When I was a little boy, I thought my Dad could be President of the United States.
Today, at age 46, I still believe that my Dad could have been President. He was confident, respected, admired and very accomplished. In his life, John M. Kearney M.D. was a surgeon, a veteran, a father. With the help of an amazing woman, he rose to the top of his profession and raised 11 children in a little hamlet called Jacksonwald in Exeter Township, Pennsylvania.
My Dad and Mom had 11 children of which I am the tenth – talk about Father’s Day, huh?! My Dad was a very lucky man in that Georgine, my Mom, was the most loyal woman you could have. She was the kind of person who’d give you the shirt off her back, always there for him through thick and thin, and ran the show at home.
My parents married in 1950, when my Dad graduated from Albright College. After he attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, they moved around following the paths of education until moving to Exeter Township to begin a medical practice. My father loved that house and he was proud to call it his home. He never told me this but I know he loved our home on Shelbourne Road. Between 1961 and 1969, my father and mother added five more children to the six I mentioned before. My younger brother was born eight weeks early on Nov. 1, 1968. Following his birth, her doctor had told my Mom she was finished having children.
Having 11 children, and paying the bills for 11 children is quite a challenge. This phenomenon of having 11 children amazes me; the home was a zoo!
As the father of eleven children, he gets the gold medal when it comes to patience. I am not saying my Dad never lost his cool, but I often think how he considered his family. Still, there was no escaping the numerous personalities and tribulations each child had. I believe his strength came from what he endured in war and growing up in during the Great Depression. It made him stronger. It made him able to deal with literally anything life could throw at him and that includes the zoo on Shelbourne Road.
In 1944, at age 18, my Dad enlisted in the United States Army and subsequently went as an infantry man to Belgium in the Battle of the Bulge. Anyone who knows WWII history, knows soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge hiked 100 miles or more in below freezing, sub-zero, temperatures to fight the Germans.
I think about my Dad’s age, his time in war in Belgium and the daily hell he faced there.
He was injured by metal from a bomb that went in his upper back. After the explosion, he woke up in a “hospital” in France, which was a gymnasium filled with cots. He recovered slowly from the injury. When he was physically able, he finally got on a boat and made his way back the U.S. in 1945.
Some people say he was a complicated man, but I completely disagree. He understood and knew a lot of complicated procedures and subjects. But his philosophy of life was not complicated when it came to fatherhood. As a general surgeon on the medical staff at St. Joseph’s and Community General Hospital, Reading, for over 30 years, he made it to the top of his profession.
In his profession he was charming, had great “bed-side manner,” and could quickly win your adoration. I was always impressed how people liked my Dad and they hardly knew him. Above all of his attributes, his professional integrity is what I admire the most. He was good and honest. I mean good as in good at his job and, well, honest is honest. He earned every dollar he made.
I am glad that he lived long enough for me to understand who he was because I know some people do not get that opportunity. He taught me the value of honesty.
If I accomplish in my lifetime half of what he accomplished in his, I have really done something great with my life.
Hail to the Chief. That is my Dad. That is my President Kearney.