Tuesday, April 1, 2014

52 Ancestors #13: Robert Autry Brooks

NOTE:  I started this post on 3/30 and then never got back to blogging.  So I want to get this out - two months after his birthday but in plenty of time for Father's Day!! I will add the pictures I was waiting for later!

I have an extra week in March to play with (though I'm very late posting this - it should have been Sunday, March 30!).  But I couldn't find someone in our ancestral history born in March that I wanted to include - after doing three women last week, I was a bit drained!  So I picked my favorite male ancestor in the world: my dad.  Fortunately he only has a birthdate and his story is still being written.  Again I am missing all my pictures and information at home but here's what I have:

Robert Autry Brooks

My father was born in Russellville, Pope, Arkansas on April 3, 1929.  He was the youngest of two boys born to Ruth Autry and Walter Caswell Brooks.  I have written about his parents here, and about his brother here.  My father tells wonderful stories about growing up as a little boy in this small farming town on the Arkansas river.  There was always a lot of work to do on the farm and around the house.  He had chickens to feed, cows to milk and butter to churn. He went to the local elementary school where his mother and aunt taught. Here he describes some of his favorite childhood memories:

I have lots of childhood memories so to select the "best" is hardly possible. I think the most distinctive ones would be the trips out of town into the mountains and lakes of the Ozarks. When I was young and my father was alive, we would travel north of Russellville into the mountains and up to a farm that my family owned part of on the Illinois Bayou (that is the name of a river coming down west of Russellville). We would stop and have a picnic or visit with some other farmers. In later years, such as teen age years, the memory would be of Boy Scout camp at Camp Caudle. The camp was about 20 miles above Russellville, also on Illinois Bayou. It had been donated and the scout master, a wonderful teacher from Ark Tech named Mr Turrentine, had gotten rock cabins and activity center built. Every stay there was a great pleasure. 

                     This is Robert as a toddler with his older brother Walter and a neighbor (we think). 

After high school, Robert attended Arkansas Tech in Russellville Arkansas and then transferred to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville to complete his degree in Chemistry. Following the example of his uncle, Daniel Hill Autry, and his brother, he then applied to Arkansas medical school in Little Rock.  This is his story of an unlikely turn of events. In fact he called it one of the "craziest things" that happened to him.

The most unlikely thing that happened to me is probably the transfer from Arkansas Medical School to Harvard Medical School. And that was all related to a friend named Peter H'Doubler who was an outstanding student at University of Arkansas. He came there to play football and then ended up being Phi Beta Kappa at third year and president of the Sigma Nu fraternity where I got to know him, and in general, a BMOC.
I entered Arkansas Med School at the last minute because they had trouble filling the freshman class with qualified students. I guess no one wanted to be a doctor. Peter had gone to Harvard Med School which was still competitive. After 1-2 years, he was visiting his girl friend, later his wife Evelyn, in Arkansas. He told me I should transfer. Harvard Med School was used to taking additional students for the third year from the many two year med schools, which were just then expanding. I thought it unlikely but he told me to just apply, which I did. And I was accepted which surprised me. I laughed later when I got a note from Harvard Med School after they had accepted my transfer, asking me to send my med school transcript. So I figured they were hard up for students!

And such an unlikely event has made all the difference.  My father went on to intern in Salt Lake City UT where he met my mother, Jean Hammon.  Then they moved to Galveston TX where both my brother and I were born.  After starting in practice in Lincoln, NE, they settled in Phoenix AZ in 1968 where they live to this day.

Here are pictures of my folks at their lovely Sagewood residence.  Their story is still being told as they celebrate having a great-grandchild and continue to share their stories by email on a weekly basis.  I can't wait to add more as time permits.

It seems fitting that I could only find pictures of the two of them on my laptop.  They celebrated 58 years of marriage on January 19 2014.  An amazing couple who are examples to us all.

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