The Remembrance Project: John Harvey, Jr.

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John Harvey, Jr., forever known to his children and grandchildren as "Dud," died April 6 in Medfield, Massachusetts. He was 89 years old.

Some men have a public charisma that electrifies crowds. Dud was loved for his lower-wattage but unfailing devotion to family. Every decision he made in life pointed at all times in their direction. They were his center of gravity.

He and his brother were born to older parents — his father was already 50 — and Dud’s childhood was unadventurous, except for a car accident that caused him to miss a year of school (his son still remembers the dents from pins in his shinbone). He wanted to be a doctor, and at 17, instead of another summer as a Swan Boat pedaler in the Boston Common, he left high school to enlist as a Navy medic.

He was just a teenager when he landed on Iwo Jima, and then Okinawa, with Marines on the attack transport ship USS Bladen. Yet the family never heard war stories — not because he was traumatized, but because, in understated Dud fashion, he had done his duty and then, well, it was done.

His path took a turn when he met Joan. They married young and had the first of their four children before John had graduated college. Earning an immediate living was imperative. Dud became a pharmaceutical rep, and for the next 30 years, travelled throughout the Boston area and upstate New York calling on doctors and pharmacists.

His office was the company sedan, and his records and samples were stored in the trunk. There was no voicemail, only dimes for dropping in gas station pay phones. Sometimes he parked by the post office in order to finish paperwork and mail the forms in a timely manner.

Dud had patience for long waits in medical offices. Maybe he also acquired some knowledge there by proximity, because neighbors sent their injured kids to him before bringing them to emergency rooms. He knew how to patch people up. Yet neither he nor his wife believed in primary care; they never went for check-ups.

“I know those bastards are going to find something,” he told his son, the night before he finally agreed to a colonoscopy in his seventies. That was when he was diagnosed with cancer.

In his last years, memory faltered, but the center of gravity held firm. He never stopped trying to provide for family. One night, after a granddaughter visited the nursing home, he said from his wheelchair, “Maybe I ought to drive you home.” He had forgotten, he no longer had the company car.

Did you know John Harvey, Jr.? Share your memories in the comments section.


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