Monday, December 18, 2006

Walter Dandy, family man

As I mentioned about a week ago, I was invited to attend this morning's neurosurgical conference, a special talk on the neurosurgeon Walter Dandy, delivered by his daughter Mary Ellen Dandy Marmaduke.

Ms. Marmaduke, a warm and engaging woman of 79, showed photographs of her father, his family and friends, while recounting fond memories and humorous anecdotes. A few of the tidbits:

  • Dandy told his children that he had always gotten excellent grades. However, looking at the old report cards after his death, they discovered that while attending grade school in Sedalia, MO, Walter had gotten Ds in deportment.
  • Dandy used golf as a means of stress management. Mary Ellen, who used to caddy for him, reported that he routinely killed the ball, threw his clubs, and swore liberally. This was a source of extreme embarrassment for her, and she threatened to quit as his caddy if he didn't stop throwing things.
  • Whenever someone mentioned Harvey Cushing, Dandy would mutter: "son of a bitch."
  • Dandy had a few famous patients, including Margaret Mitchell (a "prima donna"), Dorothy Lamour's mother, and a Gypsy Queen who arrived at Hopkins with a vast entourage. When the Gypsy Queen died, despite Dandy's labors, Mrs. Dandy became convinced that the entire family would be kidnapped by the rest of the tribe. She had all the locks changed on the family home.
  • In 1941, Dandy developed a baseball helmet with plastic panels to protect the head. The prototype for that helmet now resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Relaxing at home after a long workday, Dandy would always enjoy a cold Schlitz beer with dinner. Later, he would pay the children 10 cents per hour to rub his head until he fell asleep; if they could get off the bed without waking him up, the reward was an additional 25 cents. Mary Ellen doesn't remember ever being paid for that work...

As it turns out, faculty members in the Dept. of Neurosurgery here at OHSU were instrumental in getting Marmaduke's memoir of her father to press; until we get the book cataloged and into the OHSU Library, you can read Dandy's letters online at the website for the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. We have some letters from Dandy to A.J. McLean, Oregon's first neurosurgeon, in Accession 2001-004.

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