Bob Dornhecker is a 75 year Joslin medalist, one of only about 60 or so in the world. He lives at the retirement village in our town of 15,000 in the center of the Willamette Valley. He was recently featured in our local newspaper, on the occasion of being awarded his 75 year medal. I've wanted to meet him for some time.
Bob is presently 86. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 11. To give you a sense of how long ago that was, insulin had only been available for about 10 years or so. It was a time when diabetes treatment and management were just barely out of the dark ages -- but not by very much.
My wife, who volunteers several days a week at the retirement village, has known Bob for some time. I've wanted to meet and talk to him for quite a while, and yesterday I finally was able to. We had to cut our talk a bit short because his therapist came in to work with him on a non-diabetes-related problem, but we are both eager to continue the conversation and most certainly will.
When Bob was initially diagnosed -- at age 11 -- his doctor sat him and his mother down and explained that in ten years or so he would most likely be blind, an amputee, or worse. I don't know whether it was in reaction to that, or just plain old strength of character, but Bob's mother evidently heard that as a challenge. She sought out every scrap of knowledge available at that time and took charge of managing his diabetes with discipline and determination.
His doctor's gloomy predictions, needless to say, never came true. Even so, says Bob, he never intended to get married or start a family because of the pessimistic outlook. Then he found a doctor who essentially told him, "take care of yourself the way I tell you to, and you can live just as long and happily as anyone else." Imagine a doctor saying that to a patient 60 years ago!
(As an aside, the doctor's name was Blair Holcomb. He wrote several books and the house he lived in is a minor architectural landmark: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jones-Holcomb_House )
Bob must have taken the advice to heart, because he's been married for 65 years. Frances, who has Alzheimer's, lives down the hall in the Memory Care unit. She still knows him and they spend time together every day without fail. Their two kids (both in their 60s now) visit as often as they can; they each live a few hours away.
And herewith, the latest installment of "it's a small world." After leaving Bob we drove to a nearby town to run a series of errands. While walking through the large downtown mall, we encountered a friend, a former County Commissioner who happens to be . . . Bob's nephew!
My immediate (and lasting) impression of Bob Dornhecker is of someone alert, fully engaged and with a consuming interest in everything around him. We were barely introduced when he asked me to tell him my story! LOL!
Just a truly nice guy. I can't wait to get to know him better.
For those interested, here is a link to our local paper's story about Bob's 75 year Joslin award: