Thursday, April 21, 2016

Doctor Who Buried His Teenage Son

Harold W. Thomas was a physician for 53 years in Arnold, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. He was married to my husband's 3rd cousin 2 times removed, Agnes May Cowden.

Harold was born April 10, 1902, to parents Abraham & Clara Thomas. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh's medical school in 1928, he opened his own practice in his hometown of Arnold. He also served as the school doctor for the New Kensington-Arnold School District, a position he held for 40 years while running his medical practice.

His first child, Harold Thomas Jr., was born on March 13, 1932. But at the age of 16, his son died in Pittsburgh's Mercy Hospital from acute respiratory failure caused by virus encephalitis. It must have been difficult to help so many people during his career but be unable to save someone he loved so much. Harold Sr. had this to say about his son's death in an article published by The Pittsburgh Press about his retirement in 1982:

    "'You accept older people dying,' he said, 'but the deaths of younger people are the hardest things for a doctor to absorb. They cause many sleepless nights. But you learn to accept death as an act of God if you've done your best.'

    Thomas hails the new drugs and technology, which might have saved his own son, Harold Jr., who died from polio at age 16 in 1948. 'I gave him all the remedies, but neither the Salk nor the Sabin vaccines were available,' he said. 'It was only a few years after he died that they were developed.'"

Harold W. Thomas Sr. died 35 years after his son on May 17, 1983, in Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital. Father and son are buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania. Of all of his accomplishments, it's likely that Harold Sr. was most proud of his children. It's sad that he lost one so young.

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