Remembering Dr. Michael Durham – In their own words, Dr. and Dottie Durham (August 2013)
Dr. Durham - “My folks had my two brothers in the early thirties and my dad hung out his shingle in ’34. You can imagine what that was like. The Great Depression was on and he used to joke that everybody was sterile during the Great Depression. He went into the Navy and was a Navy doctor with the Fleet Marine Corps during World War II, which must have been kinda’ grim. He served in the Pacific. My sister and I resulted from the two leaves that he got. We used to kid my folks mercilessly.”
As a United States Marine, Dr. Durham entered the service in 1962 and made Sergeant just in time for Vietnam and spent a total of five years on active duty. He was stationed in Hawaii before he made the ocean voyage to Vietnam.
Dr. Durham—“Aw, man, this is a great place to be stationed. It was expensive, but there are a lot of things you could do that didn’t cost much on an enlisted Marine’s pay. Then the First Sergeant came into the barracks one night. He was smiling. A First Sergeant is never smiling at night unless something really bad is going to happen. That afternoon we were on a cruise ship on our way to Vietnam.”
Dr. and Dottie Durham met in 1967, a time when the Beatles continued to reign in the music world with the release of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, the height of the Vietnam War and a time when peace rallies in the United States were multiplying daily.
Dr. - “Just coincidence that I left the Marines and Dottie’s brother left the Navy at the same time and we ended up at the same junior college. I ended up there because they were
sympathetic to a bad high school student, me, and he ended up there ‘cause it was just around the corner from his home.”
Dottie – “He’s my twin brother and he was going to the junior college in our home town. He met Michael there and that is how I met my husband. I graduated from the junior
college, also, and spent the summer in Europe and went to the Goethe Institute in Germany.”
Dr. – “Poor Dottie, I took her down to my ancestral home to meet my family and I had a two-seater Ford Thunderbird and as we were going back on this road into the woods, I can see the look on her face.”
Dottie – I was thinking, ‘What is going to happen to me?’
Dr. – “And she is moving further and further away from me in the car until we finally broke into the clearing where my mom and dad’s home was.”
Dottie – All I could say was, ‘Do people still live in the boondocks like this?’
Dr. - “When we started dating we went on a ski weekend with Dottie’s brother. Dottie gave me my only ski lesson. She took me up on top of the beginner’s hill and jabbed
me in the seat of my pants with her ski pole. I stayed up on my skis until I discovered other people were doing things I couldn’t do --- like stop and turn.”
Dottie - “We married in 1968 in a very traditional wedding. I wore my mother’s wedding gown. We married in the same town, the same church, the same reception place, the same month.”
Dr. - “We got married in New London, Connecticut. It’s as far east as you can go. Any further east, then you’re swimming.”
Dottie - “I was born in New London, Connecticut, right on the water.”
Dr. - “She’s not kidding, like 25 yards from the Thames River.”
After completing junior college, Dr. Durham began his undergraduate studies at the University of Hartford in Avon, Connecticut with the help of Dottie.
Dottie - “I worked in the Registrar’s Office at the university and went to school at night. Michael got his education for free because I was working there.”
Dr. - “It was a good deal and I got my G.I. Bill. I think warfare probably affects most people in some ways negatively. But it also gives you somewhat of a resolve, because when I was applying to medical school I was turned down place after place. Some of it was because of the political feeling in higher education about the Vietnam War, which tore this country apart and there was an age limit and I was over it. I said, ‘Wait a minute, what the hell’s wrong with these people, they’re not going to say ‘NO’ to me. A lot of us went down to school in Guadalajara, Mexico at that time because that was the school that accepted international applications.”
Dottie - “That was 1973. I wasn’t allowed to work in Mexico because I would be putting someone else out of a job. What I did was meals on wheels. I was pregnant with Rob, our second son. I had a bicycle, and with the help of a wife of another American medical student, she and I made meatball dinners. I had two baskets on my bicycle and I would pedal
around and sell meals on wheels to American medical students.”
Dr. - “Each night was a different meal. They even sold ice cream in those pretty heavy duty plastic containers. One night might be green chili, another night some type
of noodles. The American students loved her cooking.”
Dottie - “For the first 13 years of our married life, we learned to do without.”
Dr. - “Most of us were on the G.I. Bill watching our nickels. It was a little harder on Dottie because I was where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to do. Looking back, had
I gotten into a U.S. or Canadian school that would have been fine, but living here and speaking Spanish has been a big, big plus.”
Dottie - “Our oldest son, David, was in kindergarten. He learned Spanish like that.” (she snaps her fingers)
Dr. - “We were living down there about six weeks and he was cursing fluently in Spanish. Of course they always learn the stuff you don’t want them to learn.”
Dottie - “I learned Spanish, also. I had taken Spanish in high school and college and when we moved to Mexico it was a lot easier to learn than German.”
Dr. - “For me, learning the language was like---this was my only opportunity, I had no choice.”
Dottie - “I can’t believe he learned so quickly and everybody knew Spanish.”
Dr. - “All of my medical exams, papers and presentations were in Spanish.”
After medical school graduation, Dr. Durham, Dottie and their boys moved to El Paso, Texas.
As a requirement of his education, Dr. Durham had to give a year of service to the Mexican government without pay.
Dr. - “Most foreign countries have what is called a rural year, or a year of social service, to get your final degree. This is for doctors, nurses, dentists, accountants and
other people with professional degrees. They had to give a certain amount of time to the poor. In Mexico, they call it ‘Servicios Sociales’ or Social Service. So I worked in a
clinic in Juarez, Mexico right across the border from El Paso.”
Dottie - “Michael came to Globe in September of ’80 to start with Dr. Bejarano and the children and I came in January of ’81 after the semester.”
Dr. - “My classmate, who settled in Holbrook, in some ways he’s a lot smarter than I am, he said, ‘You know all this stuff we’ve been through, we need to go where there is a real necessity.’ Holbrook for him and Globe-Miami for me were two of those places. I worked for the late Dr. Charles Bejarano the first two years I was here. That was really interesting. He did a lot of things well. He, Dr. Reusch and Dr. Bishop, Sr. were very versatile because if they weren’t, people didn’t get the kind of care they needed. We couldn’t fly ‘em out and transport ‘em out the way we can now. It was too costly and they didn’t have the kind of facilities for transport to tertiary centers like we have now. If a mom was in trouble and we had to do a stat c-section, we did it. Or if somebody needed their chest cracked, or anything like that—those guys were really versatile, especially Bishop and Bejarano. They did a lot of things well. Then we started getting our own specialists like Dr. Daggett and Dr. Stevens.”
Dottie - “I miss Connecticut - the water, the seagulls, the smells, the fog horn - but I fell in love with Globe.”
Dr. - “We had two hospitals then, and I did part-time work in the emergency departments of both hospitals. I was a community doctor and my partner at that time was Dr. Garskoff. He and I often worked in the emergency department because it provided a little extra money while we were building the practice. We had an old-fashioned partnership
--- we just shook hands--- we never had a piece of paper between us. Can’t do business like that nowadays.”
Dottie - “When we moved to Globe, I was involved in the American Cancer Society, and I quite often gave the elderly rides to doctors’ offices and so forth. I also did substitute teaching.”
Dr. - “They loved her. She was strict.”
Dottie - “I was fair.”
Dr. - “Weren’t you the founder of Globe Clean and Beautiful?”
Dottie - “I was the founder. When we first moved here, I went on the radio with Gene Pearsall and asked, ‘If anyone is interested in helping to clean up the town, can we
meet?’ So Lee Baiza and Marcus Mendoza showed up. That was 30 years ago. I have a little corner with my plaque, Dottie’s Corner.”
Dr. - “On Hill Street, the old school building, there is a little triangle there and we had to finagle a way to get Dottie to a city council meeting because they were going
to give her a plaque of appreciation and today there is a little bronze plaque sitting on a brick base that says, ‘This is Dottie’s Corner’.”
Dr. and Dottie Durham raised two sons, David and Robert.
Dottie - “We have two children, David and Robert. David is a Doctor of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine.”
Dr. - “He thinks people who have both physical diseases and mental illness are fascinating.”
Dottie - “Robert is the Manager of Veterans Affairs for Northern California. He is an Iraq War veteran.”
Dr. - “We’re grateful; Rob made it out of Iraq okay. The worst thing for a father is to be a combat veteran, as I am, and know what your son is going through.”
Dr. and Dottie Durham’s conversation was with the precision of an orchestra, a harmony of sounds as if queued by a conductor of the precise time to interpose. Her
words resonated with intertwining New York and Boston accents forming a unique sound, flowing from her ever-smiling face while Dr. Durham’s staccato of phrases, short
and to the point, had a tone of sarcasm, irony and humor.
When a person looked into the eyes of Dr. Michael Durham there was an echo of knowledge, truth, commitment and experiences which drew people close; close enough to hear the stories and wisdom of the old-fashioned doctor who began his practice using his father’s little black medical bag and who up until 2014 still made occasional house calls.
Dottie Durham has complemented her husband over the years like a key to a lock, the fundamental piece which had fastened their lives together for more than 50 years. (In Memory and Gratitude of Dr. Michael Durham)