From The Archives: Papaw

Today is the 115th anniversary of the birth of my mother’s father, Wilbur Russell Houston (funny how I share his initials but none of his names). He grew up in Grant County, attended my place of employment for one year, and in the late 20s graduated from the Eclectic Medical School in Cincinnati. (The term “eclectic medicine” was first used by Transylvania professor Constantine Rafinesque.) In September 1927 he married Lucille Barton Haskell; they had three daughters, my mother being the middle child. He became a family physician and volunteered for the U.S. Army during WWII, spending about a year toward the end of the war at a medical camp in the Phillipines. He returned to family practice afterward until 1966, when he moved to Eastern Kentucky University to serve as the head of their medical services. Upon retirement in 1973, he moved back to the iconic “old stone house” on US 42 just north of downtown Union, KY (they’d purchased it in the mid 50s). He loved to tend to his gardens and fruit trees there. Toward the end of his life he suffered from macular degeneration. Even though his sight had dimmed, it seemed like he never met a stranger.

On a personal level, one could say I owe him my life–he was the one who introduced my parents to each other! My dad was one of his patients, and one Sunday in 1961, he elected to take my grandmother and mother to Bromley Christian Church, where Dad was pastoring. They took Dad out to lunch after the service; a first date soon ensued, and the rest is history. I have many fond memories from my youth of being at “the farm,” as we called it–holiday family gatherings, picking blackberries, learning to drive his Cub Cadet tractor. He is certainly at the center of many of those! Happy birthday, Papaw.


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