Blind River Citizens Honor Local Doctor Who Has Served Town Over 40 Years
BLIND RIVER - Blind River never paid a more sincere tribute to one of its sons than it did on Thursday night when Scott Legion Hall was packed to capacity with residents from all walks of life to attend a testimonial dinner for Dr. F C. Hamill.
Behind the long head table, cartoons depicting the popular doctor flanked a huge cut-out mural which declared that, so far as Blind River was concerned, he was to receive the "Most Important Man of the Year Award." The colorful display was the work of Grade 7 students of Blind River public school.
Baskets of flowers banked the stage, and the garlanded hall was a continual buzz as animated conversation preceded the arrival of guest of honor, most of it concerned the role he has played in Blind River where, as a later speaker was to declare, he has become a "legend in his time."
Dr. Hamill, accompanied by his wife, son Bob, and sister, Mrs. F. C. Hoehan, of Copeland, Ont., entered to the thunderous applause of 300 people.
Chairman for the evening, and prime organizer of the testimonial dinner. Rev. E. M. Skillen introduced the evening's entertainment provided by students of Blind River junior band under their director. John L. Jarratt, and he declared that the sight of the young musicians would be dear to the heart of the guest of honor, particularly as he had brought into the world many of the town's talented youngsters.
The band selections were climaxed by the solo clarinet playing of Billy Sutherland, a student who recently won acclaim at Sault Ste. Marie music festival. Accompanied by his mother at the piano, he flawlessly executed two numbers, including the difficult "Playful Rhonda."
Four-part singing by Blind River Junior Choir won acclaim. and their director. John Jarratt, expressed the hope that the choristers would eventually drift into the town's church choirs.
Then it was time for the evening's speeches, and Mayor Joseph Haggar set the theme of these by declaring "we are here to testify to the value of one man in developing the welfare of Blind River"
Dr Jean Pigeon, chief of medical staff in Blind River, expressed his own pride in having been associated with Dr Hamill who, he said, had followed his practice for more than 40 years.
"Our friend has looked after the health of rich and poor." he continued, "and is dedicated to the highest ideals of our profession.
"He is," said Pigeon, "a humble doctor, who shys away from the limelight, and we are putting him through an ordeal in throwing so much of it on him.
"We still need and want him," Pigeon concluded, "and I don't think he will ever abandon completely his favorite field of medicine. You should hear him talk about a new addition to the hospital."
For the entire medical staff Pigeon then presented Hamill with an example of finely executed silverware, which he had made specially for the occasion.
Public health nurse. Mrs. Ray Thompson, in a sincere and moving speech made on behalf of all members of the nursing profession, told of personal experiences shared by Dr Hamill, and said "he realizes that by giving we all get more from life, and he has found great happiness in serving others.
"Tonight," she observed, "he is in the patient's place and will have to do what he is told."
Mrs. Thompson then presented a gift to Mrs. Hamill.
There was huge applause when Rev Skillen introduced Ivan and Evan Shanahan. two burly Sault Ste. Marie policemen who, the chairman said, were brought into the world 29 years ago by Dr Hamill.
Moving was the eloquent tribute paid to the guest of honor by Rev James Somerville, minister of St. Andrew's United Church, and he said of Hamill, "he loves people, from the aged to the very young. He has set a standard by which we should judge our own lives."
Turning to the doctor, he declared "we consider it a vilege to have lived in the same town with you."
Similar thoughts were expressed by Rev. Stanley Hard-man. minister of Emmanuel Baptist Church, and by John Hazell, resident manager of the McFadden Lumber Co., in Blind River.
President of Blind River Chamber of Commerce, "Red" Venturi also expressed the sentiments of all the members of his organization.
For the Royal Canadian Legion, and on behalf of the town's veterans, president Jarratt said simply "if this hall had only been built for one purpose, that of honoring Dr. Hamill tonight, all our members would have been happy "
Rev Skillen, an able and sparkling chairman, paid special mention to the "ecumenical spirit" which had marked the progress of the evening and he noted that women of the Legion auxiliary and Lest we Forget Club had joined with their sisters from every church organization in the town to provide the excellent banquet which all had hugely enjoyed.
As the evening neared its climax, the chairman quoted a poem.
"The wise man must decide,
'Twixt truth and falsehood
For the good or evil side.
'Tis then the brave man chooses
And the coward stands aside."
"Dr Hamill faced the uncertainty of the northland over 40 years ago," he said, "and the north owes him a debt of thanks."
Then, leading Dr. Hamill to the stage of the Legion Hall, Rev Skillen, assisted by "Red" Venturi whisked away the covering blanket to reveal a handsome reclining chair.
Seated in his chair, Dr. Hamill received the standing ovation of the huge crowd.
Returning to the head table, Blind River's modest physician shyly expressed his feelings at being so feted, and telling of his earlier days in the logging camps of the area, he mentioned specially Councillor Tom Sloan, who, said the doctor, "was one of the first men I met in this country."
"I like people." said Dr. Hamill, "and I think that has been the reason for my getting along. I like getting into the homes and watching generations grow. I have enjoyed my life, but could not have done anything without my wife, Evelyn."
There was a burst of applause as the revered doctor said. 'I am not retiring; I will still do some anaesthetic work and look after the babies, but I have to help a little around the home.
"And when my usefulness is done, I will never, never, forget tonight," the doctor said.
There will be few people who were present at the dinner who will ever forget it, or the doctor they had honored.
And before benediction was pronounced by Mr Hardman, a glance around the huge hall proved that the town of Blind River and beyond was represented as it has seldom been before.
Frank C. Hamill had received just a slight idea of the feelings of those he has served for so many years and must have realized, as chairman Skillen finally noted: "That he loves people, and that's why people love him."
TOWN DOCTOR 'TAKES IT EASY' AFTER BEING HONORED AT DINNER Dr. F. C. Hamill, seated in the reclining chair presented him, with Rev. E. M. Skillen, left,
and 'Red' Venturi