Remembering an 'old-fashioned kind of doctor'
Maryjane Keefe remembers driving with her father through Manchester last summer, and on nearly every block, the retired physician pointed out the homes of former patients where he had made house calls over his long career.
"It was really quite something," Keefe said. "It made me realize, he really did treat a lot of people in Manchester."
And he remembered all their names.
Dr. Paul Harkinson died last week after a recurrence of esophageal cancer. He was about a month shy of his 90th birthday.
His large and loving family gathered at Goodwin Funeral Home on Friday evening to greet nearly 200 friends, colleagues and former patients who came to pay their respects to the good doctor.
They spoke of his warm sense of humor; his love of the outdoors, which kept him active to the end; and his deep sense of caring and compassion. If a patient couldn't afford to pay, he didn't charge. A convert to Catholicism, he always took special care of the older clergy and nuns.
Carolyn Stiles of Henniker was there along with her parents, Walter and Judy Stiles, who grew up with the Harkinson family. She remembers the doctor "had a gentle touch about him."
"He was the old-fashioned kind of doctor, who really had a pulse on the whole person, emotional as well as physical."
Harkinson was devoted to his five daughters and 15 grandchildren. And each of them cherishes special memories of their time with him.
Sarah Dargan of Bremerton, Wash., remembers going on house calls with her dad when she and her sisters were little. "Some of the people would invite us in and have cookies for us," she said.
And she recalled her dad waking his daughters up early on summer Saturdays and driving them to Mount Washington for a hike. "It's something I'll always treasure," she said. "I do the same for my kids ... so that was something he passed on to the generations."
Paul Paquette, the eldest of Harkinson's grandchildren, and his namesake, also shared with him a love of books. And he remembers how the nuns would bring his grandfather cakes and pies at Christmas and Easter, indulging his well-known love of sweets.
Army 1st Lt. Tom Dargan was thinking about the emails his grandfather, an Army veteran of World War II, would send while he was serving in the desert of Iraq. "That meant a lot," he said.
Even with so many grandkids to keep track of, Dargan said, "He always knew what was going on in our lives."
Dargan also remembers standing with his grandfather on top of Mount Agamenticus in Maine, marveling at how the older man could name any of the peaks he pointed out.
Calen Paquette of Manchester said his grandfather taught all the grandkids how to ski. And his sister, Jessie Conley of Redmond, Wash., recalled listening to her first opera, "Madame Butterfly," with her grandfather.
Devin Keefe followed his grandfather into the medical profession and to Tufts University. Now a third-year student at Boston University School of Medicine, he said his grandfather took a special interest in his studies. "Every day after working at the hospital, I'd call him and we'd discuss medicine," he said.
His grandfather, Keefe said, was the best kind of physician: "so easygoing, and conscientious." And he said, "I'll try to carry that with me and aspire to be the compassionate and deliberate physician he was."
"I only wish he could have seen me graduate."
For Sarah Bright of Salisbury, Mass., the best memories were made each summer at the beach house their grandparents rented in York, Maine.
There were five guest bedrooms, Bright recalled, and each family got one, where parents and kids bunked in together. "It was just a crazy house but it was just the best place to grow up," she said.
She also remembers her grandfather taking her to McIntyre Ski Area when she was about 5 years old. On the ski lift, she recalled, "I slipped and was dangling by my mitten. And Grampa grabbed me and pulled me up. He saved me."
Marilyn and Andy Yianakopolos of Contoocook were patients of Harkinson dating back to the 1960s. "He was amazing," she said. "When you walked in, you just felt like you were the only patient. He never rushed you."
Years ago, Harkinson diagnosed her husband's diabetes, she recalled, and "I still have him today."
Bonnie Kisielewski called Harkinson's passing "the end of an era."
"They really don't make docs like that anymore," said Kisielewski, who was Harkinson's office nurse for many years and is now administrator at Ridgewood Nursing Center in Bedford.
Many of his patients were older, and he never rushed them, she said. "We'd try to schedule appointments, and it was very hard to keep a schedule because he would just do what he had to do. He didn't care how long it took."