Dr. John McGovern, right, and Bruno Benziger celebrate their 50th birthday in 1975.
Last week, the White Plains community bid a fond farewell as we celebrated the life of Dr. John V. McGovern. The Doc was truly a Renaissance man and a charter member of “The Greatest Generation,” the group of Americans that grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II.
Dr. McGovern specialized in allergies and immunology, enjoyed singing show tunes and was a licensed pilot who appreciated the fine arts and the opera. Oh yeah, and he also fathered 13 children.
He was a role model for me, like my father, and Bruno Benziger, our Boy Scout troop leader, my uncles Tom and Jimmy, and so many of the men of the previous generation who taught us life lessons and showed us the way, Growing up in White Plains in the 50s and 60s was simply amazing. Those were the days.
I remember the Doc as a healer. When I was a third grader he began treating me for asthma. Weekly shots became bi-monthly, but when I went away to college, the treatments ended.
Dr. McGovern set me on the road to recovery. Along with Dr. John Parrinello, another allergist who treated me in middle age, I eventually grew out of my asthma. .
As a sixth grader back in 1962, I was having particular difficulty breathing. Anyone who has ever suffered with asthma, knows that wheezing feeling, where every breath is painful.
One gray November Sunday, the asthma was squeezing the air out of my lungs. My mother and father wanted to call Dr. McGovern, but I knew he was at the Giants game at Yankee Stadium. In those days, doctors could be paged at sporting events. And they made house calls.
I begged my parents not to call, and they waited until the game ended. The Doc arrived at the house shortly after. He took out his stethoscope, listened to my lungs, and said “this boy has pneumonia. He needs to go to the hospital.”
Shortly after I was admitted to St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains, where I stayed for six days. I recovered, and to this day, nearly 55 years later, knock on wood, I’ve never been hospitalized again.
Oh, by the way, the Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals 31-28 on that November Sunday in 1962. That one was for you Doc. Thanks for curing me.