17 January 2009

Warm fuzzies: Heard from Nancy

Hello, dear readers,

Well, I've learned our anonymous reader is named Nancy and she lives on the West Coast. When I opened my email this morning, I learned much more about Uncle Lou.

Nancy, please write to me at tribeblog@jta.org so we can communicate directly. I'm sure you enjoyed seeing Uncle Lou's graduation photo today!

Nancy writes:

We live on the West Coast and my husband is standing here beside me in awe hearing about Dr. Tollin and seeing a childhood photo. He delivered my husband and all nine of his siblings. He delivered my sister, who was a preemie and almost died, but he saved her life. He came to my house when my mother was having anxiety attacks.

Everyone has a story about the great Dr. Tollin. He was like a part of everyone's family and has saved so many of us. I don't know when he ever got a second for himself. He had long office hours and you never needed an appt, just showed up. When he wasn't seeing patients in his office, he was out at our homes taking care of us.

I am here to tell you that his medications that he assembled in his room, were far superior than anything out there today. He made them himself and they were amazing.
Nancy, you have filled in a missing chapter for our family with your details. At least I know now why his summer visits were so brief - he couldn't stay away too long!

My great-grandmother Riva Bank Talalai/Tollin was a midwife before immigrating to Amerioca and was considered a "healer," with knowledge of medicinal herbs. I remember her daughter - my grandmother Bertha - talking with friends about the things Riva had seen in her years of helping people in the neighborhood. I am sure that Uncle Lou picked up a lot of practical knowledge from his mother.

"Little Grandma" Riva lived until 1963 and I remember her very well, although I don't think we ever had a conversation. She spoke Yiddish and Russian - neither of which I was fortunate to have learned - and very little English, but all her kids were told - so the story goes - that they must speak English as they were now Americans. She was too busy taking care of the family to learn English, and her life was in her community, so Yiddish and Russian were enough for her.

He had an incredible sense of humor. I used to talk his ear off as a child and he always told me that he thought he mistakenly vaccinated me with a phonograph needle :)

I remember bleeding profusely and going to have my head stitched up in his office late one Friday night. He froze the area with an ice cube so it didn't hurt me. To hear the story that he used to be scared of blood and how he overcame it was hilarious. Glad he did as he had lots of bloody situations with his patients over the years.

We had no specialists; he had be a jack of all trades in the medical world. And he was. He was an incredible man. The people of the community were his life. I have never seen any doctor, anywhere but Dr. Louis Tollin that was as dedicated as him. (and I have worked in a hospital most of my life)

We knew that he was from New York and that sounded exciting to us as kids. I heard from someone that Mrs. Tollin moved back to New York after her husband died. Just know that your great-uncle was a miracle to our community. He stuck with us all of those years when others chose a larger profitable town for their practice. It wasn't the money for Dr. Tollin, it was his calling.

Aunt Norma was the daughter of a pharmacist (Samuelson) in the Baltimore area. I have not researched her family and you might know about them. I don't remember meeting any of her own family, and only met their son Max and his family a few times. I know he had retired to Florida.

I do remember a conversation I overheard as a young child one summer. My grandmother was asking him to move to a different area, that it might not be safe where he lived - they were very close all their lives - and he said "I can't, they need me. I will never leave them." Funny, how we remember little snippets of conversations from decades ago! I certainly understand him after your details.

I have to smile when I think of him, as he was so funny that he could have easily been a comedian with his dry sense of humor and delivery of jokes. I cannot wait to send the picture of him to my sister back East, who I am sure will pass it on to many others.
I'm sure you also enjoyed his medical school graduation photo!

All the family were also musical, playing multiple instruments and singing. Zayde Aron had a voice that could crack wineglasses at Passover seders. Aron's maternal uncle Avraham Jassen was a famous hazan who had a synagogue in Brooklyn and also sang at the Metropolitan Opera with Enrico Caruso. So the musical genes were passed down. When my parents married in New York, there were several hazans and rabbis!

My grandmother always used to describe how she helped him through school, studying with him, quizzing him. She said that's how she got much of her education - by helping Lou study. That era was very different for girls.

Nancy, I wish all researchers could connect with someone like yourself who can provide special insight into the life of a relative.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:50 PM

    What a wonderful connection you've made. Thanks for passing this on to us-your readers!