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December 30, 1995

Verna Lee Swart has a commendable practice of writing letters to friends when they are ill to relieve the boredom of long periods in bed. Several years ago she began including little personal stories in each letter when the supply of interesting news ran low. "I thought I would just write a story about, the most interesting thing I could think of -- ME," Verna Lee says, "and so the 'ME'S' were born to entertain a trapped audience."

Some of my recent columns dealt with Ethel Ryerson's nursing home and the doctors who delivered babies there 45-50 years ago, and that brought to mind one of Verna Lee's "ME" stories, originally written in 1985. It is a charming little tale, so let me turn this over to Verna Lee for a retelling. This is the "ME" story which she entitled "My Hero." Here it is:

"Barbara, my sister, and I were always looking for ways to bring pleasure into our parents' lives and we knew they would like to have a little boy to go with us girls. Every, family should have a mixture, we thought. With all of this in mind, we developed a plan. The very next time we were taken to town we went hand in hand up the steep, scary stairs above the drug store to Dr. Coldiron's office. We marched into his office and climbed into his big patient's chair. I must have been about 6 and Barbara about 8, so this was a pretty big step for us and we were pretty nervous, but we had our plan.

"Being the family doctor for about everyone in Noble county, Dr. Coldiron had brought both of us into the world so we were no strangers to him. Still, he was puzzled to have us there by ourselves and not looking sick. He very kindly asked what he could do for us. We said we thought it would really be nice if he would please bring us a little baby brother with black hair and brown eyes like Daddy. He could bring him in his little, black bag. Never mind that a baby was bigger than his bag. Never mind that we knew where baby animals came from. Never mind we knew you could hope for male or female animals but you never knew for sure until they came. We just knew Dr. Coldiron would bring our little brother with black hair and brown eyes in his little black bag one day soon.

"One night in early November, Barbara woke me jumping up and down on the bed and yelling, 'We have a baby brother! We have a baby brother!' And we did, too. I heard him cry. We forgave Dr. Coldiron that his hair was dark brown instead of black and his eyes were blue like ours. We didn't want to hurt his feelings. After all, he had been so busy that day he had to come out in the middle of the night to bring our little brother to us.

"We did kind of wonder why Mama stayed in bed the next day, but she had been up pretty late the night before and we guessed she was just tired. All was forgotten in the thrill of rocking and holding our little brother. He was just wonderful -- exactly what we knew he would be. Barbara and I always loved Dr. Coldiron. We had living proof he could do anything."

The baby brother described above was Leonard Shelton, a former Perry high school wrestling coach. The parents of Barbara, Leonard and Verna Lee were J. Roy and Clara Shelton, and Mrs. Shelton provides this postscript to the above:

"Just ten years after Leonard, the baby brother Verna Lee and Barbara asked Dr. Coldiron for was born, Ralph arrived on Verna Lee's 17th birthday, Dec. 8, 1947. He was a pleasant surprise. No one asked for him! He also had brown eyes and black hair like his Daddy."

Mrs. Shelton continues: "I still have the cancelled check we gave Dr. Coldiron for $25 for delivering Ralph in Mrs. Ryerson's hospital on the north side of the square. The rest of our babies were born at home. We loved Dr. Coldiron very much. No other doctor has taken his place in our hearts."

With this engaging little tale, I take my leave and wish you one and all a Blessed and Happy New Year!