Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

March 18, 2002

Dr. Jim Smith, who graduated from St. Mary's High School in 1967 is now a surgeon in St. Cloud.

He has made several trips to the highlands of Guatemala with a humanitarian medical team from Minnesota.

He had written a letter for the Aug. 11, 2001, issue of the Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, which our readers liked. Here is an account of his latest trip just last month. Thanks, Doctor.

"We rounded the last hairpin turn into the hospital area and saw the familiar crush of people waiting at the gate. For my daughter, Viki, however, who just turned 16 and was making her first trip to the remote mountains of Guatemala, it was quite a shock.

"To Americans who are used to fast food, no waiting lines, drive-thru everything, etc., it always is difficult to picture these Guatemalan's, who start lining up at the hospital gate 24 to 48 hours before we even arrive, some of whom walk to get there and add another two or three days!

"After setting up equipment, unpacking supplies, and having 65-plus team members get organized, we start seeing the patients. The types of medical problems seen touch all areas and, often, are conditions that have vanished in this country years ago.

"The interpreters (usually two are needed, since most of the patients do not speak English or Spanish) call at the gate for anyone who has a cleft lip or palate.

"Even after 10 years of visiting this country, it still overwhelms me to see 10 or 12 mothers holding out their children with all assorted degrees of cleft problems. You can see more cases there in one week than we ordinarily see in five years in the states.

"The most impressive part of these trips, however, is the people themselves. It is very rewarding to see their faith, trust, and perseverance under very difficult circumstances. They seem to be happy and, for the most part, content.

"They are satisfied only to be seen by one of the medical staff and, hopefully, get put on the following year's schedule, because by the second day of our visit, the operating room time has all been filled for this year.

"The 'lucky ones' get a piece of paper to get them to the head of the line the following year, and you can bet they will be there presenting the valued ticket exactly as you gave it, without a fold, smudge, or mark.

"The 12-day journey basically goes by in a blur, usually operating from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the medical staff seeing upwards of 2,000 patients, and the dentists extracting hundreds of diseased teeth.

"Viki spent her days circulating in the operating rooms, assisting when needed and going out one day on 'outreach' (which involves a four-hour trip in a four-wheel drive truck to see mostly medical and dental patients.

"There she passed out medications under the doctors' supervision and assisted the dentists in pulling teeth. We had a great bunch of young folks along this year, six of them.)

"I always tell people back home that the trip is basically a cross between M*A*S*H and 'Animal House!' The sleeping accommodations are handy, however, with a camping cot just 20 feet from the operating rooms. It's not a big commute to 'work' in the morning.

"Most of the people can be helped in one way or another; others cannot.

"We are planning to bring a young boy named Pedro to Minnesota this summer for more extensive surgery on his badly burned face. We could not do the necessary reconstruction there because of potential blood loss.

"Again, the goodness of people of all countries shines as a local nurse has offered to keep Pedro while he heals and the hospital, anesthesia, etc., have all offered their services at no cost.

"Pedro is an orphan who was abandoned soon after his burn at about age three years. He usually lives in a tool shed on a farm near the hospital we visit, but stayed with the team while we were there.

"Some of the translators taught him some English phrases and he was very proud to practice these on all in ear shot. It was very sad to see him waving good-bye as our bus pulled out our last day, but hopefully we will be able to improve his appearance and situation enough so that he will be accepted by his village.

"I feel uncomfortable when people say how great it is that we go to Guatemala to help these people. I always have felt on my return that we have received much more from these patients than we have ever given.

"They remind us of proper priorities, family values, and abounding degrees of hope and faith, which are sometimes difficult to see in our fast paced, hurried, 'modern' world. I would encourage anyone that has the chance to experience this type of trip to jump on the opportunity.

"My daughter and I had a tiring, but very rewarding, journey, and she already is looking forward to go again."

Guatemala bound

Also Guatemala bound is Cathy McDonnell Westrup's granddaughter, Katie Gould, of St. Paul. She is a junior at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul and will be going to San Lucas Toliman with a youth group of volunteers from Cretin-Derham this summer.

She is the daughter of Rick and Mary Gould, Kathy's daughter. Right now Katie works every day at a latchkey program run by Nativity Parish in St. Paul. This program takes care of youngsters whose parents both work.

Instead of going home to an empty house, they can hang out with Katie after school. Katie has one brother, Trevor, who is a junior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

When she arrives in Guatemala, she will be working for Msgr. Greg Schaffer who has been down there for 35 years now. When he was still in the seminary, Msgr. Schaffer used to run the Waverly Summer Recreation Program. Now he manages clinics, schools, food assistance, and coffee cooperatives for the very poor Indians in the highlands of Guatemala.

All of these programs he started himself, with financial help from the New Ulm diocese and . . . people from Waverly.

He is a close family friend to the McDonnells.

Side note: Shortly after I wrote this, my wife Jeanne received a fundraising call from her alma mater, Cretin-Derham High School, in St. Paul, to which she sends money every year. Guess who was on the phone? A classmate and close friend of Katie Gould. Katie herself had just stepped out of the room.)

From the 'New England farmer' . . . with tongue in cheek

"Snow is beneficial to the ground in winter, as it prevents its freezing to so great a depth as it otherwise would. It guards the winter grain and other vegetables, in a considerable degree, from the violence of sudden frosts, and from piercing and drying winds.

"The later snow lies on the ground in spring, the more advantage do grasses and other plants receive from it. Where a bank of snow has lain very late, the grass will sprout, and look green earlier, than in parts of the same field which were sooner bare."

Yeah, right!

- Samuel Deane, "The New England Farmer"

May they rest in peace

I just lost two good friends, Dr. Robert Burns Davidson of Santa Fe, N.M. and "Moose" Lee of Willmar. Bob Davidson's memorial service was Jan. 26, 2002, at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe and Moose Lee's funeral was last Sunday, March 10, at Bethel Lutheran Church in Willmar.

Bob Davidson had a doctorate in philosophy, and was on the faculty down here at Texas A and M in Kingsville, besides being an ordained Presbyterian minister before his retirement to Santa Fe, where Jeanne and I had the privilege of visiting him a few times.

When our son, Sean, was growing up, the "Scottish Christmas Party" at the Davidsons' in Kingsville was a much cherished annual event.

Everybody had to bring something. No, not food or drink, but a story or a song or a memory. Bob divided us into teams for charades and there was the loudest caroling you ever did hear as Bob and his kids turned the wheel Bob had made with the words there for such classics as "The 12 Days of Christmas."

At his memorial service, the Rev. Sheila C. Gustafson spoke of the many "hats" Bob wore: the uniform caps of the United States Army and, later, the Marine Corps in World War II; then, a huge black western hat; then, a mortarboard, the hat which academics wear for formal ceremonies of the colleges or universities in which he taught, including American University in Beirut, Lebanon.

He also wore the hats associated with Scottish National Dress, sometimes in full regalia: kilt and tweed and tam. He was a Scotsman through and through. He loved the music, the accent (which he could do very well), the traditions, and the jokes.

Bob stayed active in retirement before the Parkinson's disease (which robbed him of his voice and mobility) crept up on him.

Parkinson's is a cruel illness, and in Bob's case, as one who loved to talk and walk and to debate, it was especially painful . . . But no matter how difficult life became for him, he still had the capacity for friendship and gratitude.

His friends were everywhere, and it was characteristic of him to ask his wife, Marilyn, to take him to his favorite bakery in Santa Fe before he entered the nursing home so that he could say goodbye to the people who waited on him there.

Pastor Gustafson finished her remarks with these words: "We may feel defeated this morning by time, by age, by illness, by death.

"It may seem to us right now to be all loss, and a compassionate God allows us our time to mourn, to weep, even to rage at heaven. But through it all the reminder is given that even our grief will not separate us from God's love, that we are more than conquerors through the One who loves us.

"Hold fast to hope, and to faith, and to love. And try to imagine, because Bob would want us to smile, one final metaphor: Bob is being fitted for his last hat, a halo this time, and don't you know he will wear it with a raffish tilt over one ear!"

Farewell, Robert Burns Davidson. "A man's a man for a' o' that."

I was privileged enough to know Moose Lee for over 20 years, meeting him for the first time in Corpus Christi when he came down to visit his sister, Patsy Johnson and her family. Patsy was teaching with Jeanne here at Moody High School at the time.

The first time we met Moose, we played Norwegian Whist, a most appropriate game for the Lee family, who were thoroughly and loyally Norwegian.

In Patsy's letter to us just now, this is what she said:

"How did I get so lucky? Somewhere back in time I remember hearing that on Dad's deathbed at the VA Hospital back in 1943, he turned to my brothers and said, 'Now you will have to take care of Mom and the girls.'

"And surely they did just that, from Moose going to school with my sister Audrey so that she could show him off in his Navy uniform, to Bob bopping her on the head to help with Algebra, scolding me (I can still hear his 'Paaa-tsy!') and, yet, teaching me so patiently to be a good driver and good card player . . .

"We didn't have younger sibs to pass the wisdom on to, so we passed it on to our kids. And thinking about all that brings a flood of tears.

Moose said he was ready to go for some time now. The Hospice Care at Rice Hospital in Willmar was just wonderful. I cannot imagine life without him, but his good humor and generous spirit will always be part of my heart.

"The kindest, funniest, most gentle of men, Moose was loved by everyone who knew him. But you all know that. Reinhold Niebuhr said, 'Humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer.' I know you agree with me that when you think of Moose, you are either crying or laughing. Probably both."

Love, Patsy

Quote for the week

"Peace begins when the hungry are fed."

- Anonymous

Thanks to you who have been writing to me. I am sorry I haven't responded as yet. Please keep the messages flowing. There will be some Waverly news here yet.

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