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Posts Tagged ‘Hot Springs Arkansas history’

A Miracle on Central

Yesterday while listening to Alan Alda discuss his Parkinson’s diagnosis and I remembered a miraculous story from a long long time ago. If you fact check this story I’m sure it’s loaded with inaccuracies but it’s a true story.

My grandfather, Dr. Jack Stell, was a surgeon in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He studied at Ouachita Baptist University and Tulane, then opened his practice here, between 1915 and 1920. As a surgeon at St. Josephs’ , he was loved, even adored by his nurses, who were all nuns at the time, because it was a Catholic hospital.

As a Baptist in the early 1900s my grandfather was not a fan of the Catholic church and he did not approve of the Pope’s power or position. But he loved, respected and needed  his nurse-nuns.

During the early 1940s something started happening. Many of the local surgeons were enlisted during WWII and working to put soldiers back together elsewhere. So, there something of a shortage of surgeons in Hot Springs. Daddy Jack (the grandkids name for him) was extremely busy.  He and his habit clad nurses worked almost constantly.  But, Daddy Jack started noticing that something was wrong.  Tiny tremors in  his fingers then hand hands, began frustrating him. At first, no one noticed. But he knew something was terribly wrong.

After a year or so he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s . But Hot Springs and the hospital still desperately needed his surgical talents.

When I was a little girl, in the 60’s, my mother, and ancient withered nuns, would tell me stories about my grandfather. Old nuns in  dark  heavy habits , would  take me into their offices, give me ice cream or pudding from the hospital kitchen and tell me stories.  The one repeated to me so many times was simple and beautiful.

Daddy Jack told his nurses about the diagnosis. Together, they decided before each operation, they would all kneel, on the cold tile floor in the operating room, and they would pray, as one, for his hands to be steady and true. The Baptist doctor and Catholic nuns joined hands and asked for a miracle.

God listened. For almost two years Dr. Jack Stell and his nuns prayed and continued with the life saving surgeries.

Once Hot Springs was repopulated with a few more surgeons, Dr. Jack Stell retired to his home on Prospect avenue.

As a little girl, I would eat my pudding, listening to the old nuns as they wiped their eyes with handkerchiefs they miraculously produced from their sleeves.

Today, I understand the power of their faith, love and conviction. Back then, I only knew I had to sit and listen to their stories in order to get any goodies.

 

Bubba and Louella…Strange and Dear Friends

bubba louellaFor more than thirty years a woman named Louella Thomas worked for my family. She split her week working at our house and at my grandmother’s big white house on Prospect Avenue.

We called my grandmother Bubba, but her real name was Ruth Stell. She was the widow of a surgeon and spent her days trying to help people and keep her life just as it had been when her husband Dr. Jack Stell was still alive.

Louella was my best friend.  She was  my grandmother’s best friend too, Bubba just didn’t  know it.

When I was seven years old Louella saved up enough money to take a three week tour of the Holy Lands with her church group. Bubba was furious, indigent and shocked.  Her maid traveled overseas before she did!  Louella brought me a camel made of straw from Jerusalem. Bubba said it was ugly and made me keep it at our house.

During the sixties, when there was so much racial tension and turmoil, Louella took great care to keep Bubba out of harms way.  Sometimes Bubba drove her all the way home, to the housing projects on Spring Street. But when things were really bad, Louella only let my grandfather drive her half way home, then she took a cab.   She didn’t want anybody yelling at Bubba and upsetting her.

Louella was probably ten years younger than Bubba and over the years she began moving  a little more slowly. When she was close to sixty, Bubba became very concerned because Louella had to drag the vacuum cleaner up and down the big stair case.  So she bought a second vacuum, one for upstairs, one for down stairs. Over the next ten years Bubba ended up buying four or five more vacuums, one for almost every room because she didn’t want Louella lugging them around.

Every afternoon the soap opera The Doctors came on at one o’clock. It was “their story”. Louella would take her lunch at one o’clock and the two old women would sit in Bubba’s bedroom and watch “their show” together.  Bubba’s room was the only room with a tv and it was the only air conditioned room in the house.

If I walked in and interrupted both women would turn  and  “shhhh” me together, almost violently.  Then Louella would wink at me and I knew I wasn’t really in trouble.  As years passed, Louella got too old to work every day. But The Doctors continued. The two old ladies would stay on the phone for exactly an hour watching their show together and talking about the details and plot twists during the commercials. Everyone in the family knew calling Bubba between one and two was useless.

As they got older more of their friends died until they were just about the only ones left. Then the ladies would sit on the side porch together, Bubba in her dress, Louella in her white uniform and they would send to the kitchen for ice tea and ice cream.

Bubba was in her late eighties, maybe even ninety when my brother, Jack, was killed. He was twenty three years old and in college. My father had died just two or three weeks earlier.  I remember that night so clearly. I was sitting with my mother when she got the news. And after just a few moments of thought, Mom picked up the phone and called Louella Thomas. She asked Louella to please take a taxi to my grandmother’s home.  She knew Bubba wouldn’t be able to bear the news of my brother’s death without her dearest friend at her side.

(If you enjoyed this story or hampoland please help my daughter out with her fundraising efforts. Take a look at this link it’s really funny and any little bit would be wonderful. Thanks! DH)

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/representing-america-in-european-taekwondo-championship?c=pledges