Rumors of Fay's death greatly exaggerated

An e-mail friendship has blossomed because I "killed somebody off" in my Dec. 9 column.

Among the "tidbits" in that article was mention of a 1932 Southwestern College piano recital by young Ed McComas interspersed with readings by 8-year-old Genevieve Daves. This interesting "tidbit" had been furnished via e-mail by Laura Greene of Carlsbad, Calif., whose parents were Genevieve and Dr. Fay Greene. And I erred by referring to Dr. Fay as "the late." (And there is no "e" in Fay.)

Phones started ringing and e-mails began humming as surprised and rather distraught local friends of the Greene family called each other, and J.J. Banks, and myself. A quick check with Laura by J.J. assured everyone that Dr. Fay was still very much alive. As Laura put it, "Our dear father knows he is still among us and so do we! At any rate, ring the bells that he is still here, bright and chipper as he ever was, turning 83 in March. We just had the pleasure of his company for seven weeks."

And this was the response by Dr. Fay: "Relax! A minor error that could happen to anyone. Actually at times I feel like 'the late.' I have only good memories of the years I spent in Winfield. I hope it is still as great a place to live as it was 60 years ago. I'm glad the Courier has such a conscientious writer."

(I didn't say this to Dr. Fay, but I would have to take issue of it's being a "minor error." Two things on the list of inexcusable newspaper errors are spelling someone's name wrong and making someone dead prematurely.)

Laura tells us she maintained her maiden name when she married "my husband, Scott Hardtman, 23 years ago, so my last name is still Greene. We have two darling daughters, Lauren, 19, and Dayna, 16, whose compassion and caring never cease to amaze us. My brother, John, lives in Cincinnati and my sister, Sandy, lives in Ottawa, Canada."

Laura continues: "It has been a very difficult year for our whole family, having lost our mother and dad's life partner of 55 years last October. I think we all feel her lovingly and gently nudging us to stand up and not let grief's weight immobilize us ... we were so touched by Winfield's support of their hometown girl's family and I then had a small glimpse of the special place she had always told me about. I now have another such glimpse with the efforts afoot to capture the musical history of Winfield.

"Both my parents were always very reluctant to speak of their accomplishments, let alone their even more incredible attributes as members of the human race, one of which seems to be unnecessary humility! So, as the family historian impassioned by the "need to know" what makes us all tick, and what made all the generations tick that came before us and helped to shape our lives, I have gathered a great deal of information about both of them.

"I want my own yet-to-be-born great-grandchildren to know these two people who have meant so much to me, and who without their knowledge have so influenced the lives not only of my own children, but their future descendants as well. (You have probably already figured out that I am a "shrink" by profession and historian by passion.)

"Dad was a general surgeon and pretty much specialized in thoracic surgery. He was born in Olean, N.Y., in 1918, and moved to Winfield while still a young boy in the late 1920s. He graduated from Winfield High School and Southwestern College and went on to Columbia University Medical School in New York City on scholarship, graduating in 1942. His military service (Army Medical Corps) interrupted his residency for a bit, but he finished his surgical residency and went into practice in East Hampton, Long Island. I was born there in 1950.

"In the early 1950s he received a wonderful offer to set up practice in Parkersburg, W.Va., so we moved there and the rest is history. He retired from active practice about 20 years ago or so, but still responds to family pleas for medical expertise, thankfully. He was one of those physicians we all wish for - dedicated, committed and determined to provide good care.

"I can recall working in his office one summer while in high school, and listening to his staff complain that he absolutely would not push people to pay their bills. I suppose he must have felt that if people could pay, they would, and if they couldn't, leave them alone! There were quite a number of unusual forms of payment along the way!

"We lived about 20-25 minutes away from the hospital, and these were the days when residents and specialized ER physicians were non-existent in the area. I recall countless times when he would come home after many hours of surgery, then seeing sometimes 50-60 patients in his office, and finally have the opportunity to sit down with his family to relax a bit (perhaps I should restate that, since sitting with three chattering children may not be one's idea of relaxing). At any rate, after taking a few bites of his dinner, the phone would invariably ring, calling him back to the hospital to take care of someone in the emergency room.

"There was one particular night when my mother had gone back to New York City for a visit, and one of those calls came in. This particular time the patient was his own 16-year-old daughter, Sandy, my sister, who had been badly injured in an automobile accident. I think the hospital staff was not about to let anyone touch her but him, and with steady hand (nerves of steel), he brought her back to health.

"When he wasn't attending to patients, he was attending to family. It was those two commitments that in my mind guided his life. I recently discovered I had saved every letter he wrote to me during my travels as a young girl between 1959 and 1968, and now have a treasured book that reflects what was important to him, and what he stood for. "Doing the right thing" and developing one's character were lessons he taught well, simply by quietly doing them himself.

"My father would blush upon reading this. He has yet to figure out why he is so well loved and admired. That's fine - I'll just keep on trying to paint the picture and maybe someday he will finally understand! It's doubtful, however, but at least his descendants will know."


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