Archive for April 7th, 2007

Trying to Break Loose

April 7th, 2007


My mom’s family had eight siblings, and this picture was a representative sampling of their offspring.  It looks like at least a few were missing: Joe, Bill, Eddie and Bobby were already starting families of their own or were on their way to Korea.

That was me in the front row trying to make a getaway.  My brother and my cousin Ray, the blonde guy, were holding onto me.  If you look to the right, my cousins Wallace and Elaine are just watching in pure wonderment at my silliness as Kenny, the baby in the top row, is looking for a choo choo train.  (He is an extremely successful computer programmer now.)

That group went on to become nurses, teachers, a librarian, railroaders, technologists, carpenters, musicians, store owners, and a dozen other professions.  Only three or four of us got to go to college, and at least half moved away to places like California, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Florida.  About five of my cousins have passed on, but the rest try to stay in touch in different ways on a regular basis.

UniontownpaWe came from a family that started a town called Uniontown, south of Pittsburgh, founded by a Quaker named Henry Beeson in 1769. The town was so named because it was built on two farms, and our Uncle and great great great Grandfather had a dispute over whose name the town would bear.  This is a riot since the farms were owned by Henry and his brother Jacob.  Let’s see: “We’ll name it Beesontown. No, we’ll name it Beesontown.”  They decided to end the argument by naming it Uniontown, the union of their two properties.

Some of our ancestors had done alright: one was a Senator; there were officers and soldiers in the Continental and Union armies; one was a friend of the Marquis d’ Lafayette; another was the Owner of the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas; another a philanthroper who started the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University (I always thought it was Stanford); and one even taught a young man to play piano who would later become the President of the United States (and be impeached).

My favorite story, though, was the cousin who became an Indian Chief.  He was kidnapped by a tribe of Native Americans from Florida.  After ten years he had become so involved in their culture that they made him the chief.  As chief he was permitted to do anything he wanted.  He decided to come back home.  After a few months back home, he then realized how good Florida had been and went back to his tribe.

It’s kind of ironic to me that, even at this young age, my goal was to break away and have a shot at making a difference.  It’s certainly been an interesting journey these past few decades because the spirit that existed in that little boy in the picture still burns brightly in me.

Watch more videos featuring Nick Jacobs at

How interesting it seemed to me that, after all these years of fighting the wave, all I really wanted to do was to help to redirect the energy of that wave to make the health care experience more meaningful, more human, more purposeful, more dignified and more nurturing.

The great unifiers, love and respect, are really what it’s about.  So, as we move into our 123rd month of working here at Windber, it is with a better view of a very old picture.  It’s about doing all that we can to encourage respect for every person who works here, visits here and is treated here.

Thanks, Jacob, Henry, Wallace and Mary Beeson for giving me a good pad from which to launch.