The mourners were talking about the man, the vision, the dedication--and the videotape.
It was shot one day in 1977, when Children's Hospital opened its present facility on Michigan Avenue NW. President Jimmy Carter officiated at the ceremonies. Scads of the mighty and wealthy attended. Everyone oohed and aahed over the sparkling glass exterior and the color-coded corridors.
But Dr. Robert H. Parrott stole the day.
He had spent the previous 10 years planning the building and raising money to build it. At last, the director of Children's Hospital would have a facility in which to do a job he could never do as well in the hospital's old headquarters, at 13th and V streets NW, a drafty barn that dated to the 19th century.
"Bob spoke about the neediest children," recalled one nurse who was there the day they cut the ribbon. "He talked about how medicine has to reach the entire community. I've seen the videotape of it. You could have transcribed it and put it on the wall. It was what the hospital stood for."
And stands for.
Robert Parrott died last month, of a stroke, at 76. But the hospital he built, and headed for three decades, has never forgotten to serve the entire community. Nor has his family forgotten how closely Parrott and Children's were entwined.
As he lay in a coffin last Tuesday evening, during a viewing at Pumphrey's Funeral Home in Bethesda, Parrott was wearing a Children's Hospital tie. On a shelf behind him sat a framed copy of an article from Washingtonian magazine.
Parrott had been chosen a "Washingtonian of the Year" in 1977 by the editors. About 75 percent of Parrott's write-up concerned the then-new hospital and the shoe leather that Parrott had devoted to making it real.
A modest man with an easy smile, Parrott was a doctor first and an executive second. I never heard him speak of bottom lines or management-by-objective. He never worried that the hospital was losing millions by treating children whose families could not pay for the costs of their care. "He just smiled that smile and said it would work out somehow," a colleague recalled.
Of course, readers of this column have been a big part of that "somehow."
Every year, when we raise funds for Children's in this column, we do it for the purpose Bob Parrott believed in: great medical care, for every child, every day, regardless of race, creed, color, ZIP code or income. The $9 million we have raised in the last 18 years speaks volumes about how thoroughly you readers buy into the Parrott ideal.
It will live on, in memory of a man who understood.
Jackie Martin isn't too light on understanding herself. She writes:
"I spent $83 on wrapping paper and candles for decorations this year. Amazing when you think it will be thrown out (the paper) and burned away to nothing (the candles).
"Here's $83 that will go to something that is real!" Right behind those noble sentiments was a check made payable to Children's Hospital.
I'd never say that this season of festivities shouldn't be festive. But I would agree with Jackie that donations to our annual campaign produce results that last (and restore) a lifetime. Many thanks, thoughtful lady.
Group givers continue to grace our Children's Hospital mailbox. Some of the most recent:
Friends and staff, Hoffman, Wasson & Gitler, Arlington (a nice, tidy $10,415 via this law firm's 31st annual holiday party. Special thanks as always to that name partner disguised as Santa Claus, Marty Hoffman).
Jeri Charles Associates, Northwest Washington ($40).
Corporate Press Inc., Landover ($1,000).
All American Columbia Auxiliary VFW 284 ($100).
C&K Delivery Service, Bowie ($50).
Mother's Hands, Bowie ($25).
R-Team teachers, Rocky Run Middle School ($110).
Employees, offices of Drs. Murray F. Hammerman, David M. Wanicur and Howard Kane, Rockville ($80).
NewsWorld Television, Northwest Washington ($228.05 collected by that relentless friend of Children's, Marilyn V. Lawlor).
Africa Division, Directorate of Operations, Central Intelligence Agency ($580 via button sales at the annual holiday party).
Configuration Management and Operations Branches, Department of Army, Alexandria ($87).
Cub Scout Pack 1449, Rockville and Potomac ($500).
Population Division, Census Bureau ($200 from a blind auction conducted at the holiday party).
Members, Washington, D.C., Chapter, International Plastic Modelers Society ($132 in proceeds from a raffle).
Children, parents, teachers and staff, St. Mary's Catholic School, Landover Hills ($1,955 in honor of an ill student instead of exchanging Christmas gifts).
Thank you so much!
Our goal by Jan. 21: $650,000.
In hand as of Jan. 3: $395,220.90.
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.
BY VISA OR MASTERCARD:
Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S, or 5437, and follow instructions.