Russ Hoxsie, Dad

Cape Cod Life, June 2007 — Photo courtesy of Cape Cod Life

Dad was rather humble and didn’t like a big fuss. I can see him shaking his head over all this obituary business. Before the last stages of his decline I would read him cards people sent or relay messages from people who sang his praises and, honest to God, he blushed, “oh, geez, that’s a bit much, don’t you think!”

He was overwhelmed at all the attention he got at the grand opening of the new hospital. “I felt a little conspicuous…” he told me, but with a big grin. Did he expect to just slip in, take a look, and walk off unnoticed? Luckily Anna Mae was there, too, just like old times.

Anna Mae Cecilio was Dad’s long-time nurse practitioner and was with him during the whole time of his private practice. She has always had the best sense of humor and a full musical laugh. She kept things moving in Dad’s office, calming screaming children and leading nervous patients to examining rooms with a reassuring smile. She is quite a story herself, coming from a large family with pressure on her from her Mom to stay home and help care for her siblings instead of go to college/nursing school. Somehow she had the determination and courage to pursue her education and there are generations of my Dad’s patients who are grateful that she did.

Just a wonderful woman. She and my parents were very close even after Dad retired. She often just showed up in the driveway at Menemsha, her distinctive voice “Russ! Mary Ann!” catching Mom and Dad by surprise. I’ll always remember the big coffee urn in our V.H. kitchen, which was the “break room” for Dad’s office staff. I loved being home and catching all the talk and joking around the coffee pot. Anna Mae always cracked me up, always had something humorous to tell us about Dad. She kept him loose, I think!

The picture in the MVT of Dad lighting the hospital tree last Christmas is classic Dad, the wonder of a little boy all over his face, tickled to death at flipping the switch. Growing up I certainly was aware of how much patients relied on him and loved him. It was with great pride that I would respond when someone asked, “are you Dr. Hoxsie’s daughter?” Even in my teen years when it annoyed me to be so well-known because of him (“aren’t you a Hoxsie?”), I was still overwhelmingly proud to say, “Yes, I am!” I can’t begin to guess how many hundreds of times I heard “oh, I just love your father!” or “your father saved my life!” or “your father delivered my kids” or better still these days “your father delivered me!” It never gets old. My oldest son, Conor, was sitting in class at Western New England College in Springfield one day when his professor turned to him and asked: “Are you Russell Hoxsie’s grandson?” The professor went on to describe Dr. Hoxsie’s accomplishments in front of the class, made him sound like some kind of legend. Conor was impressed, his “Papa Russ” famous even out here in Western Mass. I believe the professor had some family connection to a young lady in class who knew about Conor’s trips to Martha’s Vineyard and his doctor grandfather.

In lobbying the NY Times to publish the obit, they told me they only publish “famous” people for free, so I gave it a shot and emailed it even though I think by famous they mean James Cagney or Christopher Reeve, and by the way, Dad treated both of them, Reeve after a wind surfing accident, Cagney for care throughout his life. Dad absolutely refused to get autographs from “famous” people he treated in his office, much to Mom’s dismay. She was a BIG James Cagney fan. She even had to restrain herself from asking Leonard Bernstein for an autograph the day she came home and discovered him tuning the piano in our living room, foot wrapped in a bandage. He had gotten tired of waiting in the office. It was never clear to me how he got into the family side of our house, but we well knew that Dad never let anyone “cut in line” no matter how famous. Fame is relative, right?