathy and I loved spending time with George, Marilyn and their sons, and we purposed to be present at as many of their special occasions as possible, such as graduations and weddings. They reciprocated with many of our children’s events. After their move back to Austin and because all four of us loved sports we attended some fun outings together such as the Southwest Conference Basketball Tournaments in both San Antonio and Dallas. Our relationship with George and Marilyn ramped up in 1996 when we invited them to join us on a trip to the Holy Land. It was sponsored by the International Congress on Revival (ICR), and Cathy and I wanted them to begin making world-wide mission trips with us. I recounted some of our experiences in a recent blog (Walking Where Jesus Walked, July 2020).

The four of us made a number of overseas mission trips with ICR over the next 10 years, and they were some of the most memorable experiences we ever had. George was so well liked and respected by the leadership of ICR he was invited to become a board member in 1999. This afforded us additional times together when we met for those meetings in such cities as Chattanooga, Tennessee (Bill Stafford’s home), Huntsville, Alabama and Athens, Alabama. I have recounted some of our trips overseas to such places as Salzburg, Austria; Budapest, Hungary and Belfast, Ireland.(The ICR Clothing Ministry; Oct. 2014; A European Gallbladder Ministry, Mar. 2016; Wayne Barber and His Bubba Teeth, May 2018). Every trip was exciting, fun-filled and life changing.

George and Marilyn did a wonderful job is raising their sons to be God-fearing and extremely high achievers. James became an anesthesiologist and is one of the most outstanding leaders in his profession. Among many other accomplishments he invented an anesthetic delivering device which has revolutionized the recovery of expensive anesthetic gasses. It is marketed nation-wide to a large number of hospitals. John is a very successful businessman in Houston and along with wife Pat have raised 2 fine and successful sons. Robert is an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy cases and has served and helped hundreds of clients struggling with their personal finances.Their youngest David is a maternal-fetal specialist practicing in Austin, and is an expert in the problems associated with complicated pregnancies. There are only a handful of similar medical specialists nation-wide and David is one of the best. I have written about their physician sons in a previous blog. (Four Generations of Medical Ministry Part 2, Oct. 2019).

Because George was such an expert on finances and investments I always wanted him to give me some “inside advice” on how to make a fortune through the stock market. He continually avoided such a conversation. One day while speaking with him about another matter I said, “George, you never have given me any financial advice, and it is time you helped me make some real money on investments.” His reply was, “I’m getting ready to give you a tip which will make you a very wealthy man. Get your pen out and tell me when you are ready.” I said, “I’m all ears and ready. Go!” He said very slowly and then repeated it, “Buy low and sell high!” I dropped my pen and told him he was really not much help. George was wise enough to know financial advice from a family member can cause much distress if it fails to produce.

Although George has been healthy and strong for most of his life, over the past several years he has struggled with some issues which have drained his reserve. Because he was not able to travel with Marilyn as they had done for many years, his forced inactivity caused further deterioration of his strength. I had spoken with Dr. David on this past June 18, and he had said his Dad was slowly gaining strength in his health. On June 19 while waiting for Marilyn to prepare supper George sat in his lounge chair to take a short nap. When Marilyn went in to awaken him she discovered George had quietly passed into the arms of Jesus.

My wonderful friend, brother in law and brother in Christ met our Savior on Juneteenth, and he received his complete emancipation from this world of weakness, sickness and sin. Marilyn and all his family and friends are comforted in knowing where he is and Who he is with. He followed his own advice in starting low and ending high. I am sure missing him, but I’ll see him soon at the feet of Jesus.

Dr. John

 

Walking Where Jesus Walked

Holy Land Tour 1996

When Cathy and I became believers in the Lord Jesus Christ in 1977 the Word of God came more alive in our hearts. I  already held a teaching position in a couple’s class at First Baptist Church El Dorado and knew facts related to the land of Israel. I knew God had promised the land to Abraham and his descendants beginning in Genesis 12 and confirmed the promise by a covenant in Genesis 15. The land God gave him extended from the river of Egypt northward to Mount Hermon and from the Mediterranean eastward to the great river Euphrates. The Jews still claim these lands as their God-given possession, although the land they occupy is much smaller.

For years following our salvation we were encouraged by friends to make a trip to the Holy Land, but we resisted. I frequently said, “I have a free trip coming one day” (to the new Jerusalem)! My thinking changed when Brother Bill Stafford with the International Congress on Revival (ICR) announced a planned trip to Israel sponsored by ICR in February of 1996. Cathy and I contacted my sister Marilyn Berry and husband George of Austin, Texas, and they enthusiastically made plans to go with us. We had wanted to get them involved in the ministry of ICR, and this was a great way to introduce them to Brother Bill and other ICR members.

We left El Dorado on February 1 in the midst of an ice storm and were very fortunate to arrive in Little Rock without having to turn back. The details are not important, but we ended up flying out of Memphis to Atlanta to connect with other members of the ICR team who were also flying to Israel through Zurich. Upon arrival at Tel Aviv we were met by our tour guide Jimmy DeYoung and his wife Judy, along with 2 members of our group who were coming from Budapest, Nina Stevenson and Ildiko Barbarics who served with the Word of Life ministry.

Our hotel in Jerusalem, the Holiday Inn was a welcomed sight after a very long and at times scary journey from El Dorado. An interesting fact concerning all Holy Land tours is regardless of who is leading your personal tour, there is always a tour guide from the Department of Tourism of Israel The expense for their time is always paid by your group. Our guide from Israel was Kenny Garon who was a transplanted Jew from Louisiana. He was very cordial and polite and everyone in our group tried at one time or another to tell him about the wonderful claims and promises of Jesus Christ. He received our witness with courtesy and grace, but as far as I know was not convinced or converted.

The first place almost every tour group visits in Jerusalem is the Yad Veshim which is the Holocaust Museum. This beautiful but extremely somber reminder of the atrocities against the Jews at the hands of Hitler’s Germany causes everyone who visits to never allow this to happen again. Most of us wept as we walked from room to room remembering the over 6 million who were killed for no other reason than they were Jews.

Having Jimmy DeYoung as our guide was a special blessing. He and his wife Judy were missionaries of the Word of Life Ministry, and he is a world-renowned expert on end times prophesies. His insights on the Word of God relating to the life, ministry and death of our Savior were life giving and changing not only for Cathy and me, but for everyone in our group. To be able to ask questions as we traveled and walked the streets of the many sites of Israel was invaluable. I was totally unprepared for the emotional impact travelling in Israel would have on me. On many occasions both Cathy and I shed tears of joy with the others knowing this was the very place Jesus walked.

We traveled by bus a few miles south to Bethlehem, the place of Jesus birth. The city is controlled by the Palestinians, so movement in the small town is limited. The supposed place of his birth is obscured by a Byzantine church built on the spot of the manger scene. There was nothing at that place which was humble, modest or inspiring to me.This was the only disappointing spot for me on our tour.

The following day we traveled northward to Galilee stopping at Caesarea where Peter converted the first Gentile, Cornelius to Christianity. There was an amphitheater built by Herod the Great where Paul probably spoke to Felix while imprisoned there. We sat in the amphitheater just imagining all the wonderful events of history which occurred in this place. We continued north to Mount Carmel to view the spot where the prophet Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal. There was a statue of Elijah to commemorate his victory over the 400 men by the power of God.

There were so many sites which brought to life the ministry and teachings of Jesus while He was on earth for those 3 years. I will forever remember the spot on the Mount of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee where Jesus taught His disciples recorded in the passage of Matthew 5, 6 and 7.

Upon returning to Jerusalem we visited the area near Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, and then spent time at the Garden Tomb where He was buried and then rose from the dead on the 3rd day to atone for all our sins. It was there we all took the Lord’s Supper as a reminder of His death burial and resurrection. It was a tremendously impactful experience, and we were all moved to tears of contrition and thanksgiving.

A huge experience for Cathy and me was the fact that Marilyn and George were so impressed with the people they met on that trip involved with ICR they decided to begin making mission trips with us going forward. Over the next 8-10 years we made many trip together serving alongside Brother Bill and all the ICR team. George subsequently served with me and others on the Board of ICR and helped direct and shape that ministry to serve countless thousands around the world. I am forever grateful Cathy and I didn’t delay our trip to Israel where Jesus did a great work on us.

The team members pictured in the above photo are: Front Row: Judy DeYoung, Jimmy DeYoung, Kenny Garon (guide)

2nd Row: Nina Stevenson, Ildiko Barbarics, Mia Oglice, Clay Coffey, Ibby Coffey, Virginia Beth Coffey, Buster Coffey, Ruvin (bus driver)

3rd Row: Costel Oglice, John McAnally, Sherril Schroeder, Bill Stafford III, Bill Stafford II, Cathy Moore, John H Moore, Marilyn Berry, George Berry

We were standing with our backs toward the Temple Mount looking across the Kidron Valley. We were facing the Garden of Gethsemane which we toured.

Dr. John

 

 

Pledging for a Ring

SAE Ring

My Dad (Pop) was my childhood hero, and I wanted to be just like him. The only fault I could find in him at the time was he was always working too hard. When I was a very young boy World War II was at its’ peak, and Pop was one of the few physicians left in El Dorado to care for the medical needs of the area. He was a little too old to serve in the military and had 3 dependent children in addition to a very large medical practice. Our birth mother (Mimi) had died at age 37 in 1941 from breast cancer, and Pop married our step-mother (Mom) in June, 1944. His Dad (Dr. J. A.) died in September, 1944 and left Pop with all of his patients and in addition to his own, the medical practice was huge.

As a young boy the only time I remember seeing Pop was in the evening when he would come home for supper, and we would all sit down for a meal together. On occasion when Pop would go on a house call in the early evening, he would allow me to go with him and carry his bag, which to me was large and very heavy! I loved going because his patients would always treat me nicely and frequently call me “Little Doc”. As I learned the names of the supplies, he would say, “John Henry, hand me the stethescope or give me the syringe for an injection.” I was his right hand assistant, or so I believed!

From my very earliest remembrance Pop wore a special ring on his ring finger. It was purchased in the early 1920’s when he pledged the SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon) fraternity at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. It served as a sort of wedding band when he and Mimi eloped to be married in 1924 while both were students. I believe he did purchase Mimi a very modest wedding ring at the time. I do know he later purchased her a much nicer diamond engagement ring and a wedding band. Pop continued wearing his SAE ring and apparently saw no need for switching to a wedding band.

I was always intrigued by his SAE ring and occasionally had him remove it for me to get a closer look. He would tell me stories about his fraternity; how much the friendships made then meant to him and what a good experience the fraternity was for him. He knew how much I liked the ring and once told me, “When you get to college and if you happen to pledge into SAE, I will give you this ring.” As a young boy I had no idea what all that entailed, but I knew one thing; I loved that ring!

When I finally graduated from high school in 1957 and made the decision to attend the University of Arkansas, the question of whether I would pledge into a social fraternity suddenly became a priority. I knew I was going to major in pre-med studies with an eye on a medical career, but I also wanted to have a good time on the journey. Just before leaving home Pop said, “If you want to pledge into a fraternity it will be fine with me, but be sure to give the SAE’s a good look. I believe they are still one of the top fraternities.” I did discover they were the best fit for me, and along with Jim Weedman, my best friend from El Dorado I decided to join. When I called Pop and Mom to tell them my decision, I also reminded Pop of his promise to give me his ring! Surprisingly he said he would keep his promise. When he and Mom came to Fayetteville for his one and only visit while I was in college, he gave me the ring which he had worn for at least 30 years!

I became a loyal fraternity member during those college years and was the only one in the fraternity house who had a special ring. During the very lean financial years of medical school I felt enough loyalty to send the fraternity a $10 donation when I received one of their many solicitation letters. At the time $10 represented a huge sum of money for me.

When Cathy and I married in 1965, she gave me a gold wedding band, and I switched wearing the SAE ring to my right ring finger. I wore the ring more out of respect for Pop and his memory than I did for any continuing loyalty for the fraternity.

In the early 1980’s I received a particularly disturbing solicitation letter from the fraternity chapter in Fayetteville in which the president of the chapter wrote, “I have been asked by some if we allow our members to drink alcoholic beverages in the fraternity house. Our policy is yes we do allow our men to drink in house in order to train them to drink like men.”

I was infuriated by such a flippant answer and wrote a letter to the president stating my strong objection. I said among other things, “Real men are men of character and would never consider being trained in the art of drinking beverage alcohol if there is such an art. I am saddened by your attitude and no longer support the work of your fraternity. Please remove my name from your mailing list, and if you would, please send me back by only contribution of 10 dollars. given 15 years ago!” With that I removed the SAE ring and it remains today in my jewelry box in fond memory of Pop. The ring is now approximately 100 years old, and I can’t bring myself to throw it away. Cathy and our children can decide what they want to do with it when I am gone.

I am strongly opposed to social fraternities and sororities such as the ones at the University of Arkansas and am grateful our children did not want to join them when they were in college. Some of their tenets violate several of my strongly held Christian convictions so my opinion about them won’t change. I do; however  have fond memories of my days at the SAE house, and certainly made a number of life-long friendships.The beautiful colonial style house I lived in for 2 years still stands at 110 Stadium Drive in Fayetteville.

Dr. John

 

 

Uncle Harry and the Conference Calls

Uncle Harry Gosling

During this Corona virus quarantine of 2020 our entire nation has been socially distanced from one another for over a month, and this has stimulated us to initiate creative means of connecting.Teleconferencing via the Internet has provided unique and interesting means of family gatherings, business meetings and church activities without unnecessary exposure to the possibility of a viral infection. Last weekend my Sunday school class met and had a Bible lesson on a teleconference, and it reminded me of a remote Sunday school class long ago in my home town of El Dorado, Arkansas.

I have previously written about my all-time favorite Uncle Harry Gosling from St. Louis, Missouri (My Favorite Uncle Harry, Apr. 2013). He was married to my Mom’s younger sister Ruth, and they had lived with their two children, Paula and Phil in St. Louis for many years. Prior to moving to St. Louis in the 1950’s Uncle Harry was an outstanding trumpet playing member of Lawrence Welk’s Band which was extremely popular in those days. Because the band was travelling nation-wide rather extensively, Uncle Harry and Aunt Ruth made the difficult decision to drop out of the band, move to St. Louis and have a more stable environment for their children’s sake. I always admired that quality of theirs in putting their family’s interest ahead of a professional career.

Uncle Harry, Aunt Ruth and Phil were present at our wedding in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1965, and because we loved them so we remained in close contact with them. When Cathy and I moved to El Dorado in 1971 to begin our life there, we were able to see them a little more often and made several vacation trips to meet them in Branson, Missouri. It is an interesting fact they introduced us to the town where we now reside.

In the 1980’s Cathy and I were deeply involved in the ministry of First Baptist Church in El Dorado, and in addition to other responsibilities I was one of the teachers of The Men’s Bible Class about whom I have written (The Men’s Theater Bible Class, Oct. 2013). During a 5 year period as teacher I had an occasion to speak to the pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Arkansas, and he told me about a unique class he taught there. He said it was a “conference call” class, and it was the largest Sunday school class in the church. I had no idea one could get as many as 75 people on a telephone conference call, and his church got home-bound people on a conference call every Sunday from which he taught the Sunday school lesson. We decided to initiate a similar class for the Men’s Bible Class, and made all the arrangements while identifying the people who would join the class by way of telephone. I well remember the Saturday Bob Watson (one of the 4 teachers) and I went to about 10 homes to connect speaker phones to the telephones so those people could participate in the class. I don’t recall the exact cost for this service from the telephone company, but I believe it was $50 per week. The early weeks of the conference call class had a few challenges. The microphone for the class was connected to a phone jack and a person in our class had to call the phone company to initiate the conference each week. It was important for each recipient to remain quiet instead of talking to each other. Fortunately on our end we were not able to hear the conversations which did take place between all the people on the call.

It was about 3 or 4 months following the start of this ministry that Uncle Harry and Aunt Ruth visited El Dorado. I wrote in the previous blog about Uncle Harry’s recent diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and his future health and prognosis were very much in doubt and on everyone’s mind. While he and I were alone one morning in my Mom’s kitchen Uncle Harry bowed his head and his heart to ask the Lord Jesus to save him, and I believe he was redeemed that morning. Through tears of joy and excitement over his surrender, I promised I would send him literature and Bible studies to assist him in growing in faith going forward. I didn’t know any pastors or spiritual mentors in St. Louis who could follow up with him. I did remember at the time about the conference call class and mentioned that he might be able to join us each week and hear me teach or one of the other men who might be teaching that week.

Uncle Harry did indeed join the class in the following weeks and became so well-known and well-liked by telephone the other members of the class starting calling him “Uncle Harry”! I don’t remember how long he was able to continue with the conference call, but when I would call him later he said how much he always learned from the class and how much it meant to him. The terrible effects of the illness finally claimed the physical life of my favorite uncle, but the spiritual life of my wonderful Uncle Harry was forever made secure in the arms of his (our) matchless Savior.

With the advent today of so much advanced technology we are now able through teleconferencing to not only hear but see one another with clarity. The gospel will never be hindered by disease or wars or famines, but will prosper in whatever form it is sent and will result in eternal benefits. (Isaiah 55: 10,11).

Dr. John

PS: The telephone conference call was switched over to a radio format shortly after Uncle Harry’s death and is still being broadcast every Sunday morning from First Baptist Church. Bob Watson remains still as one of the teachers. It has been a remarkable and successful ministry for 35+ years to the glory of God.

 

The Three Creeks Revival – 1864

Three Creeks Encampment 1864

Three Creeks is a small community in southern Arkansas located on Highway 15 approximately 15 miles west Of El Dorado. On the scale of national or international importance Three Creeks would go unnoticed, but to our branch of the Moore family tree it holds great significance. I have never lived there, and my immediate family has spent very little time exploring the surroundings, but ask any member of our family how and why Three Creeks is so important, and you will get an instant and positive response.

In 1846 Alexander Moore, who is my great great grandfather brought his family west from Perry County in Alabama to settle and farm in Three Creeks, Arkansas. Some of the migrant Moore family members didn’t stop in Arkansas but traveled to and settled in southeast Texas. At an early family reunion of the entire Moore clan the question was posed, “Why did some stop in Arkansas while others moved on to Texas?” The answer given by the Texas branch was, “When the travelers came to a road sign pointing to Arkansas, those who could read kept going to Texas while the others proceeded towards Three Creeks.” 🙂

Alexander and wife Lydia purchased several thousand acres of Three Creeks land for farming because the land there was very fertile with an excellent water supply and abundant wildlife. I have one of the original deeds of his purchase, and the land was available as the result of a land grant from The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek by the Choctaw Indians. The Choctaw Nation agreed to deed their lands in Mississippi and Arkansas to the United States in exchange for cash settlements along with safe passage and resettlement lands which were guaranteed in Oklahoma.

Alexander and Lydia’s son Richard Andrew Jackson (RAJ) who was my great grandfather, continued farming the land at Three Creeks and had a very successful career in his profession. During the War Between the States RAJ served in the Confederate Army, and fought in several encounters in Mississippi and northern Louisiana against the Northern Army. He survived the war, but had a bullet wound injury to his right leg which caused him to have a permanent limp the remainder of his life.

The land owned by Alexander and RAJ Moore was passed down through the generations of the family. My grandfather, John Aaron (JA) was the recipient of a significant portion of the original land and passed the land to his 3 children, Walter, Lillie Mae and Berry Lee (Pop). Because Walter and Lillie Mae had no heirs, the land was passed on and inherited by my brother, sister and me. For generations the land has produced income to the family, not from farming as in the beginning, but from pine and hardwood harvesting, from oil leases and currently from brine leases. It has been discovered the brine (salt water) in south Arkansas is extremely high in bromine content, and bromine is widely sought for industrial purposes. The latest discovery concerning the Three Creeks land is the brine located throughout the region is extremely high in lithium content, and with the advent of cell phones and electric cars lithium has become very valuable.

Perhaps the greatest value of the land in the Three Creeks area is  spiritual in nature, and it began near the close of the War Between the States. One of the largest revivals ever concerning salvation decisions in the state of Arkansas occurred at Three Creeks during the summer and early fall months of 1864. The information concerning this revival is from a monograph entitled Arkansas Baptist Revivals written in 1988 by Dr. Mark A. Coppenger, a former pastor at First Baptist Church, El Dorado and a continuing great friend. He gave permission to use this material from his monograph.

A Confederate Chaplain named Kavanaugh reported after battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill in Louisiana, the soldiers of the Confederacy moved to the Three Creeks area of Arkansas to rest and be restored to fighting strength. While there an unnamed chaplain began having revival meetings among the troops with preaching, prayers and singing every evening around the camp fires. When the preaching and singing stopped around 10 PM, the men began gathering in groups of tens and twenties for individual prayers and testimonies of faith. It was reported shouts of praise and thanksgiving from newly converted men could be heard night after night as a result of these smaller camp fire gatherings. The prayer meetings continued in the same fashion for several weeks resulting in the spiritual conversion of the majority of the two brigades encamped in the Three Creeks area.

Chaplain Kavanaugh further reported a conversation with General Parsons, the Division Commander in which the General not only was in favor of the revival meetings, but was pleased with the general conduct of the men under his command. He had not had one complaint of the civilians living in the Three Creeks community against any soldier. He further stated a number of the civilians were attending the meetings and were among the ones also being converted to faith. The total number of conversions at Three Creeks was estimated at 500. Similar revival meetings of Confederate soldiers and civilians were held in the Camden (Arkansas) area approximately 50 miles away, and the number of converted men there also approached 500 bringing the total to near 1000 in South Arkansas alone!

I have no record of any of the Moore family attending those military prayer meetings in Three Creeks, but I believe given the immensity and intensity of those meetings many in the family were there and were converted and strengthened in their faith. God will use every circumstance in our lives to drive us to Him when our eyes and our hearts are open to His grace. Times of stress and the surrounding danger of wars are fertile gospel grounds. Thank God for the Lord Jesus and His redeeming works, especially at Three Creeks, Arkansas. I am thankful Alexander chose to move there instead of going on to Texas, whatever the reason! 🙂

Dr. John

 

 

Four Generations of Medical Ministry – Part 2

Dr. John Aaron Moore
1898

Dr. Berry Lee Moore Sr.
1932

Dr. Berry Lee Moore Jr.
1954

Dr. John Henry Moore
1964

Dr. James Michael Berry
1984

Dr David Lee Berry
1991

 

Our sister Marilyn graduated from high school in 1954 and went to college for her first year at Lindenwood College in St. Charles, Missouri. She transferred her second year to the University of Texas because of the friendship and influence of Mary Ann Nowlin,  a classmate at Lindenwood from Houston, Texas. It was at the University of Texas she met George Berry from Lubbock whom she dated, fell in love with and married in 1957. She tried to persuade me to attend the University of Texas, but I told her I had too much Razorback blood in my veins to do that. 🙂

George earned his doctorate in Banking and Finance and began a teaching career at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He continued in his academic career for nine years and decided to make the transition into the business world as a financial consultant in banking. They moved initially to Midland for 9 years and ultimately moved back to Austin in 1978. He and Marilyn had 4 sons; James, John, Robert and David. Their oldest, James Michael and their youngest, David Lee decided to pursue careers in medicine, and they became the 4th generation of medical doctors from the lineage of Dr. J.A. Moore.

It was exciting for all of us concerning their decisions, and both James and David were able to spend some time in El Dorado in the summer months during their training years with both Berry Lee and me. They were able to shadow us to learn some of the practical applications of their medical training with actual patient care. They assisted me in the operating room with many surgical cases, and I encouraged both of them to consider careers in the surgical field. Both young men were not only gifted intellectually, but had excellent eye-hand coordination skills well suited for a surgical specialty.

James received his MD degree from the  University of Texas Medical Center in Houston in 1984 and decided on anesthesiology as his specialty. From the outset he has had an outstanding career in the academic and patient practice world. In addition to providing anesthesia care for countless tens of thousands, he has helped train several generations of new anesthesiologists. While in Houston one of his responsibilities was in the field of hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy, and he was in charge of the huge multi-place chamber at UT Houston. During those years he encouraged me to become certified in HBO therapy; which I did, and this led to my transition into primary wound care for the last 12 years of my practice life.

James moved with his family in 2001 to Jackson, Mississippi where he became Professor and head of the Department of Anesthesia at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.It was there he began his design and subsequent construction of a revolutionary device for reclaiming exhaled anesthetic gasses. When he moved again in 2003 to Nashville, Tennessee to become Professor and head of Anesthesia at Vanderbilt University, he was able to put into practice his Dynamic Gas Scavenging System (DGSS). The previous cost to Vanderbilt University for anesthetic gas was approximately one million dollars per year, but with James’s system in place, the cost dropped to approximately one hundred thousand dollars, a 90% savings! This device is patented and now commercially available; being used in a number of hospitals nationwide.

James moved with his family back to Texas in 2018 where he is now a Professor of Anesthesiology and on the staff of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. In addition to his many other responsibilities, James has served for years on The American Board of Anesthesiology as an examiner for the oral portion of the certification process for all anesthesiologists completing their training.

David attended medical school at The University of Texas in Galveston where he graduated with as an M.D in 1991. He decided on a career in Obstetrics and Gynecology and took additional training in Maternal Fetal Medicine. He has practiced his specialty in Austin, Texas since 1997 when he founded The Austin Perinatal Associates. The specialty also know as High Risk Obstetrics treats expectant mothers who have had complications in the past; have illnesses such as diabetes which can lead to high morbidity and mortality rates for the newborns; and for suspected or known abnormal conditions of the fetus. David’s skills which are unique, include prenatal diagnoses, invasive diagnostic and invasive procedures of the baby while still in the uterus and critical care obstetrical procedures. Because there are less than 6 Maternal Fetal specialists in Austin the demand for his expertise is huge. The population of Austin and all of central Texas may approach close to 2 million. In his practice for over 22 years David has successfully treated many thousands of grateful mothers and safely delivered their babies under very stressful conditions.

In March, 2017 David was privileged to safely deliver the Hodges family quintuplets at Seton Hospital, and this was the first set of quints delivered in Austin since 2009 The events surrounding the labor and delivery of their babies were the subject of a documentary on The Learning Channel (TLC) aired in the fall of 2017 and entitled Hodges Half Dozen (they already had one child prior to the quintuplets). The show became a reality television series, and David was prominently featured in the first episode.

David, his wife Lisa and their family members are strong Christians in their beliefs and witness, and in July, 2018 he was ordained as a minister of their church, The Throne of Grace in Austin. They are involved in multiple ministries and outreaches in the Austin community through their church because of their personal devotion to the cause of Christ.

God gifts us all differently, and we are to use those gifts for the benefit of others and to the glory of God. I don’t consider the profession of medicine any greater nor more important than any other profession. I am honored to have had the opportunity for all my professional years to have served others with my medical and surgical skills and to have been in a family of so many physicians. Perhaps there will be yet a 5th generation of physicians in our family, but irregardless we are fully committed to loving and serving others in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ..

Dr. John

 

Four Generations of Medical Ministry – Part 1

 

Dr. John Aaron Moore
1898

Dr. Berry Lee Moore Sr.
1932

Dr. Berry Lee Moore Jr.
1954

Dr. John Henry Moore
1964

 

Dr. James Michael Berry
1984

 

Dr David Lee Berry
1991

 

I was born into a family of medical doctors. My Dad (Pop) was a second generation physician and had been in practice with his father, Dr. John Aaron Moore for 5 years prior to my birth in 1939. Granddad Moore began his practice in Union County, Arkansas in 1898 in the community of Lisbon and later moved his family to El Dorado in 1912 where he continued to practice until his death in 1943.

The small, quiet town of El Dorado, Arkansas was transformed into a boom town with the discovery of oil in 1921, and the population quickly grew from just several thousand residents to near 40,000 within a few months. The medical needs of the town grew exponentially, and Dr. J. A.’s practice responsibilities were huge. The economy during the 1920’s was booming and people were better able to pay for the medical care they needed. There was no such thing in those days as medical insurance, so everyone paid either cash for their care or bartered with their physician using such things as fresh vegetables, chickens, hogs or rabbits. No one was ever turned away from receiving medical care by Granddad Moore because of lack of money. That principle of reimbursement for medical treatment begun by Granddad was continued throughout the next 2 generations of Moore’s who served the people of South Arkansas.

Upon completion of his medical training in 1934, my Dad (Pop) joined his father in a general medical practice in which they treated every medical condition including delivering babies and doing all forms of surgical procedures. Following medical school graduation in 1932 Pop had taken 2 years of additional surgical training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and was qualified to do most general surgical procedures in addition to orthopedic procedures. They continued their practice together through the economically depressed era of the 1930’s and the beginning of World War II. Granddad Moore had severe coronary artery disease  and died as a result of a heart attack in September, 1943. Pop continued in a solo practice through the 1940’s and 1950’s during the maturing years of my older brother Berry Lee, Jr., our sister Marilyn and me.

My brother Berry Lee (Bubba) joined Pop in a general medical practice in 1957 after he completed his internship at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and had served 2 years in the US Air Force at Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile, Alabama. Bubba learned the skills of a few surgical procedures such as Caesarean section, hernia repair and skin lesion removal but generally left surgical procedures to Pop and he assisted him in the OR when necessary.

Their practice location was on the second floor in the Masonic Building in downtown El Dorado on the west side of the square. Granddad was the Worshipful Master of the Masonic lodge responsible for constructing the building in the 1930’s. As a young boy visiting my Pop’s and brother’s clinic, I recall the odors of a medical office filling my nostrils upon climbing the first steps of the Masonic building. Near the end of Pop’s life in the early 1960’s plans were being made to build a new clinic on Grove Street situated between the two hospitals, Warner Brown Hospital and Union County Medical Center (now Medical Center of South Arkansas). The clinic was completed and dedicated several months following Pop’s death from heart disease in January, 1966.

I completed my surgical training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans in 1969, and was required to spend 2 years in the U.S. Air Force in Valdosta, Georgia. In 1971 Cathy and I moved to El Dorado where I joined Bubba in The Moore Clinic on Grove Street. My practice was primarily general surgical, but because I was associated with Bubba, I also did some general medicine in addition and shared night calls and weekend calls with him.

I continued in this practice model until 1974 when I joined The Surgical Clinic of South Arkansas with 3 other general surgeons. In this new setting I limited my practice to general surgery exclusively. Both Bubba and I agreed this would be a better situation in that other family practitioners would be more likely to refer their surgical patients to me. Bubba continued referring all of his surgical patients to me, and he was freed from the responsibility of assisting me in the operating room on the more complicated procedures.

In 1977 when Cathy and I had a spiritual conversion to make Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, our lives were transformed in every respect. Bubba, who was a dynamic and witnessing Christian was instrumental in our faith conversion, and he offered to mentor me in my role as a Christian who served and ministered in the practice of medicine. This was an entirely new life and lifestyle for me because in all my prior years I had never seen a physician who ministered Christ and Christ-like attributes to his patients. For the next 22 years while living and practicing in El Dorado along-side Bubba, he poured his wisdom and encouragement into me. When we moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2000 and then to Branson, Missouri in 2005 my medical practice was in wound care exclusively and no longer in general surgery. Bubba and I continued to talk regularly with each other by phone and occasional visits, and he continued mentoring me until his departure from earth on August 7, 2009. He had retired from medical practice in 2000 in order to care for his wife LaNell who had developed an illness requiring his close attention.

The 3 generations of Moore’s practicing medicine in El Dorado continued uninterrupted from 1898 to 2000, while the 4th generation of physicians in the family had begun serving and ministering in Texas beginning in the 1980’s.

— to be continued:

Dr John

 

 

“I Told You I Would Spend It!”

 

 

 

 

Insurance Policies

 

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.

Dr. John

PS: He never took that trip to Europe, but I sure wish he had.

 

Observing a Bris Mila (Jewish Circumcision)

Brit Mila (Bris)

As a general surgeon with 45 years experience of observing and performing thousands of operations, the most interesting, by far was as an observer at a Jewish circumcision. While stationed at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia as the only surgeon on the base from 1969-1971, I was responsible for all the surgical procedures done at the base. I was fresh out of surgical training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and eager to apply my newly acquired skills where needed.

Not long after arrival the lone Internist (Internal Medicine Specialist) on the base, Dr. Steve Zaron asked if I would be interested in observing the circumcision of his new-born son. I knew the spiritual importance of circumcision for the Jews dated back to Abraham recorded in the Old Testament in Genesis 17:10-14. He was instructed to be circumcised along with all Jewish men as a covenant sign of their faith in the Lord God Almighty. According to God’s commandment all newborn males were to be circumcised on the 8th day of life.

I readily accepted Dr. Zaron’s invitation to be present at the ceremony of his son’s circumcision. Any Jewish ceremony requires 10 men of Jewish faith to be present, and since there were were not 10 Jewish men at Moody AFB, Dr. Zaron said I could stand in as a Jew despite being a Southern Baptist. I had been baptized in a Southern Baptist church as a pre-teen, but in those days Cathy and I were only occasional attenders of the First Methodist Church in Valdosta. My only requirement for attendance was to wear the Jewish skullcap, the yarmulke. After arrival of the Rabbi who performed the ceremony, he joked with me about a Baptist wearing a skullcap saying, “Don’t worry about it Doctor. We only ask for you to give $1000 to The National Jewish Appeal!” At that time in our life Cathy and I didn’t have even $100 in our savings account, so I was grateful he was only joking!

The Rabbi invited by the Zaron’s was from the Synagogue in Jacksonville, Florida which is about 90 miles from Valdosta. Because there were only 8-10 Jewish families in Valdosta at that time, most of them traveled to Jacksonville to worship and for special Jewish ceremonies. I don’t recall the Rabbi’s name, but he was elderly (approximately 75 years old), and I remember he had been in Jacksonville for nearly 50 years. The other things I remember about him were that he was forgetful of names and had a visible tremor in his hands. As I think about his physical signs now, he might have had Parkinson’s Disease. I was curious and a little concerned about his skill and ability to perform such a delicate procedure on a tiny 8 day old infant. Dr. Zaron obviously knew the Rabbi well, because he joked with him saying, “We have Dr. Moore here as a surgical observer to make sure you do the procedure correctly.” To which the Rabbi responded to me, “Don’t worry yourself Doctor. I have done thousands of these!”

A Rabbi who does circumcisions is called a mohel (pronounced “moil”), and the ceremony is called Bris Mila, or Bris. I was curious about his instruments, and before he began he showed me a beautiful cherry wood box which was velvet lined. There were 2 instruments in the box; one was a surgical C clamp, and the other was a beautiful ceremonial knife which appeared to be 14-16 inches in length and very sharp. Both appeared to be stainless steel and neither were pre-sterilized.

With some preliminary remarks by both Dr. Zaron and then the Rabbi, the 10 men gathered around the baby. Dr. Zaron sat in a comfortable chair and held his son in his arms. The Rabbi stood while preparing the baby for the procedure by cleansing him with some type of cleansing fluid. All the while he was speaking in Hebrew, none of which I could understand, but the other men who were Jewish seemed to know exactly what he was saying. I do know when he was to speak the baby’s Jewish name name, he kept forgetting the name and Dr. Zaron had to correct him. The Rabbi was not in the least perturbed by his memory lapses as if this was common for him.

As I watched over the next 5 minutes and observed the Rabbi’s shakiness and heard his memory lapses, I became more anxious that my surgical services might well be needed before this afternoon was over. The baby had been lightly sedated with a nipple which had a wine- soaked cotton ball inside, and he was perfectly happy with everything taking place. With a deftness of hand, the Rabbi then applied the C clamp across the foreskin making certain only skin was in the clamp. This was the only time the baby whimpered a little with pain. Several more statements by the Rabbi were made in Hebrew and several mentions of the baby’s name which had to be corrected. Then the Rabbi took the knife and with a very swift motion, he excised the protruding foreskin without the baby even making the slightest motion or even crying out in pain. I think I winced more than the baby!

Following a few more remarks by the Rabbi he removed the C clamp and I leaned over to look at the surgical site. To say I was shocked would be an understatement, because the result was the most perfect circumcision I have ever seen! There was not even one drop of blood and young son Zaron seemed to be as happy as he could be. I was extremely happy my surgical experience was not needed.

Following the Bris was a celebration which in addition to the men present, included the baby’s mother and wives of the men present. There was an abundance of delicious food and alcoholic beverages, none of which I drank. Young son Zaron seemed perfectly content to have his baby bottle of milk which I assumed contained no alcohol!

In considering why a Bris is done on the 8th day following birth, it is a medical fact in a newborn the amount of Vitamin K is the highest  on the 8th day and only minimally present at birth. Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and prior to all other circumcisions usually done the day after birth, the babies are given an injection of Vitamin K. God knew injectible Vitamin K was not available in Abraham’s day.

Following this experience whenever I did a circumcision whether on a newborn or an adult, I thought about and longed for the instruments used by the Rabbi that day. For certain the procedure and methods I used were not at all similar to what I observed. I also know for certain I knew the names of my patients. 🙂

Dr. John