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Posts Tagged ‘Stell’

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.

 

Yankees and Clocks in Dallas County, Arkansas

clockThere is a beautiful antique Seth Thomas mantel clock in the closet at my house.  It belongs to my son Jack, who is twenty six years old, but doesn’t really have a place to keep the old clock yet.

The story behind the Seth Thomas clock comes from the Stell side of my family. I heard it hundreds of times growing up but it was never written down. For generations the Stell family lived near Fordyce, in the Big Woods of Dallas County Arkansas, an area full of pine trees and farm land.

Just two months before the start of the Civil War in 1861, a  clock peddle from Connecticut was traveling through Dallas County, Arkansas.  My great grandfather, William Dallas Stell was a teen-ager when the enthusiastic clock peddler’s wagon rolled up to their farm house. He was invited to wash up and stay for dinner.

The young man accepted the invitation and while they ate he explained his predicament. He told the family he was from Connecticut and fully understood the war was about to begin.  His brothers already planned to fight with the Union and he felt he had to return and fight along side them.

He was afraid however that he’d never make it back in time because of his wagon and the Seth Thomas clocks he was carrying with him.  He made a deal with my great great grand father as young William Dallas Stell listened.  He wanted to leave the wagon and the clocks in the barn.  If he lived through the war he would return and give Mr. Stell a clock. If he did not return all three or four clocks and the wagon would belong to the Stell family.

The men shook hands and the younger man said he was certain the war wouldn’t last too long. The next morning, at first light, the young clock peddler took off on horseback to join his own brothers.

The barn, the wagon and the clocks survived the Civil War, but they young man never returned. Each boy in the family was given a clock with the instructions  it was to stay in the Stell family.

And so, the young Yankee  peddlers clock sits in my closet waiting for my son, who bears his great grand father’s name, Jack Stell, to finally take it home.