There are several advantages (I guess) to living over a half-century. For one thing, you figure you have seen just about all the ways that so-called friends can betray you. With apologies to Jay Leno, when I die, I’m going to have it in my will that six of my old traitorous “friends” will be the ones who lower me in the grave just so I can know that it will be the very last time they will let me down. There are several other benefits to getting older, I’m sure. But I guess my memory is at the point where I have a hard time remembering what they are.
However, one of the things (of which there are also several) that I hate about getting older is watching the people whom I have long loved and admired pass away. For so long, I always thought of myself as the kid on the block. There were so many wonderful mentors and friends from whom I could draw wisdom and strength. Suddenly, I am beginning to feel old--and very alone.
I became a clone of none of these men; I had significant differences with some of them. With others, our hearts were knit as one. But each of them contributed substantially in helping to mold me (for better or worse, depending on who you talk to) into what I am today.
The man at the top of my list is my father, Edwin J. Baldwin. He’s been gone since 1993; I still miss him dearly. Brother Larsene “Bud” Hall is gone. Dr. Paul Vanaman is gone; Dr. Tom Malone is gone; Dr. Jerry Falwell is gone; my uncle, Arthur “Bud” Baldwin, is gone; Howard Phillips is gone; and now, my dear friend, Dr. Reed Bell is gone. And without a doubt, Dr. Bell is one of the men with whom my heart was knit.
Reed was a close, personal friend and confidant for over 30 years. He actually introduced himself to me via personal letter while I was still attending college in Lynchburg, Virginia. Reed lived in Pensacola, Florida. After my family and I moved to that city, he and I became instant friends.
Reed was a standout quarterback in high school and attended the University of Florida on an athletic scholarship. After his freshman year, he joined the Navy to serve in World War II. He studied medicine at Duke University and fulfilled his residency at Baylor College of Medicine Hospital.
Dr. Bell was one of the finest physicians America has ever produced. The Apostle Paul’s description of Dr. Luke truly fits Dr. Bell: he was the “beloved physician.” His accomplishments as a pediatrician are legendary.
The Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, was his vision. He was the hospital’s co-founder and first director. He also organized the pediatric residency program and served as its chairman for 17 years. He later served as medical director of District 1 of Children’s Medical Services and as director of the Escambia County Health Department. He served as the president of the Florida Pediatric Society and chairman of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He also served as an advisor to President Ronald Reagan. He was 86 years old when he passed.
A friend of mine who reports for the Pensacola News Journal, Troy Moon, wrote the following news story on Dr. Bell’s passing. Read it here:
Children’s Physician Dr. Reed Bell Dies At 86
Beyond the feeling of personal loss is the doubt that men such as Reed Bell can be soon replaced. Who took the place of Dr. Joseph Warren? Who took the place of George Washington? Who took the place of Patrick Henry? Who took the place of Sam Adams? Who took the place of Thomas Jefferson? Who took the place of Ben Franklin? Who took the place of Pastor Jonas Clark?
I know that great men have graced the soil of this country from time to time, but rarely does one have an opportunity to actually know such a man. Dr. Reed Bell was that kind of man. I’m still in awe that I had the opportunity to be his friend.
Thank God there are still a few men yet with us whom I consider to be of the caliber of Dr. Reed Bell. And, yes, I am sure that God will not forsake us and will continue to raise up men and women of great character, heart, and ability to become beacons of hope for succeeding generations. But for the life of me, it’s hard to imagine someone taking Reed Bell’s place.
For one thing, it is going to be increasingly difficult for good physicians and surgeons to rise to the level of the great physicians and surgeons of the past with the advent of socialized medicine now upon us. And I’ve spoken with several physicians who are extremely concerned about the impending challenges that both doctor and patient are going to face. There’s got to be a hot spot somewhere for the politicians who have shackled the necks of the American people with this albatross.
In all of my life, I have never known a kinder, more compassionate, more honorable, or more principled man than Reed Bell. So, whatever the advantages of getting older might be, watching great men such as Dr. Reed Bell leave this world is definitely not one of them.
(c) Chuck Baldwin
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