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Charles Meredith: A voice from the past


Dear Friends,

Good morning. Our editor, Bridget Wingert, forwarded an email to me from Jeff Scott, a former reporter at the Quakertown Free Press. It opened startling memories.

Here it is:

“Forty years ago, I was on the staff of the Quakertown Free Press when my publisher (and your weekly contributor) Charles Meredith underwent a quadruple bypass at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital (HUP),” Jeff Scott’s email began. “I received permission to stand over his head during the procedure and later wrote about it for both the paper and Philadelphia Magazine (October 1981).

“I was wondering if you would be interested in a story that captures snippets of what I observed during that surgery? I would then compare them to how things have changed in the 40 years since. I would reach out to the talented heart team at Doylestown Hospital for that information. Mr. Meredith was told he might live five or six more years if he didn’t have the surgery. He was 46-years-old at the time, and joked afterward that he now hoped to live another 46. Well, he’s made it to 40, so who knows?”

Bridget gave Jeff’s phone number to me and I called him immediately. I hadn’t chatted with Jeff since he left the Free Press to start his very successful career as a sports writer in big league baseball. If you do an Internet search of Jeff Scott, you’ll see an extensive five-page description of his accomplishments.

He has written about (and directed recording sessions) with more than 100 famous baseball players. And he’s produced more than 40 notable shows.

Prior to the 21st century, aspiring journalists got their first jobs on small-town dailies and country weeklies. Many of the Free Press reporters and photographers “graduated” to positions at the New York Times, Washington Post, and Philadelphia Inquirer (and others). And I’d bet that reporters at the Bucks County Herald have done so too.

The surgeon that Jeff Scott met at HUP was Dr. Richard Edie. Although I didn’t know him before the operation, Edie and I became fast friends and see each other four or more times each year with our better halves. Edie was a fabulous athlete in his collegiate days at Princeton University. He played varsity baseball for four years and held an astonishing batting average of .450.

Edie is ambidextrous. He throws left handed and bats right. He’s a southpaw and sutures with both hands. That’s why you don’t see a scar on my sternum. An accomplished athlete, Dick is an excellent skier.

Edie’s training began at Columbia Presbyterian where he became a pediatric thoracic surgeon. He often operated on baby hearts as small as a 25-cent piece. And it didn’t hurt to have the looks of a Hollywood star

In a few weeks, the Edies and Meredith’s will celebrate another lunch in Quakertown. Wouldn’t it be neat to have Jeff Scott present for a reunion, 40 years later?

It was Dick Edie who started me down the road to the Schuylkill River and rowing. It was he who told me that if I wanted to stay on this side of the grass, I’d have to amend my ways and have strong physical exercise four days each week … and stop smoking!

I started swimming at theYMCA in Quakertown but became discouraged. So I had to find a different sport. One of my Penn friends suggested rowing and gave me the phone number of Bruce Lalonde, the coach at the University Barge Club on Boathouse Row.

Lalonde didn’t know me from Adam and asked me only one question. He didn’t inquire whether I was old or young, fat or thin, tall or short, smart or stupid, or if I’d ever rowed before. He asked me if I could swim.

That put the fear of God in me because it sounded like I’d be capsizing often in those racing boats …the single shells are very tippy and unforgiving. They are 27 feet long, lightweight (30 pounds) and narrow (only nine inches wide). The key to success is balancing with the oars. I was very lucky … in my 40 years on the river, I never capsized.

Dick Edie’s advice turned out to be exactly right. In the course of a year, I’d average just over 1,000 miles on the Schuylkill River. Alas, I’d put 25,000 miles on our car. Fortunately, I’m still here. The patient who shared my hospital room but had a different surgeon died five years after his surgery. His doctor didn’t recommend strenuous excursus and he paid the price.

Anyway, we’ll see if I can reconnect Jeff Scott with Dick Edie. Forty years ago, I facetiously told Jeff that if my surgery failed, he could write my obit.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith