BY-WAYS - January 15, 1942 - Portrait of a Surgeon


Tall, well-knit - with military bearing; On battlefield - or for the truth and right.
A cultured mind (with cubby-hole for swearing), And yet so gallant, chivalrous, and kind;
His short white hair stands up like low wheat stubble; His wealthy clients wait, while he must find
His keen blue eyes are kind - for those in trouble. The time to take unhealthy tonsils out
He loves his country with consuming passion, Of twenty little throats; nor noised about
He loves his work in that same zealous fashion. His charity. His matchless skill is free;
His long, slim fingers work with magic skill, He hires the nurses; pays for every fee.
To oust offending organs, cysts at will. But he's so modest, he would scoff, berate
A fearless soul, he's not afraid to fight The friend or - patient - who would call him great.

Whose portrait have I tried to "paint" with words? None other than my own peerless surgeon, Dr. Theron Skeels Jackson. Two of Virgil's and my best friends (sisters) have known him since childhood, and grew up with him in the same church crowd. Now I boast to them that there is more than one way of hobnobbing with the great. I have managed a rendezvous twice within two years. Dr. Jackson's name was added to the famous people listed in Who's Who - in May, 1940. On my first visit to his office (after the operation May 11th) I congratulated him on his newly acquired (and richly deserved) honor - and was about to make a facetious remark about his illustrious patient on May 11th clinching his niche in the Hall of Fame. But, in a tone bordering on annoyance, he dismissed the subject with, "I don't know who could have sent my name in," and went right on talking about something else. The next time I went down (to make a payment to his secretary), I saw him stomping down the corridor of his office with his foot in a cast. In answer to my query his secretary explained that he had slipped on the operating-room floor, and broken a bone in his ankle - just before an operation. Of course he went right ahead with the operation. He did take the afternoon off - to have his foot x-rayed, the bone set, and the cast put on. But he was on the job - operating - the next morning. On my visit to his office last November I referred to his accident - just to get his version of it. He told of a Jewish doctor commiserating with him on his misfortune, "Vy, Dr. Jackson, vaat are you working for? Don't you haf insurance?" "Certainly, I have insurance. I carry heavy insurance." "Den, vy don't you collect, and dake a vacation?" (Spoken like a true son of Jacob). "Because," replied Dr. Jackson, "there are people counting on me - and I can't let them down." That gives you an insight into his character. When I went into his office that day, he glanced hastily over my card on file, noted that our eldest child is 20 - and without noting the sex, asked, "Is your oldest one in the service?" I told him our eldest is a girl - but that she had just married a soldier. "Good." (Very emphatic.) "I hope she makes a man of him. These damned draft dodgers. What's this country coming to?" And he really got all worked up. Dr. Jackson went overseas with the Lakeside Hospital Unit in World War I. Now I quote from a Plain Dealer newspaper clipping sent me by our good friends, who are his devoted admirers. "When the group got to England on its way to France, it was received by the royal family at Buckingham Palace .... Tall, white-haired Dr. Theron S. Jackson, whose striking appearance makes an unforgettable impression, served as a captain with the Lakeside unit. During the Argonne drive, with others from the group, he was attached to Mobile Hospital No. 5." The paper then quotes Dr. Jackson at length. He praised the common soldier in the highest terms. I quote him, "There was lots of courage, especially in the hospitals. Men died without a complaint. It is comparatively easy to have courage on the field where you are buoyed up by the excitement, the noisy guns, the chance for glory, and where you and your companions are fighting together. But when you die, you die alone. That's where I saw courage, when the boys, without fuss, just knew they were going west. I have always been glad that I could work along the line of conserving, rather than destroying; and I am not exactly a pacifist." No, he is certainly not a pacifist, though he knows full well that "war is waste and hell," as he expresses it. But he has always preached preparedness. There never was a more patriotic American.

Before I close, I just want to elaborate a bit on the last lines in my "poem." This great surgeon, who has no peer in Cleveland, who can name his own price for an operation, gives much of his time to charity. He will send word to the principal of a school in a poor district; tell her to round up the needy children, who are in need of a tonsillectomy. He will make all arrangements to have them brought to the hospital, hire the anesthetician, the nurses, himself, and give his own time and skill, worth at least $200 an hour, to those precious little penniless souls. Do you wonder that we all revere him?

Florence B. Taylor.

Next - 1/22/42 - The Seven-day Furlough

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