Deceased January 29, 1994
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Born October 23, 1939, in St. Louis, Missouri, Hall Edward Harrison was the son of Hall and Louise Beyers Harrison. He attended the John Burroughs School in St. Louis, graduating in 1957 and went from there to Amherst. After taking his BA in biology, cum laude in 1961, Hall earned an MD at Washington University in St. Louis four years later. He then served in Vietnam as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Returning from Vietnam, Hall served as Chief Resident of City Hospital in St. Louis while completing his American Board certification in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease. On June 12, 1965, Hall married Joanne Eggeman. They became the parents of Katherine and Hall Andrew Harrison.
Hall and Joanne took up residence in Topeka, Kansas, where for many years Hall was a medical leader. He was an active member on the medical staff at Stormont-Vail and St. Francis Medical Centers in Topeka and served as president of the former in 1976-77. As Clinical Professor of Medicine, he taught residents in the Medical College of the University of Kanssas. And he was an active visiting cardiologist to Holton, Hiawatha, Onaga, Wamego, and Alma Kansas. In 1975 he was elect Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association Council on Cardiology.
As Director of Residency Education in Topeka while carrying on his own heavy practice, Hall was enormously influential. He is remembered for attending two teaching conferences a week without fail, for his warm humor, and for his memory and problem solving ability as addressed to medicine. “In his own inimitable manner,” one colleague reports, “he led discussions into areas far beyond the scope of cardiology, and though he rarely acted as if he knew the answer, he usually beat everyone else to it.” Year after year, residents from Kansas voted the Topeka Program the best part of their education, and the Kansas Medical Education Foundation has established a fund in his name. The Foundation envisions awarding a Harrison Award annually to the resident whose compassion and bedside manner exemplify the very qualities that made Hall both loved and famous. And a plaque at Stormont-Vail, added outside the conference room of the Critical Care Department, a department Hall helped plan, commemorates the gratitude of family, friends, colleagues, and patients for “a remarkably gifted and imaginative teacher, caring friend, and constant source of joy.” The critical care nurses came to refer to that conference room as Harrison Hall.
In a number of letters commenting on Hall’s life, a constant theme is his humor, which those nurses obviously caught. One colleague remembers him as an occasional “man child who always took his sense of humor into the room with him and who probably ‘maxed out’ with his scooter and Harley t-shirt.” A former patient says “he made me laugh when I didn’t think I could; he made me feel good about myself when I thought all was lost.” Another writer remembers the stories and jokes bought home from work and usually attributed to Hall. Yet another writer observes one more special legacy, not just about Hall’s humor but about his good sense, that being “the opportunity to ask for the rest of my life, ‘what would Hall say about this?’”
According to Hall’s wife, Joanne, “the man was fun to live with. He was my sweetheart and best friend. I was his best audience and will be quoting him forever.” He was a large man, she reports, who used to say his body was super efficient: “it needed very little food and turned the rest to fat.” He constantly reminded patients they were paying him for his advice, not for his example. He preferred ice cream to fish: “Ice cream has no bones!” Nor was he fond of broccoli. “Broccoli,” he said, “is proof that God is imperfect. Anyone who would make broccoli good for you and ice cream bad can’t know everything.”
“Hall had a great zest for extracurricular life,” Joanne says, “he really knew how to play!” An avid birder, he went to China in 1990 with an official bird counter. He was also admitted to the panda sanctuary in hopes of seeing a panda in the wild and he traveled to Manchuria in search of a Siberian tiger. With their son, Andy, the Harrisons were enthusiastic scuba divers who enjoyed a three-week journey through the Galapagos Islands a few years ago with the head of the Darwin Institute and an whale expert. They swam underwater with manta rays off Yap Island and another time caught a 76-pound Nile perch in Lake Victoria, Africa.
Hall suffered progressively from football knees, but before they betrayed him completely, he had earned quite a local reputation at golf, tennis, and racquet ball. He shared Joanne’s interest in the visual and theatrical arts, including modern dance and ballet, and they saw the Bolshoi together in Moscow. He liked all kinds of music and was a great social dancer, making her “feel like Ginger to his Fred.” Another writer remembers how Hall had said that he looked forward to dancing with her at their wedding. “The way I look at it,” that author concludes, “Hall dances with all of us every day of our lives.”
Toward the end of his life, as the complications of disease cornered him, Hall never lost his essential spirit. Instead he observed that having worked ninety hours a week for twenty years, he had really put in forty, and that seems to have been true outside as well as inside his office.
Hall died Saturday, January 29, 1994, at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center. His death came from complications following a severe cerebral hemorrhage. He was a member of Grace Episcopal Cathedral, the Topeka Country Club, the Downtown Rotary and 20-30 Club. He served on the board of Mercantile Bank, also in Topeka, and was an advisory board director of the Community Bank Capital Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia, which is another institution that commemorates him. On the inside cover of their 1993 annual report, CBCC noted his constant enthusiasm and encouragement, how “he always brought a story to lighten any otherwise tense moments and constantly reminded us that he loved a business that got in the path of progress.”