Faces in the Crowd – The Best Medicine

Posted on October 5, 2017 under Faces in the Crowd with 3 comments


“ Life is complicated enough. Keep things as simple as possible.”

Meet Emerson Dunphy.

Emerson was born in Ingonish in 1922 and at the age of 6 months, the family moved to North Sydney. His grandfather was a boat builder and his dad was a fish plant owner and trader, plying the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, sailing to and from the West Indies trading goods from Canada. His mother was a school teacher.

When he was six months old, the family moved to North Sydney. He and his 3 siblings spent many happy hours skating on the harbor and nearby lakes in the winter time. Emerson attended Sydney Academy and decided to take a year off after completing grade twelve as he wasn’t certain of his future plans. Part of the year was spent on a merchant ship. Sailing became a passion at an early age.

He attended St.F.X University graduating Magna Cum Laude and was awarded the Governor General’s medal. He had thoughts about being a lawyer but after a brief stint in a dark law office after graduation, he decided against this profession.

He was anxious to serve his country and during WW11, he joined the Air Force. He moved around Canada getting the required training and received his wings in Claresholm, Alberta. By the time he completed his training, the war was drawing to a close. On one fateful train trip from Eastern Canada to flying school in Regina, Emerson and two air force buddies discussed career plans after the war. They all decided to pursue medicine.

In 1945, he was back at “X” for two years of pre-med where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. He received his medical training at McGill and accepted an Internship in Bridgeport, Conneticut. In 1950, he met a beautiful young woman by the name of Margaret Campbell at St. Mary’s hospital in Montreal. She was studying to become a nurse. They were married in 1952. Their two eldest children were born in the United States. Emerson continued his studies in general surgery and urology.

He received word from a colleague that St. Martha’s Hospital in Antigonish was in desperate need of a second surgeon. At the urging of Dr. Tom Gorman, Emerson came back to Nova Scotia and was thrust immediately into an incredibly busy practice. He and Tom were responsible for 50 surgery beds. The work load was very demanding. Emerson admits that he would do it all over again. He was especially fond of the “ old St. Martha’s “ where there was a great deal of camaraderie amongst all the doctors, nurses and the  staff.

Over a career that spanned 34 years, Emerson saw many notable changes. “ The establishment of a burn unit in Halifax and the introduction of laparoscopic surgery were two major changes during my years of practice.”

Religion has always been a cornerstone of Emerson’s life. Like many Catholic families of that generation, saying the rosary after supper was the norm. From time to time , when the schedule allowed, he would duck into the chapel at the hospital for mass. These days he attends mass on a daily basis. He routinely gets up at 5:00 a.m., something that he has done most of his life.

Besides exercising regularly at home, he plays bridge twice a week and the cribbage board is always on the dining room table for a friendly game with family and friends. He also loves doing crossword puzzles. All of these things have kept his mind active and provided him with company and laughter.

So, what is his secret to longevity? “ I didn’t let stress get the better of me. I have always exercised and was well fed by Margie! And I have had a happy life. I think that being happy helps keep a person healthy. I have also benefited from advances in modern medicine. I have had many operations and have scars from head to toe to prove it! “

He also believes that his faith has given him a solid foundation to meet the challenges which life inevitably throws at all of us.

The death of his beloved Margie and son, Michael were hard on Emerson.

Regarding the state of the world, he feels that improved communication might be the only hope in finding harmony. “ World leaders need to meet face to face and discuss their problems and differences.

This gentleman, with a hint of his Irish ancestry twinkling in his eyes, is blessed with 14 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

He would probably concur that family and good friends are the best medicine.

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