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My grandfather on my mother’s side of the family was Dr. Francis Malone. He proved to be a role model for my life. Dr. Malone conducted his medical practice from a home with a beautiful garden in Waterford, Wisconsin. Grandpa had a guitar that he used as a sort of placebo treatment with certain patients. I recall that my grandfather would ask my mother, “Mary, would you like to go out on a call with me?  We’re going over to see the Webers.” They would get into a horse-drawn buggy together. He would bring along his guitar and medicine bag. In that bag was a bottle of Irish whiskey. Grandfather had keen insight and knew how to gauge people in the local community. Arriving at the homes of his patients, he could discern those who really needed medical attention from those who just needed support and a dose of good cheer. Depending on the patient, grandfather had an remarkable talent for knowing when and how to calm the soul and sooth a patient’s mind by strumming some Irish ballads, tossing out some old-fashioned Irish humor, and sharing a sip or two of fine whiskey. Some of his patients, many of whom were hard-working farmers with a lonely heart, could not afford the price of a house call; yet grandpa took great pleasure in treating them anyway. Sometimes, he would accept turkeys or other fowl as payment. Grandfather had his own unique style of attending to people’s needs; and to him, it didn’t matter if they couldn’t pay.

Grandfather passed away in 1952, having suffered a stroke about a year prior to his death. He died quite affluent, never having denied anybody medical care. I can still recall the bells of St. Thomas tolling out the noon hour just as he passed. Mealy Funeral home attended to the necessary preparations, but grandpa had a genuine old-fashioned Irish wake in his home. Imagine this: I was a five-year old kid staying at my grandmother’s house, where the wake was being held. Coming down stairs in the middle of the night, I recall seeing a huge parlor portrait of the Madonna and Child. To the right was the casket. Two little fans on tripods blew fresh air on the casket. I, just a naive child at the time, thought I saw him breathe. As if saying a prayer, I whispered as I grasped his lifeless hand, “Grandfather, I’ll always need your help.” Grandfather was well liked by the entire community; and to this very day, a pillar on the property still says Dr. Francis Malone.

In all respects, growing up in Waterford was a wonderful experience. At that time, one of the major influences on me musically was paying a quarter for admission into the Ford Theater on Friday nights for my time of escape. In particular, one film that stands out in my mind is a movie called The King and I, starring Yul Brynner and Debrorah Kerr. The music of Rodgers and Hammerstein moved me to such an extent that, over the duration of time the show played in Waterford, I would pay the 25 cents admission price to watch the film. Then between showings, I would hide under my seat just to catch the second performance.

I was a lonely, introspective kid; you might say I was sort of a dreamer. My two brothers were eight and six years ahead of me. We interacted as much as possible, considering the differences in our ages. My parents planned to move to Shorewood. The prospects of having an opportunity to explore new horizons excited me, and I looked forward to the move. Yet for me, relocating was complicated by discrepancies in the standards between the rural and city school systems. The reality of this intensified my educational struggle. My parents were advised to let me repeat the third grade in a Waterford public school, in order to be brought up to grade level.

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