Saturday, August 27, 2011


What makes a hero? What is that quality that makes the fireman run back into the burning building looking for one more person to save? What makes that man on the beach run in to saving a drowning victim when he is not a lifeguard?

There are many kinds of heroes, and I would like to share today about two who are no longer with us, but served in such marvelous and exemplary ways.

I first read about Dr. Thomas Dooley when I was a young girl growing up in the Maryland countryside. Dr. Dooley only lived to the tender age of 34, but what he accomplished in that short time is not only amazing but courageous.

Thomas Anthony Dooley III (January 17, 1927 – January 18, 1961) was an American who, while serving as a physician in the United States Navy, became increasingly famous for his humanitarian activities in South East Asia during the late 1950s until his early death from cancer. He authored three popular, inspirational books that described his humanitarian activities in Viet Nam and Laos: Deliver Us From Evil, The Edge of Tomorrow, and The Night They Burned the Mountain. These three were later collected into a single volume and published by Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, under the title, "Dr. Tom Dooley's Three Great Books."

I read Dr. Dooley's books more than one time. If you want a humbling, tearful and inspiring group of books, you need to check these out. I was amazed by his courage. Even when he was wearing an "iron maiden" type brace as his spine was deteriorating from cancer, he fought on to help others he felt were less fortunate than he.

Dooley's legacy continues through the work of the Dooley Foundation-Intermed International, which has carried on the work of Dr. Dooley for the past 50 years. Its headquarters are based in New York City and headed by Dr. Verne Chaney, President and Founder. Dooley-Intermed is a non-profit, non-governmental, non-sectarian, non-political, private voluntary organization receiving its financial support entirely from private contributions. It neither seeks nor receives government grants or contracts. The purpose of the foundation is to provide medical assistance to refugees, children, and villagers in the less privileged parts of the world with emphasis on self-help projects in the areas of preventive medicine, public health, family planning and health worker training. Dooley-Intermed presently supports medical aid projects in four countries: Laos, Nepal, Nicar, and Thailand.

Dr. Dooley lives on.

Catherine The Great!

Her large, strong hands had held me as I drew my first breath twenty years before, and now she would hold my first born child. I knew the first time I met Dr. Johnson that she was an extraordinary woman. It was 1967 and she was sixty-three years old. As I looked into her clear blue eyes, and listened to her soft but authoritative voice, I knew I could trust her to care for me and my unborn child.

Dr. Catherine Johnson was a tall, stately woman with a crop of curly, salt and pepper colored hair atop her head. Her face was strong and angular with high, prominent cheekbones.

Catherine had been brought up in a very strict environment in a time when women did not get to choose to be physicians. Against all odds, this woman earned scholarships and went on to become an Obstetrician.

Her father had always made her wear dark colored gray, blue, black type of clothing, and so as an adult out on her own, she always wore incredibly colorful clothes! One time she came into my room wearing a red and white checkered shirtwaist dress, with a wide red belt and a red flower in her hair!

But, when it came to the business of being a physician, there was none better. She was conscientious, caring and interested in the welfare of the patients in her care.
By the time I met her, she had delivered over 7,000 babies and was still working.

After suffering a stroke, at which point many would have chosen to retire, she chose instead to study art at home during her recovery. She used to paint lovely paintings at the hospital while she was in between checking on her laboring patients. All the money she made selling these paintings, she donated to local scholarships for physicians, because she said without the assistance of scholarships she would never have been able to become a doctor herself.

She frequently told her staff to "write off" charges for patients who she knew were struggling to pay their bills. She was an extraordinary human being, and a real hero in my book.

I have this painting in my home...Catherine painted it, and it is a constant reminder of what it means to give something of yourself back to the world...Catherine has long since left this world, but the memory of her generosity, kindness and heroism lives on in all of us who had the privilege of knowing her.

Tell me about some of your heroes will you?

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