Saturday, September 24, 2022

Remarks at the Sept. 24, 2022, Memorial Celebration of William Hardy Hendren III, M.D., held at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Thanks, Will, and thanks Jay, Pat, Jim, Kathy, Terry and Craig. And a big hello to Eleanor, Doug and Nancy, Linda, Rob, David and Astrid, and Charlotte and James, two of the grandchildren of Hardy and Eleanor who are here.

From the moment I first met Hardy more than three decades ago, on a visit to the Hendren home in Duxbury, I knew I was in the presence of an extraordinary human being. Whether by means of magic, divine intervention or just luck, a relationship was born that would prove professionally rewarding to me.

My 1993 biography of Hardy, “The Work of Human Hands,” launched my non-fiction book career – a career that also brought me, thanks to Hardy, to Walt Lillehei, father of Craig and the man who pioneered open-heart surgery, as recounted in my book “King of Hearts.”

But as great as the professional rewards have been, the personal rewards have been an even bigger blessing – one that everyone who has known the Hendrens has also shared. Eleanor and Hardy became dear friends, opening their lives to me and my family, including my son, Calvin, who is Hardy’s godson. We shared many laughs and stories and, as time went on, lots of memories.

So let me get a bit deeper into the personal.

And by personal, I mean the person who was William Hardy Hendren III.

In medical circles, this person earned the nickname of “Hardly Human” for what might correctly be called the superpowers he took with him into the operating room.

Here was a surgeon who could fix the unfixable and cure the incurable, sometimes during marathon operations that lasted 24 hours or more. Hardy saved and bettered untold thousands of lives during one of the most amazing runs in the history of the healing sciences. We will hear from [the father of] one of his patients, Keith Fox, in a moment.

But while “Hardly Human” works well enough as a description of the surgeon, there is a better one, I think, to describe the person.

And that is “Wholly Human” -- as in “thoroughly,” “completely,” or, as my trusty Roget’s Thesaurus declares, “in full measure.”

Allow me to give you a sense of that full measure.

I’ll start with Saltines. As Jim O’Neill just told us, hardy loved Saltines.

One Sunday long ago, I was visiting Hardy in Duxbury. Eleanor was away, but she had left freshly made soup, which Hardy and I were eager to eat for lunch. Hardy ladled a bowl for each of us, then announced he wanted Saltines to accompany the soup.

For some reason he did not explain, he wanted them warm.

So he put a bunch of them, still encased in cellophane, into the microwave and pressed on.

Full-power on.

I watched as the crackers circled inside the machine, horrified but not saying anything. This person was a master of technology, at least of the medical kind, so maybe he knew something I didn't.

He did not.

Soon enough, the cellophane ignited and we had a blazing fire. Smoke billowed and alarms sounded.

Hardy looked momentarily puzzled, but then, always cool under pressure, he removed the crackers with an oven mitt and walked them to the sink, where he extinguished the flames.

We sat down then to eat Eleanor's soup. The Saltines this time were room-temperature.


Hardy, of course, taught generations of doctors. I had no desire to become one, except, perhaps, vicariously, so there was nothing he would have taught me there.

But he did teach or re-teach me many things – among them, the importance of truth and generosity and the need to sometimes laugh at one’s self. Every time I retold the Saltines story, Hardy always roared.

Another lesson I learned from Hardy was how to cut a sandwich with scissors.

This lesson occurred during another long day at Children's when, between operations, we went down to the cafeteria to get something to eat. We both ordered sandwiches – I forget what kind – and brought them back to the surgeon’s lounge.

Which was no dining room. No knives, forks or spoons that I could see.

The sandwiches were large and I was mentally wrestling with the mess I would make tearing mine apart when Hardy came to the rescue. He happened to be carrying a pair of his gold-plated surgical scissors – the ones that Dorothy Enos so carefully kept – and with them, he cut my sandwich, then his, and began to eat.

I was amazed – so amazed that I didn’t ask if the scissors were clean, but trusting Hardy – you could always trust Hardy – I knew they were.

At home, I have since cut sandwiches with kitchen shears, and also string cheese and haddock filets -- sometimes to the amusement of observers but usually with a look that says, “Have you lost your blanking mind?”

To which I say: "I learned from the best."

As in, the best person.


I mentioned Hardy and Eleanor's generosity, and I could cite many examples of their largesse, but lacking the time, here is one: They offered their house to me for a week when they were away so that I could complete the final draft of "King of Hearts" in writerly solitude. It was an incredible week, and not just creatively, for I had the honor of sleeping in a guestroom that had been their late daughter's bedroom.

Let me close with one last story of Hardy, this wholly human person. While researching and writing "The Work of Human Hands," I spent many days in Duxbury going through Hardy's records and documents and photos. On one of those days -- it was a fine early autumn day not unlike today -- he asked if I wanted a ride on the back of his motorcycle.

I did.

We headed out from King Caesar Road, destination undeclared. After a while, Hardy turned off the main road into a church parking lot. We got off his bike and he led me to the cemetery in back.

And there was the grave of Sandy, his and Eleanor's first child, who became a nurse and worked with Hardy at The General when he was chief of pediatric surgery here.

We stood in silence and I was saddened thinking about the tragedy that Hardy and Eleanor and their other children had experienced.


The only other time I have been to that cemetery was this past March, when, after Hardy's funeral, his ashes were placed in the ground next to Sandy, who died of complications of diabetes in 1984 at the age of 37, here in Mass. General Hospital.

During that March service, I was privileged to throw sand from Eleanor and Hardy's favorite beach onto Hardy. And I, like others, was invited to say a few words.

On the verge of tears, I recalled what Hardy said one time when I asked how he never tired during those crazy long days in his OR, where he was working his wonders.

He said: "Don't forget, there's a great big rest at the end."

Rest in peace, Hardy. The world will never see another person like you.

W. Hardy Hendren III, M.D. Memorial Celebration

MGH O’Keefe Auditorium    September 24, 11 AM – 1 PM

Program Photo History of the Life of W. Hardy Hendren, III

Welcome                                                                 Keith Lillemoe, MD


American College of Surgeons Icons in Surgery Video            


Remarks/Recollections                                             Jay Vacanti, MD

                                                                                    (In the video)


Medical                                                                      Patricia Donahoe MD


                                                                                    James O’Neill, MD                                                                                                                       


                                                                 Kathryn Anderson, MD                                                                                                                                                                           

                                                                                    Terry Hensle, MD


                                                                                    Craig Lillehei, MD   


Author                                                                       G. Wayne Miller


Patient                                                                  Keith Fox                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Family                                                                        William G. Hendren, MD                                                       


Minister                                                                      Father Daniel Dice                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

“Thanks for the Memories”


Closing remarks                                                        Allan Goldstein, MD



Retire to Russell Museum for reception 1 – 2 pm

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The (future) King and I

In late-summer 1986, the young Prince Charles visited Harvard to speak at the school's 350th anniversary celebration. I was among the journalists who covered the visit -- and attended a private party with the now King Charles III at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston. Herewith my reports:

Faculty member Emily D. T. Vermeule with Prince Charles,
 350th celebration of Harvard's founding.

From the September 3, 1986, Providence Journal:

                                        The Prince Meets the Duke

                                                                 By G. Wayne Miller

The jet was waved to a stop, the engines were killed and the rear door opened. The British ambassador bounded on board. In a minute, he reappeared. There was a pause. Gathered on the Logan Airport tarmac, a dozen VIPs waited. Behind them, the mock colonial militia stood at attention. On the roof of a nearby hangar, a police sharpshooter scanned the proceedings. A motorcade of Jaguars and a gray Rolls was ready, engines idling.

 Prince Charles stepped into the early evening and a small knot of invited well-wishers cheered.

 He didn’t say much - not that the crowd could have heard it over the roar of jets taking off. But he did shake hands. He shook Governor, (sometimes known as the Duke) Dukakis’s hand. He shook Mayor Raymond Flynn’s hand. He shook Ambassador Antony Acland’s hand. He shook the hand of Francis Burr, the chief marshal of Harvard University, which is celebrating its 350th anniversary this week, and which invited the prince to speak tomorrow at a convocation.

When introductions were over, the militias, fifers and drummers began to play the national anthem.  Accompanied by Dukakis, the prince passed in review. He was impeccably attired in blue shirt and dark suit.  His face, which many say is handsome, showed no emotion. He seemed humorless. On how many occasions has the prince, who has been around the world countless times, had to review the local colors?

 It was different when he got to the crowd of Union Jack-waving spectators, many of them British. Charles broke into a big smile, and he waded fearlessly into the mob, enthusiastically grasping every hand he could reach.

“It was so marvelous,” Helena Nultey, a British employee of the British Consulate, would later say. Nultey was one of the lucky ones: She got a piece of the prince. Sixty-two years old, and it was her first meeting.

“Such a handsome man. So charming. So much better looking than in photos. This is one of the most exciting moments of my life.”

 Another few minutes, and Charles was gone - whisked away by motorcade to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where he is spending two nights on his first visit to Boston. He will be alone, as his family stayed behind at Balmoral, a royal castle.

 If yesterday’s welcome was fleeting, it nonetheless was a reminder of what royalty in the age of congresses and parliaments and dictatorships still can be. Ceremony, in a word. Carefully coordinated ceremony that goes off like clockwork. Even the prince’s jet was on schedule.

Like him or not, Charles is the real thing, not some nouveau-riche opportunist who made his money in shopping malls and then managed to buy a title on Europe’s phony pedigree market.

Centuries-old monarchy

The prince, 37, the heir to his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is part of a monarchy that traces its roots to William the Conqueror. As such, he is related to just about any English king you might name off the top of your head - all those Henrys, Edwards, Georges, Richards, many of whom wound up in Shakespeare. Queen Victoria was his great-great-great grandmother.

He doesn’t have a last name, but Charles Philip Arthur George, as he was christened, has more titles than you could ever hope to buy: Duke of Cornwall, Earl of Chester, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Chairman of the Royal Jubilee Trusts, to name a few.

Naturally, he’ entitled to respect - even here in America, which got rid of one of his ancestors a couple of hundred years ago. Earlier, by phone and during a press conference, the consulate staff gave reporters tips for being with the prince. On introduction, for instance, he is addressed as His Royal Highness - HRH, as the consulate refers to him in its news releases. Subsequently, he may be called “Sir.” And one never independently extends one’s hand to HRH; one waits until he offers his, and if for some reason he doesn’t, tough luck. In America, a bow is optional.

No contact with public

Not that many people yesterday had a chance to practice their protocol. Except for a small reception last night at the Ritz, to which reporters were invited only on condition that they not report any conversation with Charles, the prince had virtually no contact with the public.

Also from the September 3, 1986, Providence Journal:

                        No secrets here: HRH is a man who knows how to meet the press

                                                                By G. Wayne Miller

“As you are probably already aware,” the note from the British Consulate began, “His Royal Highness has asked for an opportunity to meet some of the working correspondents who will be covering the visit.

“The reception will be a purely social and informal event, by personal invitation only. It will be wholly off the record. No cameras, microphones or notebooks will be allowed. No reference should be made subsequently to specifics of any conversation with His Royal Highness.”

 Fine. We agreed to the ground rules of last night’s reception at the Ritz-Carlton - who could pass up the chance to meet Prince Charles? And HRH, as he is sometimes known, will be be pleased to learn that we’re not about to divulge any of his deepest, darkest secrets.

 Actually, no secrets were confided - but without breaking our word, we feel we can report that:

 * There were about 50 guests, and except for a handful of Scotland Yard’s finest, almost all were reporters. Surprisingly, there were almost no names - excluding HRH, of course.

 * The caviar, sliced fresh salmon and foie gras were delectable. They were served by waiters who wore white gloves.

 * HRH drank a single martini, with a single olive.

 * He wore a dark two-piece suit and a blue shirt. It was not an Oxford collar, but it was cotton. This is one dapper dresser. No surprise there. As others have remarked, he does indeed seem more handsome in person than in pictures.

 * Charles smiles easily, talks pleasantly and went out of his way to mingle with the crowd. His questions showed a knowledge of America and an enthusiasm for his position as prince. And why not?

From the September 5, 1986, Providence Journal:

                                            Harvard’s 350th: A Royal Occasion

                                                                    By G. Wayne Miller

Harvard, an institution for far longer than America has been a republic, congratulated itself yesterday on its 350th birthday with a convocation flavored by all the colorful pageantry the nation’s oldest and wealthiest university could muster.

 As it does for graduations, the university transformed that most revered of academic places, Harvard Yard, into a flag-filled amphitheater. During the two hours that it overflowed with an estimated 15,000 people - many dressed in top hat and tails or cap and gown - a bell pealed, a band played, anthems were sung, prayers were offered and  speeches were delivered.

 Yesterday’s ceremony was but part of a week’s celebration that will cost about $1 million. It was a spectacle worthy of royalty - and royalty there was, in the person of Britain’s future king, Prince Charles, who delivered a main address that began with humor and ended with a standing ovation.

 Like others who spoke before him - Yale president Benno C. Schmidt Jr. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology head Paul E. Gray among them - Charles paid tribute to Harvard, whose graduates and professors over the years have had a tremendous influence on politics, science, medicine, business and the arts.

“After all,” the prince observed,  “[Harvard] has produced a cornucopia of leaders for the United States in many fields, not to mention the fact that six Harvard men have become president.”

 After making a joke or two about Yale, Harvard’s perennial rival, the prince became serious. And he turned away from Harvard for a moment to issue America and all of its schools a challenge - the challenge of educating young men and women as moral beings with a sense of spirituality and decency.

“While we have been right to demand the kind of technical education relevant to the needs of the 20th Century, it would appear that we have forgotten that when all is said and done, a good man - as the Greeks would say - is a nobler work than a good technologist.

“We should never lose sight of the fact that to avert disaster, we have not only to teach men to make things, but also to produce people who have control over the things they make.”

 After a round of applause, he continued:

“Never has it been more important to recognize the imbalance that has seeped into our lives and deprived us of a sense of meaning because the emphasis has been too one-sided and has concentrated on the development of the intellect to the detriment of the spirit.

“Surely it is important that in the headlong rush of mankind to conquer space, to compete with nature, to harness the fragile environment, we do not let our children slip away into a world dominated entirely by sophisticated technology - but rather teach them that to live on this world is no easy matter without standards to live by.”