Monday, July 14, 2008

Two Texans Remembered

This weekend marked the passing of two prominent Texans.

Roy Huffington, ex-father in law of Arianna Huffington, died Saturday at the age of 90. He was a local philanthropist and successful oil man. He is remembered as a former ambassador to Austria for President George H.W. Bush and for his foresight to the needs of our aging society. He and his late wife, Phyllis who died in 2003, founded the Huffington Center on Aging at the Baylor College of Medicine in 1988. It is now known as a premier center on the subject of aging in the world. He was a generous soul who concentrated on donations of millions of dollars to SMU for faculty and student scholarships. He told an associate recently that he kept on working because, "I need to make more money so I can give it away."

The second passing this weekend was that of Dr. Michael DeBakey. Just two months out from his 100th birthday, he died of natural causes in his home. His is known as the father of modern heart surgery. He was a native of Lake Charles, Louisiana but moved to Houston as a young man with many options open to him, due to his talent and innovation skills. Many consider him the greatest surgeon ever.

I've enjoyed reading about Dr. DeBakey throughout the years. Not only do I enjoy biographies as a favorite reading genre, but on a personal note, I was born with a slight heart murmur and heart related innovations are of interest to me. I was one of the lucky ones. My little hole in my heart's wall closed spontaneously by the age of nine. Others are not so lucky and in need of expert care.

His first wife died in Mexico as they were guests of the President of Mexico and DeBakey was there to perform surgeries. Ironically she experienced extreme stomach distress and suffered a heart attack. Now it is known that, especially in woman, this sort of symptom of heart attack is common.

He met his second wife through his friendship with Frank and Barbara Sinatra. DeBakey has many famous patients through the years. The Duke of Windsor, King Leopold of Belgium, Aristotle Onassis, King Hussein of Jordan, Jerry Lewis, Marlene Dietrich, and Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.

In 2006 he underwent surgery to repair a dissecting aortic aneurysm, a treatment he pioneered 50 years before. He was the recipient of many awards and honors. Most recently he received the Congressional Gold Medal.


Beverly said...

Both men certainly left their mark, didn't they. I had read or heard on the radio about Dr. DeBakey, but I did not know of Mr. Huffington.

I, too, have heart problem which cuold ultimately lead to a transplant. (But I would be too old.) However, thanks to medication and a good cardiologist that need will probably never arise. I am grateful every day.

Jennifer said...

Dr. DeBakey's pioneering ways saved my father's life. In fact, a few years ago, when DeBakey was 94 or 95 I'm guessing, he sat in as an observer on both of Dad's surgeries in Houston, watching his now-famous protege' surgeon carry on his brilliant ways. I had the pleasure of shaking his hand as he was heading to the surgical suite. He wore these MASSIVE clogs and had the kindest, most wizened face I'd ever seen.