Memoir writing and oral history listening, mainly from old timers like myself, is how I enjoy my life these days. Having grown up in the Appalachian Mountains before the current era of TV and movie entertainment, I believe our tradition of creative storytelling has great merit. What can beat telling stories around a 4-H Camp Council Circle!
So when our second Upshur County West Virginia Teacher of the Year (2021) Erin Anderson agreed to produce a teaching disc using my Doctor Dad’s classic book “The Stories of a West Virginia Doctor” as authentic material, I became ecstatic. Erin grew up a mountaineer, understanding the power of storytelling, just like our children Maria and Ronce did, who first heard tales of doctoring in the hills sitting on their grandfather’s knee. Erin grew up in Tennerton Elementary School and has returned to her roots as teacher extraordinaire for 20 years. She pursued Reading as a Master’s Degree, honing her natural learning and teaching talent.
Maria and Ronce encouraged me to record stories for their children, our grandchildren. I eagerly pursued my homework assignment. Early on, I turned to the first Upshur County West Virginia Teacher of the Year (1976) Helen Reger. She helped me create my book “Stories of a West Virginia Doctor’s Son.” The stories effortlessly blossomed so wonderfully that I have been involved now in nine projects. And I had the crowning honor of a lifetime to share stories in eulogy at the funeral of Helen Reger this past winter.
Teachers Erin Anderson and Helen Reger know the ripple effect of an idea thrown like a stone into a farm pond, spreading circles out to the very edges of a child’s life. Such is the impact of a word fitfully spoken. I welcomed and sought both these wonderful professionals. Helen Reger said we were creating a portrait of family love.
I await the final creation of Erin. She will take Doctor Dad’s stories of West Virginia families living isolated lives up the hollows, who in desperation call on a house call making Doctor to deliver a baby, treat a life-threatening infection with a shot of a miracle antibiotic, or solve a mystery of an undiagnosed disease.
I recall with admiration standing with Dad at our seat of higher learning West Virginia University Medical School when Dean Robert D’Alessandri, MD, praised Dad by explaining, “You new medical students are beginning today a four-year course learning much about the scientific basis of medicine, but you first learn a lesson today about the compassion and caring that is the heart and soul of our healing profession. Therefore, I have asked Dr. Harold D. Almond to tell three of his stories from his memoir.”
The teaching disc that Teacher Erin Anderson produces will go to every school in West Virginia, funded by a grant from the West Virginia Archives and History Division. Doc’s authentic stories of compassion and caring will once more be a reminder that face-to-face, life-changing sharing is full of goodness and grace.