Remembering Mom: June Solomon Booth (1923-2003)

Mom and I shortly after my birth.
Mom and I shortly after my birth.

June 9, 1923 was a very special day for me. This was the day that Annie Solomon gave birth to the last of the many children that she and Charles brought into the world. They would call this last child June Leona Solomon. June spent the first eighteen years of her life in the small coal-mining town of Patton, Pennsylvania. However, there weren’t many opportunities in Patton; so June followed her married sister, Frances, to Detroit.

Mom as a young child in Patton, PA.  She is the one in the middle.
Mom as a young child in Patton, PA. She is the one in the middle.

The big city was a contrast to the small laid back life back in Patton. She often spoke about working in the Guardian Building and living on Grand Blvd. In time, June would meet Arthur Booth and in 1950 they would become husband and wife. I would be the last child born to my parents in August of 1955.

Dad and Mom before I came on the scene.
Dad and Mom before I came on the scene.

In life, we can choose whom we marry, we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our mothers. I am very grateful for the mother that God gave to me. She wasn’t a perfect person, but she was the perfect mother for me.

My mother was able to stay home with the three of us because my Dad sacrificed by working two jobs. Mom took her role as mother quite seriously. She took care of all of our basic needs. She always fixed our meals without complaints. She packed my sack lunch with loving care  She took care of our clothes. I still remember her ironing in the dining room as she would spray water on the clothes before she would pass the iron over them.  She also took us to all the places that we needed to go.

Mom did much more than take care of our basic needs. She loved us. She showed her love in how she sacrificed her time for us. She made it a point to give each of us special attention. Often, we would gather around the table with Mom and play Scrabble, Password or Jeopardy. The highlight of my day was bedtime, because Mom would tuck me into my bed and then read a story to me. She started with stories from Uncle Remus or Dr. Seuss.  When I was older she would read biographies and historical novels. She taught me to have a love for reading and history.

My Mom also enjoyed being involved in different community organizations. She was involved in the Midland Elementary School PTA.  She also was a den mother for the Cub Scouts for a couple of years. I still remember her working on the craft projects that her pack would do that day.  Mom also taught Sunday School for a couple of years at the Highland Park Congregational Church.  I was proud to be in her Junior High class.

Holidays and birthdays were always special to Mom. She would decorate our house special on each holiday. She enjoyed hiding the Easter baskets for Easter. She also was right there cleaning out the pumpkin for Halloween. Thanksgiving dinner was always a special treat. To this day, I can still taste her stuffing that would come right out of the turkey.

As for birthdays, she always prepared a big party. One year when Batman was popular on television, she gave me a Batman party with Batman hats, plates, and cups. She always invited our rather large extended family to the party as well as my friends. She made each birthday like one gigantic celebration.

Mom enjoying hosting one of my birthday parties.
Mom enjoying hosting one of my birthday parties.

Mom also had a real gift of hospitality. She always seemed to have some family member at our house. She always welcomed my friends into the house. I never heard her complain about the noise that we made while we were playing. She never said, “I wish you and your friends would go somewhere else.”

Mom was not always comfortable driving. She didn’t mind Woodward Avenue or Oakland Avenue, but the Davison and the Lodge expressways were off-limits in her mind. One day, Mom made a wrong turn and somehow she was driving on the Davison Expressway entering the Lodge. I was standing in my usual position in the back seat (Remember no seat belts or car seats in those days). I felt the panic of Mom as she asked me what to do?  As a seven-year old, I sure didn’t have the answer. Somehow, we made it off the Lodge Expressway.  I never again remember Mom driving on one of the expressways. If she did, I was glad that I wasn’t with her.

The greatest contribution that Mom made in my life was that she taught me about God.  She didn’t read the Bible to me, but she did take me to church and gave me a prayer to repeat when I went to bed. She always told me not to put anything on top of the Bible because it was God’s Word. Because of Mom’s influence, when I was in high school, I started to read my Bible in search of God and how I could be right with Him. By the time, I was a student in college, I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior.

After accepting Christ, I took Mom to Coltman Memorial Baptist Church which was a small Baptist church on Hamilton near Puritan. The people in the church really loved Mom and she loved them. She would soon accept the Lord as her Savior and she was also baptized. Being younger than most of the people in the church, Mom would have a ministry of helps to many of the older women in the church. She would learn much from the Word of God as result of the good teaching she would receive.

Mom with the ladies of Coltman Memorial Baptist Church
Mom with the women of Coltman Memorial Baptist Church

When we left to minister in South Africa in 1983, Mom found it difficult to adjust. She would miss us, especially as the children would grow up in another land. Mom would send us cassette tapes of her thoughts and memories. This helped the children to relate to family back in the States. We would visit every couple of years and this would be a special time for our children to bond with their grandparents.

In 1996, we would return to the States. Mom was finding it difficult to get out, but she still found a certain joy when we would come and visit her. She loved our three children.  With sadness, we would say goodbye to Mom in July of 2003. It has been ten years since I have been able to kiss Mom and say: “I love you.” I probably didn’t do this enough in this life.  However, I thank God that I could call June Booth, “Mom”.

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Dr. Winston Wreggit, My Highland Park Doctor (1908-1992)

Dr Winston Wreggit and his wife Elizabeth.  Her parents served as medical missionaries for several years in India.

Dr Winston Wreggit and his wife Elizabeth. Her parents served as medical missionaries for several years in India.

There are many treasures that we receive from our parents after they leave us. One of the treasures that I received from my Dad is a 1925 Polar Bear Yearbook. Looking at the pictures of life during my Dad’s time as an older teenager is quite interesting.

While looking at the Senior Class of 1925, I saw a familiar name, Winston Wreggit.  I looked at the photo. and I recognized that this is a photo of our family doctor for all the years that I lived in Highland Park (1955-1977)! My mind couldn’t help but go back to my many visits to Dr. Wreggit’s office at 79 Highland Avenue, which was located across from the Bell Telephone Company building.

Winston Wreggit's senior photo in the 1925 Polar Bear Yearbook

Winston Wreggit’s senior photo in the 1925 Polar Bear Yearbook

My Dad knew Dr. Wreggit from his high school years. For this reason, Dad felt a special connection to Dr. Wreggit. Dad knew that Dr. Wreggit would take good care of his family, and he had the utmost confidence in him.  Because of this confidence, I would never know another physician for the first twenty-seven years of my life.

A visit to Dr. Wreggit began with opening the door of what had been a first floor flat. Entering the door, we (Mom and I) would be greeted by Dr. Wreggit’s nurse, receptionist and office manager (all in one person!). The nurse would then direct us to the waiting room.  This room was rather spartan in its looks, but I liked sitting in one of the straw chairs.

A former patient (Kennedy Baughman) in front of what use to be Dr. Wreggit's office.

A former patient (Kennedy Baughman) in front of what was Dr. Wreggit’s office.

The highlight of the waiting room was the Highlights magazine. I would enjoy looking through the magazine, especially finding the hidden objects in the picture. Later on, when I was older, I probably picked up the Time magazine or some other magazine.  I don’t ever remember that we ever had a long wait.

After some time, our kind nurse would call us into one of the rooms that Dr. Wreggit used to see his patients.  One of the things that amazed me were all the file folders. There were file folders on the desk, as well on top of his cabinet. Everything was a bit cluttered, but I am sure there was some organization in it all.

While I looked around, Dr. Wreggit would enter the room and greet me with his deep bass voice. Then he would open up his file and perhaps say: “It is time for your tetanus booster” I don’t know why but it seemed like every time, I would see Dr. Wreggit, he would give me a shot.

Being merciful, Dr. Wreggit wouldn’t begin with the “shot”. He would first take my blood pressure. Then he would say: “Please take off your shirt.” With his stethoscope, he would begin to probe my chest.  Then he would probe my back. As he was probing, he would say the words that I can still hear in my head: “Take a deep breath, let it out.” Then he would say: “again” several times.  After this he would check down my throat and pronounce me healthy.

The next part was the hard part. I saw the needle in his hand. He would swab the target spot on my arm with something clear. It didn’t seem to help with what was coming. He would inject me as I tried to show courage and not cry. After the shot was given. he would reach up to the top of his cabinet and grab a box. As he opened the box, I could see that it was full of suckers. I grabbed one and off I would go, another satisfied patient.

There were a couple of occasions when I was sick that I didn’t go visit Dr. Wreggit. He would come and visit me. This just seemed natural in those days. Dr. Wreggit would come into our house with his black bag filled with all the instruments that he needed to sort out what needed to be done. He would go through the same basic routine that I experienced at his office. Those words: “Take a deep breath and let it out” were repeated. He would tell my parents what to do for me and then he would leave.

After leaving Highland Park, I never visited a doctor for many years. However, in 1983 Sharon (my wife) and I needed a physical to get a visa to move to South Africa as missionaries. I told Sharon about Dr. Wreggit. Dad still went to Dr. Wreggit; so it was only natural that we would go to him though he now had his practice in Southfield.

This would be the last time, I would ever see Dr. Wreggit. He was in his mid-seventies and though he looked older than I had remembered him, his voice was still strong. I heard for one last time those words: “Take a deep breath and let it out.” He also gave us his favorite shot, the tetanus booster. This time, there were no box of suckers. As we left to pay, he told us that we owed him nothing.  For some strange reason this didn’t surprise me. My Dad had told me how generous Dr. Wreggit was with his services.  He charged my Dad seven dollars per visit until he quit his practice in the mid-eighties.

Like so many people in my life, I never really knew the real Dr. Wreggit. I saw him as a kind, and committed doctor, but I didn’t know the whole story until I was preparing to write this post.

What motivated him to practice medicine in order to help others?  Why would he treat many of his patients for only what they could afford or for free?  In Dr. Wreggit’s childhood, he made two very important decisions that would rule his life. One decision he made was to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior as a result of the ministry of the well-known evangelist, Billy Sunday. He would continue to follow the Lord and serve Him for all his life. He was also faithful member of Highland Park Baptist Church.

At the age of ten, Dr. Wreggit made another decision that would change his life. He was near death as a result of spinal meningitis. As he was lying on his hospital bed in old Grace Hospital, he made a promise to God that he would help other people as a doctor if he would get better. God answered his prayer. Dr. Wreggit would practice medicine almost until the day he died.

Over the years, I have had a few other doctors, but none of them were like Dr. Wreggit.  Here was a man who cared about others. Not only that, but he cared about a little boy growing up in Highland Park. For this reason, I wanted to write this post about him.

P.S. Here are a few more photos of Dr. Wreggit.

Dr. Wreggit served in the US Army during World War 2. He was an army surgeon in New Guinea. He reached the rank of Lt. Colonel

Dr. Wreggit served in the US Army during World War 2. He was an army surgeon in New Guinea. He reached the rank of Lt. Colonel.

Dr. Wreggit and Elizabeth at their son's (George) wedding.  George followed in his Dad's footsteps as a doctor.

Dr. Wreggit and Elizabeth at their son’s (George) wedding. George followed in his Dad’s footsteps as a doctor.

Dr Wreggit at a reception in honor of forty years of service at Grace Hospital.

Dr Wreggit at a reception in honor of forty years of service at Grace Hospital.

P.P.S. Please visit my other blog: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I have several articles concerning our spiritual lives including, “A Heart to Walk with God” and “The Joy of Morning Prayer.”