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Goodbye, Larry

Published Saturday, April 30, 2022 @ 7:23 PM EDT
Apr 30 2022

Dr. Lawrence J. Nelson

Lawrence J. Nelson, MD was my personal physician since 1972. He died on Friday, April 15 at Allegheny General Hospital from injuries sustained in an auto accident on Sunday, April 3. He was 77.

The only report I could find was this link, and it took some seaching- it only appeared today, and only on Bing. Google came up empty.

The 20 word obituary is from the funeral home's web site. No newspapers have carried either a death notice or a news story, which is puzzling. In his half-century of practice, he touched (and saved) the lives of literally thousands of people in the Steel Valley and surrounding area. I'm writing this here so those who knew Larry and appreciated his distinguished service to the community will be aware of his passing.

I was 17 when Larry first treated me for hay fever, the beginning of a relationship that would span five decades. I used to joke that I was "his longest surviving patient" and that he had assured me the rash I had when I first visited him in the fall of 1972 "should be clearing up real soon now."

The last few years we primarily connected over lunch at The Monkey Bar. After a hearty round of "Hi Doc!" greetings from the staff and regulars, he'd order a salad and a glass of ice water. I'd get something composed of enough fat and complex carbohydrates to stun a moose. I'd look at him questioningly, silently seeking approval; he'd raise an eyebrow and sigh, "At this point, I wouldn't worry about it."

Larry was well-known in the community as a compassionate, warm, generous, highly competent physician and diagnostician. In his career he ran clinics and emergency rooms at various facilities where he acquired the immense body of knowledge and wisdom essential to fill the pansophic role of a wise old family doctor.

Shortly after he began his local practice, Larry was working the overnight shift at Homestead Hospital's emergency room. I was city editor of the Homestead Messenger at the time, and assigned reporter Joe Lawrence to shadow the good doctor and file a story about what goes on in a small community ER in the middle of the night. Larry did not disappoint: he gave Joe one of the greatest quotes of the young reporter's nascent journalistic career: "Kids are like sharks," Dr. Nelson said. "They'll eat anything."

Larry was an accomplished musician. I often wondered what new patients thought when they entered his office and saw two huge concert harps sitting there, and a counter adorned with a couple of heavy, ornate lamps obviously obtained from a funeral home. "Full service," I'd casually remark to the white-knuckled newbie sitting next to me.

Until recently he'd cover as the house physician at a local hospital on holidays and weekends. He was the doctor who'd show up beside your hospital bed on holidays, weekends, or in the middle of the night when a critical medical event occurred and your regular doctor couldn't (or wouldn't) answer the phone. I'm not kidding. That's in addition to visiting or calling him during his regular office hours, like here and here.

Dr. Nelson departed unexpectedly, and I truly suffer the void left by his passing. I deeply regret that I didn't have an opportunity to give him a proper farewell.

His friendship and support over the past fifty years are gifts I will never forget and will always be thankful for receiving.

As the late author and journalist Christopher Hitchens sadly observed, "A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realization that you can't make old friends."

But, thankfully, we can always remember them.

Categories: Larry Nelson, Lawrence J. Nelson, MD, Passages


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