Dr. Herrick C. Kimball
I was named after my grandfather, Dr. Herrick C. Kimball, of Fort Fairfield, Maine. My Grandmother Kimball once told me that my grandfather was actually given the name, Herric, and he changed the spelling to Herrick while in college.
She did not know what prompted my grandfather to ad a "k" to the end of his name. But I have recently come upon a possible explanation and hope to write about my interesting discovery one day soon.
I’ve never had a nickname that stuck. I’ve always been Herrick, and that is fine with me. But when I was a wee lad, my grandmother always referred to me as “Little Herrick.” That helped to avoid confusion, like when she would relate to one of her friends on the phone: “Little Herrick is visiting for the summer.”
My grandfather died in 1966, when I was seven years old (almost eight). My recollections of him are few. Nevertheless, he has played an important role in my life. Not only do I have his name, I have some of his possessions, like his high school class ring, with our initials engraved on the inside. It is a ring with a remarkable story. But I am getting ahead of myself.
I think I have told the story here in the past about how my grandfather Kimball was the son of a potato farmer. His was not a family of means, by any means. But he was exceptionally intelligent, knew what he wanted to do with his life, and worked hard to rise above his humble circumstances.
He graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine. It was a four year school and he got through in three. From there he went to Case Western Reserve medical school in Ohio. Getting a college education back in the 1920s, when you came from a relatively poor family, was not an easy thing to do. More than once, I have heard the story of how my grandfather sold his blood while in college to get some money.
Before long, he returned to his hometown in the northern Maine farming community of Fort Fairfield. There, at 25 years of age, he established his medical practice. He lived in that town for the rest of his days.
My grandfather also established a hospital in the town. Unlike the specialists of today, my grandfather pretty much did it all. He delivered babies. He did internal surgery. I understand he was even the coroner.
It has occurred to me in recent years that my grandfather could have easily been a prosperous big-city doctor. But he chose to go home and live in the little rural community he was born in. My aunt recently told me that the town helped pay for his education in return for him coming back to be the doctor. I didn’t realize they did that sort of thing back then. I think they got their money’s worth.
In any event, I am, to a degree, like my grandfather. He loved history and was an avid reader. I inherited his love of history as well as many of his books. In the front room of my grandparent's large house on Presque Isle Street, on the wall by the bookcases that held his books, there was a framed picture of Winston Churchill. As a little boy, I thought the man in the picture might be my grandfather—there was something of a resemblance (which makes me wonder, will I resemble Winston Churchill when I am old?). When my grandmother told me it was the Prime Minister of England, I thought he and my grandfather must be friends. But it was explained to me that my grandfather was an admirer of Churchill and one of his patients had given him the photograph..
And so it is that I have many of my grandfather’s books and a few medical instruments, and other small mementos. But one of my most curious keepsakes is his gold high school class ring, which fits me just right:
My grandmother gave me the ring when I was in jr. high school and she told me this story.....
It so happened that my grandfather lost his class ring while still in high school and working on the farm. I imagine that must have been a real disappointment. To own a gold class ring when your family is not of means must have been an extravagance. Perhaps it was given to him as a gift, which would make the loss of it even more disappointing. Whatever the case, the ring was lost and gone.
But it was not to be lost forever. Years later, after getting through medical school and returning to set up his small-town medical practice, a man stopped by his office and handed him the long-lost ring.
This man had bought the family farm and found the ring outside the barn. My grandmother says he found it in a manure pile. But I’m not sure that would be correct as so many years had elapsed. Perhaps my grandfather lost it while pitching manure. In any event, the man saw the gold (which never tarnishes) and knew immediately who it had belonged to when he saw the initials on the inside.
So that’s the story of my grandfather and his high school class ring. I am not one to wear jewelry. I don’t own a wedding band and wear no rings or bracelets or any adornment of any kind (I don’t even wear a wrist watch any more). But every so often, I put my grandfather’s class ring on, and I wear it for a day or so.
The ring is a reminder to me. It brings to memory my grandfather, the man I am named after. I think of the focus and determination and work he put into achieving the measure of success he had. I think of the fact that my grandfather served his community by helping the people who came to him for so many different problems. I think that, in many ways, I have failed to live up to his example. But I am still his grandson, his namesake, and I am thankful for the influence of his example.
Dr. Herrick C. Kimball
of Fort Fairfield, Maine