With Age Comes Wisdom - VA Palo Alto Health Care System
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VA Palo Alto Health Care System


With Age Comes Wisdom

Mary Louise Dorr speaks with VFAC Program Manager Linda Frommer during a meeting

Mary Louise Dorr (on the right) speaks with VFAC Program Manager Linda Frommer during a meeting at VAPAHCS.

By Dave Earnest, Veteran, Volunteer & VFAC Member
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I’d like to introduce you to two of my colleagues on the Veterans and Family Advisory Council (VFAC). These two are featured during May 2018, as VA Palo Alto Health Care System celebrates “older” Veterans. Both of these Veterans would meet many other criteria that warrant being featured at our fabulous institution. What strikes me immediately is Mary Louise and Barry’s affable characters, their patience and wisdom, in addition to their tireless effort in volunteering to help make the VA Palo Alto the best it can be in the treatment of our Veterans.

Barry Rose was born in Philadelphia, grew up nearby and first attended college at the University of Pennsylvania. From an early age he enjoyed making things and discovered his mechanical and graphics skills. As the Korean War began, Barry interrupted his college education to volunteer and serve in the United States Army. He was fortunate enough to be stationed within the United States and became an instructor in wheeled vehicle repair. Following his service in the Army, he was able to restart his education at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Mechanical Engineering, but this time, he had the GI Bill to help sustain him. Barry subsequently attended The University of Rochester and earned a doctorate in Mechanical and Aerospace Sciences in 1969.

Barry has lived in the Palo Alto area for over 40 years and was a pioneer in the development of the semiconductor. He worked for Hewlett Packard for more than a quarter of a century in the field of optoelectronics technology; designing LED lamps, digital displays and fiber-optic transceivers.

Barry has a son and grandchild nearby and a daughter in the Washington DC area. Barry’s eyes light up when he credits his daughter with introducing him to Anne Firth Murray, with whom he has been having a “30-year long conversation.” Anne is a ‘kiwi’ Barry tells me and then is quick to explain, it’s a nickname for a New Zealander!

I asked Barry to tell me something very unique about himself; something that none of us would guess about him. Again eyes sparkling, “When I met Anne, I had a mother, a sister and a former wife; and I thought I understood women and women’s issues, but having met Anne, I quickly realized that I knew nothing about women or their issues.” Anne has devoted many years to women’s rights by founding Global Fund for Women and serving many other women’s organizations. “Thanks to Anne, I’ve been learning about women’s issues for the past 30 years!”

Barry is quick to say how grateful he is for the life he has lived. He is a huge advocate for the VA Palo Alto, serving as a volunteer on the Veteran and Family Advisory Council (since 2010) and the Specialty and Hospital Based Services Leadership Committee.

Barry is a resident of Sequoia-Portola Valley and recently Anne has joined Barry also as a resident. They also maintain homes on Deer Isle, Maine and New Zealand.

Mary Louise Dorr was born in Chicago, April 23,1927 but moved to Anaheim by the time she was two years old with her mother and older brother Howard. Life in Anaheim in the early days was country living with nearly all orange groves. Mary Louise recalls riding her bicycle through the groves and playing with her neighbor’s dog, grandson to the famed, “Rin Tin Tin”!

During Mary Louise’s high school years, she always worked; first picking strawberries in the fields for 25 cents an hour and later at the Continental Can Company for 50 cents an hour. Even as a teenager, Mary Louise was such a hard worker that she was made a night supervisor before she even graduated from high school. While Mary Louise was in high school her older brother Howard joined the Army and was shipped to the Philippines. Unfortunately, Howard was captured and spent over three years as a POW and was subject to the Bataan Death March and labor camps in Japan. Upon his return, he was highly decorated.

Mary Louise followed her brother’s lead and also joined the Army in 1949. As she reflects on her 23-year Army career she has a glistening in her eye and says they were some of the best years of her life. It gave her a chance to serve her country and see the world. During her career, she served in France and Germany. Following her retirement as a Master Sergeant in the US Army, she earned her BS and MS in Psychology and worked as a counselor in the private sector until she retired to full time volunteering.

Mary Louise first volunteered at the VA Menlo Park in the swimming pool and passed the lifeguard training to be able to assist Veterans. Later she became part of the Veterans and Family Advisory Council, Simulation Team and the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Committee. Additionally, Mary Louise has been a patient at the VA Palo Alto since she left the Army in 1973.

One of Mary Louise’s significant but little known talents is that she played the organ and piano in her church as she grew up. While she was in basic training at Ft Lee, VA, she used this musical talent to recruit a women’s church choir. This group was so talented that they were asked to sing at the Ft Lee Chapel for the Easter Sunday Service. These days, Mary Louise plays the clarinet for relaxation and to keep her lungs working well!

Mary Louise is a long-time resident of San Mateo and enjoys her time serving the VA.


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