Published: July 28, 2011 (County Lines Magazine*)
Jean Oakes and Bob Poole have been friends, colleagues and ardent volunteers and community leaders for many years. We asked them to interview each other for this piece, which gives just a glimpse of their many overlapping and complementary contributions to Chester County Hospital and the Chester County, PA region.
Jean Marie Oakes
It has been my pleasure to know Jean Oakes since 1955 when I opened my office for the Family Practice of Medicine in West Chester, PA. I believe she has done much good by virtue of the beauty, grace, cheer and loving kindness that she brings to each human relationship.
Jean's first love has always been Chester County Hospital. She began working there in 1939 and, with a strong interest in the alleviation of suffering, she soon became office manager of the Bookkeeping Department. In 1955, she was promoted to become the Hospital's Vice President for Administration and later Executive Vice President, the position she held at her retirement in 1982. She is an Honorary Member of the Board of Directors today, meeting monthly to discuss the Hospital's business.
Perhaps best known among Jean's many accomplishments at the Hospital is her work with Chester County Day, now in its 71st year as a fundraising project of the Women's Auxiliary of the Hospital. Every year on the first Saturday in October, 35 or so homes, selected for their historical, architectural or cultural significance, are open for tours. Jean was Chester County Day's first official photographer, taking photos that became "the slide show" to introduce the homes to the public before the tours.
Jean always enjoyed "the Day," though the event required a great deal of work -- and considerable hand-holding -- to get the homes ready for tour-goers. This highlight of the fall season has been a great success, raising more than $3.8 million for the hospital. Jean's interest, energy and support fed that success story immeasurably.
Jean's contributions to the West Chester community, however, did not end with the Hospital. Among her many "firsts" was being the first woman to preside over the United Fund of Greater West Chester (now United Way of Chester County). Jean has promoted philanthropic support for that host of social agencies for many years. She also served on the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army for 27 years, and served with the Chester County Art Association, Chadds Ford Historical Society, Chester County Historical Society and Rotary Club of West Chester.
A lifelong supporter of West Chester, PA (and Chadds Ford, PA where she was born, along with four brothers), she has also received commemorative citations from a Pennsylvania Senator and a House member. Other honors include an award from the Soroptomists Club (an international organization working on women's issues) and a Japanese Flowering Cherry tree planted in Everhart Park in her honor by the Junior New Century Club.
Another highlight was when Jean competed in a television contest hosted by "The View" on behalf of West Chester against several cities. She came home with $2000 in prize money for the West Chester Senior Center! It's not surprising that in 1977, Jean was named West Chester's Outstanding Citizen.
You can understand why I am proud to call Jean Oakes my friend.
~ Bob Poole
Robert Poole III, M.D.
Dr. Robert Poole is a modest man, so it is my pleasure to be able to share the story of some of his achievements.
Multi-talented, he has been my mentor in many ways. He is a devout member of the Presbyterian Church, an ordained Elder and a fervent fundraiser. From 1956 to 1979, he was also a teacher with the church school faculty.
In 1955, when I met him, Bob had just started a family practice in West Chester, PA and joined the medical staff at Chester County Hospital, where I worked. Making patient rounds, he was always pleasant, courteous and very professional. Young and handsome in his brown and white saddle shoes, he reminded me of Pat Boone -- which is meant as a great compliment! Bob's patients loved him. His office was always filled and he even used to make house calls.
At the Hospital, Bob served as Chief of the Medical Staff from 1975 to 1977 and as a member of the Board of Directors from 1973 to 1997. A frequent volunteer, he received many awards for his humanitarian service. He was a member of the American Medical Association, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, as well as numerous other groups. In 1992, he was named Pennsylvania Family Physician of the Year by the American Academy of Family Practice, a crowning achievement for his profession.
Bob has been a dedicated member of the Rotary Club of West Chester, PA active for over 50 years, and serving as the Club's resident in 1960, and as District Governor for Southeast Pennsylvania in 1980.
Bob was especially active in the Rotary's work to eradicate polio. As a leader of the Rotary International's Polio Plus program in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, he raised $6 million -- more than twice the target. In about half a century, this terrible disease has been all but wiped off face of the earth. In recognition of his many contributions, Bob received the Rotary International's "Service Above Self" award in 1996.
Other organizations also benefited from Bob's service. From 1958 to 1966, he was a director of the United Fund of Greater West Chester, PA (now United Way of Chester County) and served as its president. He served on the Board of Directors and as President of the Alumni Association of Ursinus College and on the alumni association of Thomas Jefferson University. The Chamber of Commerce of Greater West Chester, PA honored Bob with the 1981 Outstanding Citizen Award.
Although Bob retired from medicine in 1994, he continues to serve people as a "sociological epidemiologist." He authored an important historical study of local medical services, entitled The Evolution of Health Care in West Chester 1779-1999. And in his latest book, scheduled for publication this year and tentatively titled My Uncle Sam Needs a House Call, he worries about America, believing that the country is in the latter stages of Toynbee's "comfort, affluence, greed, and apathy" cycle.
Despite the work, Bob finds time for recreation, often playing the piano and listening to classical music. He tends his flower and vegetable garden, plays golf and enjoys spectator sports.
As volunteers, Bob and I share the same values in health care, education and community service, remembering always "sharing and caring" and "service above self." Our friendship has been a long and pleasant one.
Thank you, Dr. Poole, for the pleasure of working with you. I hope we may continue "living the good life."
~ Jean Oakes
* Reprinted with permission of County Lines Magazine.