The Man Who Gave Me The Most Trouble

 

Ron Dunn; Evangelist

Through the years I have had the privilege of meeting and hearing some of the greatest preachers of the gospel, and I have been stirred and moved by all of them. One particular favorite evangelist is Ron Dunn whom I only met once, but have read most of his books and listened to many of his audio tapes.

Ron, who is in glory now was raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and in his adult years while living in the Dallas, Texas area maintained the family farm near Fort Smith. When time permitted he, his wife Kaye and their 3 children often spent vacation time on the farm, relaxing by hunting, fishing and spending quality family time together.

He surrendered to vocational ministry at a young age following his spiritual conversion at First Baptist Church Fort Smith and attended seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.in the late 1950’s. He began his preaching as pastor of a number of smaller churches where he also developed administrative skills. His largest and most significant pastorate was at MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irvin, Texas where he began in 1966. It was there the church experienced a Spirit led revival in 1972 which continued until 1975 when Ron was called into vocational evangelism He continued in itinerant evangelism for the next 26 years until his untimely death from pulmonary fibrosis in 2001.

I have learned many spiritual truths from Ron Dunn although I was only in the congregation where he preached on 7 occasions. Five of those experiences were in El Dorado, Arkansas where he preached a revival meeting at First Baptist Church at just the time Dr. Mark Coppenger was leaving the church to move with his family to Indiana. On the Wednesday of that week I had a free morning from my surgical schedule, and I invited Ron to have breakfast at our home and was able to spend several hours with him discussing life situations and what it means to walk with Christ. The time spent with him that morning was both rich and rewarding. During the visit Ron told me a story  related to his formative years in Fort Smith as a young man under the spiritual influence of his pastor, Dr. J. Harold Smith. Ron had his spiritual conversion during Dr. Smith’s tenure and surrendered to the ministry and was ordained by the church while he was pastor.

Dr. Smith became pastor of the relatively large First Baptist Church of Fort Smith in the 1950’s and remained there approximately 10 years while leading the church successfully in evangelism and discipleship. At times his pastorate was marked by turmoil and dissent, because Dr. Smith was a Biblical inerrantist and the moderates in the Southern Baptist Convention in those days were strong and challenged his Biblical interpretations at every opportunity. He had the reputation of being strong in his opinions and firm in his convictions concerning the Bible and its’ relevance. His stance was affirmed by the vast majority of members of this prestigious church, but not by all of them.

On the occasion of Dr. Smith’s 5 year anniversary as pastor he made the following announcement at the Sunday morning worship service, “Tonight in keeping with my 5 years as pastor of this church I will name the man who has given me the most trouble as pastor.” Ron said he was sitting in his seat in the choir loft and was able to observe the congregation’s response to this startling announcement. He said there was stunned silence with looks of anxiety and certainly no “Amens” spoken to encourage the pastor. Everyone in the congregation knew Dr. Smith well enough to know he would keep his word in revealing the troubling culprit.

Ron said by the time the 6 PM worship service began, the church was packed with more people present than had ever attended a Sunday evening service. There were people lining the aisles in folding chairs, and some standing in the foyer in anticipation of his announcement. From his seat in the choir Ron had a perfect view of everything taking place in the auditorium that night. He said several of the deacon’s had brought their lawyers with them to hear what was to be said!

Dr. Smith said nothing concerning the matter during his spiritual message nor during the invitation hymn or the altar call. It seemed for the first time in his ministry he might have changed his mind and decided not to mention any name of the troubling man who had plagued him for 5 years. But just before closing the service he stepped back to the pulpit and made the following statement to an absolutely hushed and anxious congregation, “I told you this morning I was going to announce the name of the man who for the past 5 years of my ministry has consistently given me the most trouble here at First Baptist, and I am going to keep my word.” Ron said the auditorium was so quiet at that moment one could have heard folks breathing, but everyone was holding their breath! “The name of that man is —-J. Harold Smith!!” Ron said their was such an obvious release of anxiety in the auditorium and at least one of the deacons appeared he might faint. 🙂

What a great object lesson the folks at First Baptist Fort Smith learned from their pastor that entire day. Each of us must make certain we are not the source of any quarrelsome attitude or the driving force behind any dissension of the brothers within the body of Christ. God clearly states in His Word in Proverbs 6:16-19 there are 7 things He hates and the 7th one on the list is, “he that soweth discord among brethren.” May that never be said of me.

Dr. John

 

 

 

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Just A Shadow Of His Former Self

Morbid Obesity

Over the past 25 years a serious health crisis has occurred in our country, and it has not only caused devastating damage to individuals and families, but it is preventable.Billions of dollars are spent annually in health care costs by those who are affected, while others are likewise spending billions of dollars to treat and prevent the condition. The problem is obesity and left untreated can become morbid obesity in which a person is at least 100 pounds over their ideal weight! As a nation and a culture we are simply eating ourselves to death.

During my years as a general surgeon I treated my share of patients who were morbidly obese. I confess I dreaded seeing such a patient referred to me for a surgical procedure, because the complication rates were so high and the mortality rates were also increased. I had a family practitioner who referred many patients to me for care, and he would frequently say something like this, “I have a lady who needs her gall bladder removed because of stones, and she is also suffering from acute biscuit poisoning!” It would have been funny were the patients not so prone to poor healing and infections. On one particular weekend I remember doing emergency gall bladder surgery on 3 women whose combined weights were 1100 pounds. Fortunately for my surgical team we were able to do the laparoscopic procedure on each of them, and this was physically much easier than the old-fashioned open procedure. And fortunately for the patients, each of them healed with no complications.

When I transitioned into wound care for the last 12 years of my practice life I also treated many extremely obese patients. One of the many problems of morbid obesity is chronically swollen and edematous lower extremities. This can lead to open wounds of the lower legs, particular in a diabetic patient; and again these wounds are hard to heal and prone to enlarge and become infected.

When I practiced at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, one of my referring physicians was Dr. Tim Cogburn (fictitious name), an internist. His medical office was in the hospital building one floor above the Wound Care Clinic. Occasionally he would come to the clinic for a brief visit, and we would have a cup of coffee together. We became good friends, and he and his wife Darlene (fictitious) even joined our Sunday school class at University Baptist Church.

On one particular visit we were discussing a patient he had referred for treatment of a poorly healing leg ulcer. She was extremely obese, and the wound was requiring an unusually long time to heal. Tim said, “I send you quite a few of my patients with chronic wounds, and all of them are overweight. I understand all of the physical and emotional things an overweight person deals with because of my own experience. I understand the stress in an obese person whose only thoughts are about food, and the intense craving such an individual has for carbohydrates.” I didn’t comment on his remarks because Tim weighed in excess of 300 pounds. Then he made a shocking statement when he said, “I’m just a shadow of my former self. A few years ago I weighed in excess of 600 pounds!” He continued, “I knew as a physician I would not live much longer with that kind of weight so I had a stomach stapling procedure, and as a result lost over 300 pounds.”

We had a brief conversation about the benefits of surgical procedures for extreme obesity, and I asked him, “How many calories a day does a person consume to maintain a weight of over 600 pounds? Over 10,000 calories?” Tim said, “Probably so.” He continued; “Let me tell you a couple of things I did to satisfy my intense hunger pain.Our home was approximately a 20-25 minute drive from my medical office. Within a block of our home was a doughnut shop which made the most delicious doughnuts I ever had. I would stop there every morning and buy 2 dozen doughnuts, and I would eat every one of them while making the 20-25 minute drive.” . “You ate 2 dozen doughnuts every day?” I asked. “Yes sir, and then would have a snack of something sweet before lunch,” he said.I quickly calculated at 200 calories per doughnut, he was consuming 4800 calories daily in doughnuts alone!

“Another story about my food cravings is rather humorous,” he said. “Darlene and I love barbecue sandwiches, and there was a well-known barbecue cafe in town. She called one day and asked if I would stop by the cafe and bring sandwiches home for dinner. I ordered 1 Jumbo for her and 4 Jumbo’s for me and started home. The odor of the freshly made sandwiches was too much for me to resist, and before I made it home I had eaten all 5 of the Jumbo sandwiches! Darlene was so mad at me, and after an argument, I agreed the next time I brought sandwiches home, I would place them in the trunk of the car to prevent me from getting to them. That’s part of the harmful psyche of a morbidly obese individual.”

I confess I love to eat, and many of the foods I enjoy are not healthy when eaten as part of a regular diet. Fried catfish, chicken fried steak, hamburgers, French fried potatoes, cinnamon rolls, and almost any dessert dish are among my favorites. I have learned over the past few years since my intense exercise routines have diminished, eating all the foods I enjoy are a sure path to excess weight gain. Likewise when I restrict the intake of such high carbs I will lose weight. A simple formula for weight loss which I advised my surgical patients who asked is; increase your exercise program and decrease your caloric intake. It is no magic formula, but it works. Losing extra pounds and coming as close to one’s ideal weight will sure make your surgeon happy, and it might just prolong your life!

Dr. John

 

The Young’s of Fort Lauderdale

Cathy; George; Nancy – circa 1945

In the fall of 1964 when I was an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia a friend named Marsha Moore arranged for me to have a “blind date” with Cathy Young, a fellow elementary teacher at her school. Marsha was married to a close friend and fellow intern Dan Moore, whom I had known since college days at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. This double date that night in Atlanta 55 years ago started Cathy and me on a beautiful and wonderful life journey and was the beginning of a life of grace together which was established in heaven.

After Cathy and I had been seriously dating for several months, I had the privilege of meeting the first member of her family from Fort Lauderdale, Florida her mother; Virginia Young. At the time Virginia was President of the Florida School Board Association, and she was in Atlanta for a national meeting of State School Board Presidents. I think the real reason she came to Atlanta was to meet the young man who had been steadily dating her younger daughter, and had gotten word we were considering engagement for marriage. The evening I met Virginia (Mom) I was just coming off ER duty at the hospital and still had on my uniform which was all white. There were a few spots of blood on my coat and pant’s leg from the day’s work, and for years afterward Mom would tell people, “When I first met John Henry in Atlanta, he had been on ER duty and was covered in blood!”

The Young’s were a pioneer family of Fort Lauderdale. Cathy’s grandfather, George W. Young came to Fort Lauderdale from northern England in the early 1900’s and began a construction business, which was the first of its’ type in the city and became one of the premier construction business’s in all of South Florida. Cathy’s Dad, George F. joined his father in the business in the 1930’s, and became known for his mastery of custom design in homes while developing skill as an expert on steel and concrete. Many of the business’s on historic Las Olas Boulevard and the Riverside Hotel as well as the Governor’s Club Hotel were built by Young Construction Company, During those busy years the company employed as many as 180 laborers.

Cathy’s Mom was an outstanding person and unsurpassed politician in Broward County. For the decades between the 1970’s and 1990’s she was the best known woman in South Florida. In addition to raising 3 outstanding children along with her husband George (Dad), Virginia (Mom) was deeply involved in the education and political life of the people of Fort Lauderdale. From her position as State School Board Chairman, she ran for and won a seat on the City Commission. For 2 separate terms she served as Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, and to this date is the only woman to hold that position. She also served 2 terms as Vice Mayor and later Mayor Pro-Tem during her service years for the city. When her time on the City Commission ended, she served on the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) for 7 years helping preserve historic landmarks and direct new business development for this booming city.

The Young’s three children, George, Nancy and Cathy were able to grow up in a beautiful ocean-side city which was safe enough for young people to play on the beach unaccompanied by adults. Neighborhoods for the most part were not dangerous, and children could play without fear of kidnapping. Walking the streets and playing in yards in the evening and into the night could be done without parental observation.

Following high school graduation Cathy and her older siblings continued their education by attending Florida State University in Tallahassee. George led the way in 1955, and pursued a degree in education leading to his PhD in 1966 with the focus on student affairs. His first and only position outside of Florida was as Dean of Students at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, and he and his wife, Dawn moved there in 1966. By this time they had 2 small children, Jenifer and George IV. He served this growing college between the years 1966 to 1969, and was offered a similar position as Dean of Students at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale. This was the same year I was commissioned as a medical officer in the U. S. Air Force at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta. Cathy and I were initially so excited to live in the same town as George and his family only to discover they had decided to move.One of George’s last good deeds in Valdosta was to locate and secure for Cathy, our young son John Aaron and me, a beautiful home which we rented for the two years we were stationed at Moody AFB.. George continued in his role as Vice President of Student Affairs until his retirement  in the early years of 2000. He was such as recognized national leader in his profession he served in 1979-1980 as President of NASPA, the National Association of Student Administrators, and was the first administrator from a community college to have been elected as President of this prestigious organization.

Nancy followed George in obtaining her degree in education at Florida State which she completed in 1961 with a BA with honors. She obtained her master’s degree from FSU in 1965, also with honors. Nancy’s first teaching position was in Sopchopee, Florida where she taught in the elementary school  She moved to Titusville, Florida on the east coast with her young son, Clay and continued teaching until she became an elementary school principal in the late 1960’s. At the urging of friends and colleagues Nancy decided on a career in law and moved with Clay in the early 1970’s to Gainesville, Florida. She got her JD degree from the University of Florida in 1977. By this time she had met and married Norman Smith from Kissimmee, Florida, and she joined Norman in his law firm of Brinson, Smith and Heller in 1977. She practiced law for over 35 years in her new firm; Brinson, Smith and Smith.

Besides her love of law, especially Family Law, Nancy was an avid bass fisherman who knew and fished all the lakes of central Florida especially Lake Toho (Tohopekaliga). She was such a recognized expert on bass fishing she had a regular column in the Kissimmee News-Gazette describing  tips on where and how to catch the largest of the large mouth bass of Florida.

George and Virginia Young (Dad and Mom) each made tremendous impacts in their time, into the lives of people in Fort Lauderdale, while raising 3 outstanding children who carried on the Young legacy. In my opinion the youngest of the Young children is the most outstanding member of a very wonderful family, and she happens to be Catherine Reta (Cathy), my wife for the past 53 years. I will admit to extreme prejudice, while at the same time am very grateful to the Lord for that “blind date” in Atlanta in 1964!

Dr. John

 

I Had A Fool For A Doctor

Self Examination In The Mirror

At first glance the title of this blog seems judgmental and unkind, and one which may cause some to think, “I would like to know the name of his doctor and avoid ever making an appointment with him!” Far from judging the qualifications of another I have recently been in the mode of self-assessment concerning my own health.

Approximately 2 1/2 years ago I was asked a simple question by a respected friend at church, “Who is your doctor?” I knew the basis for the question was my friend was searching for a family doctor and wanted my recommendation for such an individual. I jokingly said to him, “I am my own doctor and prescribe whatever I need for myself. Why just the other day I looked in the mirror, and asked my doctor how I was doing, and he said I was doing just fine, and didn’t need to return for another year.” My friend who asked the question said, ” Never mind. I’m going to get a second opinion and another recommendation!”

Despite my joking and frivolous answer I soon was to discover I had certainly been evaluating my own health without the assistance of a qualified physician. I not only had misdiagnosed a long-standing heart problem, but in failing to seek earlier help had delayed some much-needed medications and surgical interventions. I was living proof of a saying I heard years before, “A doctor who treats himself has an idiot for a patient and a fool for a doctor!”

In less than 6 months of the question from my Christian brother, I went from taking 2 prescribed medications to taking 7 separate medicines daily. By the end of the year I had undergone a triple-bypass heart procedure and was being treated for long-standing atrial fibrillation. I am still being treated for an abnormally high heart rate and have had multiple interventions including 2 cardiac ablations. A person who has had one knows what I’m discussing, and my purpose is not to describe an ablation procedure. It is a cardiology procedure done in the hospital with a 2 day-stay for the purpose of slowing the heart rate. As of this writing my heart rate is normal, and my life-style should return to the status it was over 2 years ago. I seem to have been a dumb, slow learner, but at  least now smart enough to ask for help. I have now sought the proper care from at least 4 excellent physicians.

As a physician in practice for almost 50 years I took great pride in correctly diagnosing the conditions of my patients. But when it came to my self-evaluation I was proven to be a fool and an idiot at the same time. What a recommendation!! 🙂 There is a bright side to this; however, and the application has an eternal perspective.

Every one should be in the mode of self-assessment to discern their own motives, desires, dreams and actions while submitting those thoughts and actions to the Lordship and direction of Jesus Christ. When one fails to surrender his thoughts and plans to His Creator and Savior, he is immediately on a path which will lead to failure and possible destruction. Self motivation and self direction are the results of pride and  rooted in the worldly advice which says one should “be his own man and direct his own path.” The award-winning song “I Did It My Way” made popular by Frank Sinatra in the 1970’s perfectly describes this kind of thinking and living.

Many of us have been modeled and taught self initiative from childhood. Success in life is more frequently gauged by our intellect, our profession, our net worth and our retirement plans. While there is nothing inherently evil in these parameters, they focus more on the present status with precious little view to the future, particularly our eternal future..The focus is inward instead of outward, and the goal is on self and not on others. Considering the life expectancy of the healthiest among us to be approximately 75 years, we don’t have long to try to get it right. Having already exceeded that age by several years one might assume I would have had a clearer understanding.

The journey Cathy and I have taken for the past several years has helped us focus more clearly on our relationship with each other and our plans together going forward. In past years when health was not an issue there seemed to be less urgency for planning ahead, and not enough intentionality on my part in making certain my relationship with Cathy was Christ-honoring and fresh every day. The loving and sacrificial care she gave me when I was helplessly disabled from multiple hospitalizations and surgical procedures made me see more clearly and appreciate more fully what a treasure she is to me. Nothing will highlight one’s true character more than a serious health problem.

For these and many other reasons both Cathy and I affirm the truth from Romans 8:28 which assures us God will work all things together for good for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose. I did not purpose to be foolish in treating myself medically, but the results were disastrous and almost fatal. As I finally surrendered to wise counsel, God began working it all out for our good and for His Glory. I am so thankful neither God nor Cathy have given up on me!

Dr. John

 

The Differences Between Doing Well And Well Doing

Mercedes Benz

Model A Ford

As a result of recent heart issues and a series of hospital admissions with tests and procedures, I have repeatedly been asked the question by loving,concerned family and friends, “How are you doing?” The context of the question is, of course health, but in a larger sense I have been pondering just how am I really doing? My general response to almost every health-issue query has been, “I am doing well”, when in the back of my mind I am thinking I’m not doing well at all! Is it possible for me to be doing well when all around me seems to indicate just the opposite?

An evangelist friend Junior Hill from Hartselle, Alabama has a paperback book published in 2002 entitled “Out Of Season” which Cathy and I have been reading together. The overall theme of this well-written book is for all Christian workers and especially pastors and teachers to remain faithful to their call to love and serve God in whatever situation they may find themselves. This beautiful book has come to Cathy and me at an especially critical time to help us focus on the really important issues of life and service to God through others. Even when health was good, how many of us have not pondered how poorly we seemed to be doing when our external circumstances seem to point that way?  Brother Junior helps clarify and refocus such negative self-analysis by referring often to the passage from the Bible in Galatians 6: 9,10 in which the Apostle Paul admonishes all believers; “And let us not be weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith”. KJV

There is a clear distinction between doing well and well-doing, and the distinction has to do with our focus. A person who has tremendous wealth demonstrated by living in a luxurious home, wearing the latest designer clothes while driving a Mercedes-Benz sports car, may think he is doing well. While another individual living in a rented one bed-room shack, wearing second-hand clothes and driving a broken-down Model A may not think he is doing very well at all. A deeper focus for each of these individuals to see just what they are giving their lives to might reverse their answers.

Doing well tends to focus on the externals of life, the worldly pleasures and treasures which at best are temporary.While well doing focuses on matters of faith, concern for others and a deep desire to know and obey God’s Word which is eternal. The former passes away while the latter is forever. Discouragement is always at the doorstep of the one whose external circumstances are poor, and when invited in and offered a seat he will stay as long as allowed. Although never intended all of us are guilty of nurturing our disappointments in order to obtain the maximum in attention and sympathy. It takes intentionality and resolve for the enemy of discouragement to be thrown out and kept out of our thoughts and lives. Our #1 enemy, Satan loves to constantly whisper in our ear we are getting just what we deserve when we look around and don’t find many of the attractive and shiny things our neighbors are enjoying. His constant harping may sound like this, “See how poor you are? That’s the result of your trying to be a so-called good Christian! Give up all that nonsense and I will make you more comfortable like your neighbors.”

While recently an in-patient in a hospital for several days I was able to share the principle of well-doing with a hospital employee who was in my room more often than I would have desired. He was a phlebotomist (blood drawer) named Chris, and was taking samples of my blood every 6 hours to help regulate my blood clotting mechanism. I began asking him about his goals in life, and he said he was considering becoming a doctor such as an orthopedic surgeon. He said he wasn’t sure he could afford the time and the cost required to achieve such a goal, but wanted to be a doctor so he could do “a lot of good for people.” I reassured him he was already doing a lot of good for people by being the very best phlebotomist. God had gifted him to be very steady and confident in his skills, and he really was the best phlebotomist I had ever had. (I had lots of others over the past 2 years!) I further encouraged him to not compare what he had in terms of houses, clothes and cars to what an orthopedic surgeon might have. They would seem to be doing well while he would seem to not be doing so well. The truth is he was well doing because he was using his God-given skills to help lots of people, and this was well-pleasing to God! I was able to further explain to him the passage from Galatians 6 where God promises as he continues well-doing, he will reap much greater rewards from his God and his Savior. He had told me he was a Christian. When he left my room for the last time he said, “Thank you Dr. Moore. You helped me a lot.” I said, “Thank you Chris. You helped me a lot!”

As a result of carefully examining the real issues of my heart (the intent of my heart instead of the heart rate) I am resolving to focus entirely on well-doing instead of doing well. I would certainly enjoy doing well, which I know won’t last, but I will continually reap the greater rewards of well-doing which will last forever!

Dr. John

 

The Day I Met Stan the Man

Stan Musial

Most young men who love playing and watching baseball games have at least one hero whom they admire and seek to emulate. I had several heroes during my Boy’s Club baseball playing days in the early 1950’s, but my absolute favorite was Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals. He was affectionately known by all as “Stan the Man”, and he lived up to his nickname in almost every category one could name. One of the reasons I so admired Stan the Man was because my beloved Aunt Tooky was also from St. Louis, and she spoke often and in glowing terms about what a good man and great baseball player he was. She did not know him personally but had several friends who did.

Aunt Tooky (Thelma Manne) was my Mom’s older sister who had lived in St. Louis most of her adult life. Because she was wealthy, having been married to Uncle Max (a furniture manufacturer) for many years, she was personally familiar with many St. Louis dignitaries. She lived alone in The Chase Apartments which were exclusive and very expensive apartments adjacent to the well-known Chase Hotel. She and Uncle Max had lived separate lives for at least 10 years but had remained friends. The only explanation I was ever given concerning their marital status was, “They had trouble getting along”, and this satisfied my curiosity about her strange living arrangement. I have written 2 blog stories of the impact Aunt Tooky had on me, and how I loved being with her. (The Quality Grocery Store, Mar. 2013 and Meeting Roy Rogers, Mar. 2013). When she lived with us in El Dorado while managing The Quality Grocery Store for several months in the late 1940’s, I told her how much I admired Stan the Man and hoped one day when visiting her in St. Louis I could meet him. This planted a small seed in Aunt Tooky’s mind. I knew she loved surprising me.

As my baseball playing career with the El Dorado Boy’s Club began flourishing in the early 1950’s, so my admiration for Stan the Man increased. I knew most of his playing statistics and easily quoted them with family and friends whenever conversations turned to major league baseball. This was at least 10 years before the availability of televised games, and my information was acquired through newspaper stories, occasional  movie news clips and very infrequent radio broadcasts of St. Louis Cardinal games. On one family visit to St. Louis in the summer of 1948 my Uncle Harry (Aunt Tooky’s brother-in-law) had taken me to a baseball game at Sportsman’s Park. I’m sure I sat there in wonder the entire 9 innings with my mouth open, actually seeing men play whom I had only read and dreamed about. I didn’t even think about getting an autograph, because I thought it would have been impossible with so many people in the stadium. I had never been in a stadium with 45,000 people, which was double the number of people who lived in El Dorado!

During the summer of 1950 I was developing into a pretty good third baseman for Gulf Refining (El Dorado Boy’s Club), but we were not at our best and missed the play-offs that year. Mom wanted to make a week-long visit to St. Louis to spend time with Aunt Tooky and Aunt Ruth, her other sister who lived in St. Louis. It was her husband, Uncle Harry who had taken me to the Cardinal game. Uncle Harry was another hero. (My Favorite Uncle Harry, Apr. 2013). I was excited to stay at Aunt Tooky’s apartment, and especially because she had a television set on which I could watch shows like Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody, and Art Linkletter, It was that summer while there Aunt Tooky asked, “Would you like to meet Stan Musial?” She didn’t have to hear my answer, because she said she had a friend who would set up a meeting the very next morning. I didn’t know Stan the Man owned a restaurant when she said we would drive to his restaurant and meet him in the morning because he had a game to play the next night. I doubt I slept much that night I  was so excited.

Aunt Tooky drove a Chrysler 2 door convertible and riding in her car was such fun, and the thrill of it only compounded the whole experience. Mom didn’t go with us so I could get the full impact of such a momentous occasion. It was just Aunt Tooky and me! She had an attorney friend named Arnold Kovin who was good buddies with Stan, and he made it all happen.

Stan owned a famous restaurant named “Stan Musial and Biggie”s, and it had opened about a year prior. “Biggie” Garagnani was an experienced restaurateur who knew adding Stan Musial as a business partner would only mean greater success. Aunt Tooky knew exactly the location and drove straight there to meet him at 10 AM in front of the building. As she pulled into an empty parking spot at exactly the appointed time he was standing out front. He was dressed in a suit which was out of character for me, because I had only seen him in a Cardinal uniform as pictured above. As I stepped out of the car, he said, “You must be the young ball player from Arkansas.” while extending his hand to shake my hand. I don’t remember one thing else which was said because I was in such awe of this celebrity who acted as if he wanted to meet me! I do remember his kind and gentle manner as he looked into my eyes and handed me a new baseball in its’ own case. He said something like he was glad to meet me and thanked me for being a Cardinal fan. His parting words indicated he hoped to see me again soon. It all happened so fast the next I remember was riding back to Aunt Tooky’s apartment looking at this treasure I held. As I opened the box I beheld this new baseball inscribed, “To John Henry Best Wishes Stan Musial.” Had I been given the Hope Diamond I could have not felt more wealthy!

Aunt Tooky had come through again. First Roy Rogers and now Stan Musial. In my childish amazement I considered her ability to make dreams come true was unlimited. I couldn’t wait to get back to El Dorado to show my baseball buddies what a big shot I had now become!

Dr. John

“Your Daddy Is a Doctor!”

Overturned Auto in Briar Patch

When our 2 daughters were in their teen years I really wanted to be as involved in their lives as I possibly could. I well understood some of the stresses and anxieties of teen years, but had some difficulty in relating to teen-aged girls. My sister Marilyn was 3 years older. and if she had any teen related problems she surely didn’t share them with me. I was pretty much clueless to the doubts, fears, insecurities, self-image anxieties, boy friend concerns, hormone changes and just plain understanding the mind of a teen-aged girl! Cathy was great in her understanding and sympathetic leadership of Mary Kay and Ginny, but she had problems transferring that wisdom to me. It was not I was a slow learner, but I thought somehow the medical knowledge I learned in medical school regarding medical and psychological problems prepared me to be a good Dad to teenagers. It didn’t.

On one particular week-end I thought it would be fun to accompany Cathy, Mary Kay and Ginny on a shopping trip to Monroe, Louisiana. There was a great new shopping mall on Interstate 20 called Pecanland Mall which had opened in 1985, and it quickly became a favorite of ours. The road from El Dorado to Monroe was narrow and curvy, but the trip usually took an hour and a half whereas the trip to Little Rock always took 2+ hours. I don’t remember where John was that particular week-end but he didn’t make this trip with us.

We had made the trip to Monroe many times, and I was familiar with the various curves and unevenness in the road. From Farmerville, Louisiana south towards Monroe there are some steep hills which prevent viewing oncoming traffic until they are right upon you, so I always was cautious and payed extra close attention when approaching those hills. At one particular hill a passenger car with several children riding with parents was approaching me and a single passenger car pulled into my lane to pass. I told our girls I was pulling onto the shoulder hoping there was enough room to avoid a head-on collision. At exactly that time the driver saw us and jerked his car back behind the car ahead of him causing him to start fish-tailing, just as I passed over the crest of the hill. All I saw in my rear view mirror was a cloud of dirt and rocks. I knew he had crashed his vehicle and told our girls we were going back, so I made a quick U-turn. Fortunately there were no other vehicles on the road anywhere near us.

As I came back over the hill I saw the errant driver’s car had run down into a ditch, had overturned and was smoking with the wheels still turning. Our older daughter Mary Kay screamed, “We need to get a doctor, we need to get a doctor!” Cathy turned in her seat, faced Mary Kay and said, “Your Daddy IS a doctor!” Mary Kay said, “Oh yeh.” When I pulled to a stop as far off the narrow highway as possible, our other daughter Ginny screamed, “It’s gona’ blow up, it’s gona’ blow up!” I was pretty sure that was not going to happen. The car was lying in a huge briar patch, and when I got down the hill and navigated through the briar patch, I found the driver sitting propped up against the frame of the car. He was dazed but had no obvious external wounds apart from scrapes and bruises. He was a late middle-aged Black American wearing a vested suit with a tie. I noted on the interior roof of his overturned car was a pistol, and I assumed it had been on the seat of the car when it overturned.

When I asked the driver what happened he groggily said, “Somebody ran me off the road.” I told him he had better get his story straight, because his reckless driving and attempt to pass with a double yellow line in his lane caused him to run off the highway. He said he was in a hurry to attend a funeral in Ruston, Louisiana (about 40 miles away) and he was running about 30 minutes late. I told him he would be attending his own funeral the way he was driving. Within 15 minutes a local sheriff’s deputy arrived, and I was able to give him an account of the details of the accident. I had an idea there would be further investigations.

About 2 weeks later I received a telephone call from a lady identifying herself as an insurance investigator. She said her client claimed he “was forced off the highway” causing extensive damage to his vehicle. I gave her the exact statement I had given to the sheriff’s deputy, and told her I would be happy to testify under oath if needed. I heard nothing further concerning the wreck and assumed the preacher with the pistol was unharmed. I doubt he made it to the funeral in Ruston!

Since those days as teens both our daughters have trusted my experience as a doctor and have consulted me often concerning their own health issues and those of their families. I am confident they trust my medical judgement and wisdom. In reflection on this humorous event and others I am grateful to both of them and to our son they have thought of me more as a Daddy than as a doctor, and after all that is exactly what I desired.

Dr. John

PS: We continued on our shopping trip to Monroe and as best I remember, had a good lunch at the Red Lobster after purchasing dresses and accessories for both girls. Most of our conversation the rest of that day revolved around the dangerous, speeding, pistol packing preacher!