Lesson Learned (October 8)

The rest of the story

Remember the iconic radio program generally called “The Rest of the Story”? Paul Harvey showed pizzazz! His format drew me in. Paul Harvey simply gave his name, starting his daily news story and before the next break he’d say, “In a moment…. the rest of the story….” And at the very end he would say, “Now you know…the rest of the story,” and conclude his radio show with, “Paul Harvey… Good day.” Feels like it was just yesterday, doesn’t it?

When my lifelong friend Ken Groves began his story of his boyhood school days, I felt the same fearless dynamism.

Ken: At Academy Grade School I was taught to read and reading throughout my life has been very important for my job.

Doc: You are avant-garde in computer technology. Manuals that you read in your basement cubby hole made no sense to me or to the other 550 employees in our healthcare venue. Your reading reminds me of ancient explorers who looked up into the Heavens at night, learning the secrets of navigation seeing the universe expand, when common men did not comprehend even an iota, holding on to a flat world belief.

Ken: At work, an administrator would bring me a book and a bunch of CDs and would say, “Fill this out and load it on the network and we will go with it.” I had things running down there that they didn’t understand. My role not only was to be a computer geek but also a teacher to everybody else.

Doc: Absolutely. We are talking about our work together at the Louis A. Johnson Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia. I can testify as the Chief of the Psychiatry Service, when I was in trouble technologically, I knew enough to call you my lifelong friend, Ken. Upon my word, you helped me out every time. Your great love of reading and your impressive genius for comprehending complex issues first came to the light of day through a teacher who cared.

Ken: Yes, Academy Grade School in the fourth grade, my encouragement began. What a marvelous teacher who took a personal interest in my education. I thank God for Mrs. Stuart.

Doc: Your story inspires me to keep helping children.

Ken: I can remember where she lived because she would ask me to stop by her house and she would have a book for me. I would stop by and she would hand me a book out the door and I would take it and read it. She would always have something for me to read. She lived in a nice house on Kanawha Street across from Poling St. Clair Funeral Home. I remember her house quite well, for I constantly was stopping to pick up a book from her. She had me reading books about things that she knew that I would enjoy.

Doc: Remarkably you read “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn” every year for 30 years?

Ken: At least every year. I was in my 30s when I quit reading them. Those two stories always fascinated me and I could remember them verbatim or most of it.

Doc: You are a Bible scholar now, studying Hebrew and Greek languages to read in the original texts.

Ken: I love the Bible. I’ve read it many times and I do attribute that to Mrs. Stuart, too. Not only would she encourage me to read, but to read for understanding. That includes the Bible!

My parents divorced when that was a rare event. I’m an only child and I lived with my grandparents on Lincoln Street. They were kind. However, without becoming an enthusiastic reader, my life probably would have taken a very different and tragic turn for the worst. Hot lunch really helped me, too. One of my favorite meals included brown beans, spinach, applesauce and cornbread.

Doc: Yum, yum.

Ken: I remember that very well. Also, I got to run the milk machine. They had someone in charge of the milk machine and you filled up the other students’ glasses from the milk machine. My, my, operating the milk machine was a big thing for me. It gave me a sense of responsibility. Although early in life I really didn’t look to that teaching as anything that I would carry on, but it makes an impression on you.

Doc: Now there is a theme here: You were asked by a teacher to come read more; you operated the milk machine. Why were you favored or picked out?

Ken: I don’t know, I really don’t know. I think... I came from a broken home and I think a lot of the teachers, I don’t think they felt sorry for me, but they encouraged me to do something better with my life than what they could see was happening. Well, my parents divorced in 1957, so I was just in the third grade. 

Yes, this is special, too. In the third grade, I had a wonderful teacher that year. I don’t know if you remember Genevieve Swisher?

Doc: Yes, I do.

Ken: And Mrs. Swisher took sick. I don’t remember if she got cancer or what, but after she left school, I would go up and visit her on Boggess Street. I have tears now remembering she was one of the ones that kind of helped me along also.

Doc: I’ll tell you a story because we will intermesh all of these stories eventually. I had her for third grade and loved her because she liked art. We drew a lot. So, she wanted to teach us about the Civil War and there was a fight between Water Tank Hill and Hospital Hill with some of the fighting bullets and so forth being deposited in her garden on Boggess Street. So, when she put in her garden, she would dig up the shot, which she brought to school.

Ken: I remember some of that.

Doc: Well, that particular year when I was in third grade, she forgot her gun, so she sent me to her home to get her gun, a third grader! So, I walked down Kanawha Street and out Boggess and she said it was right inside of the door. The door was unlocked, I got her gun and brought it to school.

(Both Doc and Ken laugh.)

Ken: I remember going to see her because I thought she was a sweet lady. I don’t know whether she had cancer or what... I didn’t understand dying I guess. I was troubled by her not being in school. 

Doc: We are learning lessons about you that impacted the rest of your life. The final one is hard to understand, but the fact is Mr. Glen Ours, our Principal at Academy, took a special interest in you, too. In part his concern had something to do with your immune system.

Ken: Yes, the only way I can say it, I don’t know, but I got the measles six times? Every time somebody in the fourth grade would catch measles, me too.

Doc: Wow.

Ken: I have no idea why.

Doc: In medicine we never say “never” and we never say “always,” for all things are possible.

Ken: I have my grade card which records my absents for the measles. And it records my improved reading going from “S” for satisfactory to “E+” for extreme excellence.

Doc: Thank you, Ken, for implementing the computer healthcare revolution, transitioning the Clarksburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center from a paper to the 21st-century paperless computer age. You gained the know-how due to inspired teaching at Academy Grade School encouraging you to be a lifelong learner!

“Now you know… the rest of the story… Good day.”


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