Nanticoke Health Services offers tribute to its 'giants'

By Lynn R. Parks

Ricky Brown, daughter of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital founder Dr. J. Leland Fox, told the more than 300 people at the Nanticoke Health Services' annual tribute dinner Thursday night that she can take credit for the start of the hospital. "Nanticoke Memorial Hospital is in existence because of me," she said. Brown, who was born in January 1942, said that when her mother went into labor in the middle of the night, Dr. Fox had to drive his wife to Beebe Hospital, Lewes, for the delivery. That was just a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the nation's new blackout laws required that his car's headlights be taped to allow just the smallest amount of light through. "They were driving in the dark, on what were then little country roads, and my father turned to my mother and said, 'If we had a hospital in Seaford, we would not have to make this trip,'" Brown said. "That was the seed that started Nanticoke Memorial Hospital." Dr. Fox, who died in 1957, was honored during the tribute dinner with the Nanticoke Health Service's Founders Award. Also honored during the dinner, held at Heritage Shores, Bridgeville, were doctors William B. Cooper and Daniel A. Alverez, who were inducted into the Physician's Hall of Fame, and Charles C. "Chick" Allen III, who was given the Charles C. Allen Jr. Leadership in Philanthropy Award, named for his father. "It is truly an honor to be the recipient of the award that's named for my father," Allen, Seaford, told the crowd. Allen, chief executive officer of Allen Family Foods, Inc., is a member and past chairman of the Nanticoke board of directors and has served as vice chairman and chairman of the board's governance and management committee. "Chick has dedicated countless hours to the betterment of his hospital," chairman of the board Rex Mears said. "He is caring and dedicated, and resolved to make his piece of the world a better place." Dr. John Rawlins, himself a member of the Physician's Hall of Fame, told the crowd that Fox was a visionary. "He saw early that this town needed a hospital," Rawlins said. "It is appropriate to give him full credit for being a founder of this hospital." Rawlins said that Fox was one of the first doctors to have an x-ray machine in his office, a fact that Fox's son, Jackson, said may have caused his death. "Dad died of a brain tumor, and we know now that radiation causes cancer," he said.

"That is something they did not know then." Dr. Judy Tobin, assistant state medical examiner for Kent and Sussex counties, talked about Cooper, who had "great clinical judgment and a wonderful bedside manner," she said. Cooper came to Nanticoke in 1953 as its first surgeon and worked there nearly until his death in 1991. Cooper was a "gifted artist with fantastic hands," Tobin said. "His patients idolized him and loved him and he was respected and revered by the medical staff. Many of us still remember what a fine surgeon he was, and a dear friend." "Dad just wanted to practice his art," added Cooper's son, Steve, Seaford. "He wanted to treat the sick and fix the hurt." Cuba native Alvarez came to Nanticoke and joined the Laurel practice of Dr. Pierce Ellis in 1964 after fleeing Castro-controlled Cuba in 1961. He established his own practice in Seaford in 1970 and practiced until 1993. He died in 1994. Alvarez "abhorred communism, Castro and shoddy medical practices," Dr. Mark Cosgrove, who described Alvarez as his mentor, told the audience. "He was committed to his community hospital and to the private practice of medicine." "I am so very proud of him, and I still miss him terribly," said Alvarez's widow, Jackie, Seaford. "When I married him, I knew that he already had a mistress, and that was the practice of medicine. No matter what, he was a physician." Alvarez said that, even 13 years after her husband closed his practice, she still hears from people who sing his praises. "People tell me all the time that they feel so blessed that he was their physician," she said. Hospital spokesman Tom Brown told the audience that the hospital has adopted a quote by Sir Isaac Newton for the motto of its tributes dinners. Newton said, "If I have seen further√Čit is by standing on the shoulders of giants." "This evening has taught us that we are in the presence of giants," Brown said. "Nanticoke Memorial Hospital has a long history and by standing on the shoulders of these giants, we will be able to see the future."

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