History: My Father’s Story

by cindy

Parents don’t live forever. As we watch them age, we begin to realize all that will be lost when they are gone. I treasure their stories and am compelled to share them in print. Myth or history, all the tales I had heard since childhood could not be left to my memory alone. With some urging, my mother agreed to write the stories from her life. It can be read here. Mom had never been reluctant to share memories of her childhood with us, but it was important toward the end that she write what she wanted us to remember using her own words. It was a bit different with my dad. Generally speaking, he was less forthcoming and less approachable for that sort of thing. Over time, we learned a bit of his early years, mostly in the stories shared by his mother, our grandmother. 

In the months following Mom’s death, my sister and I began urging Dad to put his story into words. For one thing, it gave him, we felt, something to fill his time as he learned to live without my mother. For Dad, this was a difficult task but in an effort to either please us or shut us up, he tackled it regardless. He plugged away, page by page, one draft after another until he was satisfied. Of course, once I had the opportunity to read it, I couldn’t resist trying to nudge more stories out of him. But, no. He was having none of that. He was done. Period.

So, here we have it—in his own words, just as the title says:


A Life: In My Own Words

Edward Burl Randolph


Dr. E. Burl Randolph, 2009


At the request of both Becky and Cindy, I shall attempt to write the story of my life. No doubt I will forget some episodes that might have been included and tell of some episodes that should have been excluded. But, such is Life.


On April 16, 1920, I was born, a son of Maude Gay Vincent Randolph and Russell Burton Randolph, DDS, in the small two-bedroom house with an outdoor toilet, in the small town of Lost Creek, WV. I’ve been told that Mother was quite ill during her pregnancy with puerperal fever, an infection common to the reproductive organs, frequently resulting in the death of the expectant mother and/or the child. Remember: there were no miracle drugs such as the sulfonamides or penicillin. I have been told she teetered on the verge of death for several weeks before and after my birth.

Original home of RB and Maude Randolph. Dad was born here in 1920. Later this house was torn down and replaced with a brick home which is the one I remember from my childhood.


I had an older brother [Kenneth “Ted” Vincent Randolph, DDS]–five years and two days my senior–who apparently was given the task of “looking after” his little brother. He undertook his new duties eagerly and, I thought, with unnecessary efficiency. However, he seemed to enjoy his new found authority because it lasted until his death eight-five years later, although to a somewhat lesser degree. He was a role model in every way, a straight shooter, fair and honest in his relationship with others. He became the first active Dean of West Virginia University’s new School of Dentistry, received many honors and became a highly respected teacher in the art of “fixing your teeth” and teaching that art to other dentists. He later became Dean of Baylor University School of Dentistry. He died in 2003 at the age of ninety, the result of a stroke to complicate his pre-existing illnesses of heart disease and hypertension.

In the 1920’s, the dress code for young boys was quite different than now. For example, I had bobbed hair with bangs that extended almost to my nose and trimmed along the ears, much like the way girls cut their hair today. A true story goes along with this and undoubtedly played a role in my development at an early age of an “overactive temper.”

Burl (center) with brother Ted on left and the Preacher’s Daughter on the right. Date unknown.


The minister of the local Methodist Church lived directly across the street from our home. One of his daughters was older than I and apparently much wiser. She knew a new game which she encouraged me to try. No, it was okay because she had checked it out with her dad, the minister. I was to stand on one edge of the small rug and she was to pick up the opposite edge and give it a real quick jerk. The first few times we tried it, she had an hilarious time–great fun!–as I went spinning into the “wild blue yonder.” The next time, something went wrong and I went flying across the room, smashing my face into a nearby chair. After a quick inspection it became apparent that I was missing my upper four front teeth.

With hair bangs falling to my nose and a gap where my four front teeth had been, the powers that ruled our house (including my brother, The Guardian) deemed it absolutely necessary that something had to be done—even though all agreed that the missing teeth were “baby teeth” and no great harm had been done. With my extra large ears protruding from my head like the back doors of a Mack truck, my dad, The Dentist, decreed that something had to be done. He replaced the four missing teeth with four GOLD false teeth. At four years of age I had no vote in the decision. However, I have always suspected my brother—the one who had been assigned the task of looking after me—had gleefully cast his vote in favor of this conspiracy.

Big Brother Ted and Burl with his gold false teeth

Burl (on right) with gleaming gold front teeth. Ted is on the left.


So, for the next several years this sparkling blue-eyed boy lived a torturous life, dressed in his jumper suits, hair bangs, and gold front teeth, listening to the taunts of the other kids in the neighborhood including the Preacher’s daughter who had caused the disaster in the first place, singing “Burlie is a Girlie! Burlie is a Girlie!” This no doubt explains another problem in my early life: I developed a rather infamous temper.

Brothers in the backyard. Burl in front, Ted behind him. Date unknown.


Sometime when I was about five or six years old, an event occurred that helped establish “Burlie is a Girlie” among the no-nonsense population. I had just learned to tie my shoestrings. It was still a bit of a struggle. A neighbor boy, four or five years older than I, seemed to think I needed more practice, so, as soon as I completed the task, he would grab the shoestring, pull it quickly and untie the shoes. This went on for some time. Finally, I took action. I opened a small knife with a short blade that Dad given me, threw it at my adversary and—as you might imagine—hit him in the leg, the knife sticking out for all to see. As he went running home, he promised to leave me alone. Small victory. Dad took the knife away from me but the bully left me alone. “Burlie is a Girlie” became “The Kid Not to Fool Around With” which lasted for at least a day or two!

School Photo of Burl. Year unknown.


As you might suspect, I did survive this rather odious beginning and started grade school in Lost Creek, WV. My education was earned—or perhaps absorbed—in the same school house for the next twelve years with, of course, different teachers. Sometime during this period, the bobbed hair was cut, exposing, once again, my humongous ears. Apparently the gold teeth fell out and I gradually changed from kid to teenager and eventually became a member of the adult male population.


In the meantime, my guardian and the “corrector of all mistakes” had graduated and been accepted at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. He was no longer my guardian. He met and married a lovely young lady from Baltimore who shared his life for many years.

After Ted started to college, I thought my life would become more tolerable. Not so!! Mom and I quarreled quite often. Mom would frequently take me into the living room—the one with the piano—and she would stand in the doorway, her hands on her hips, saying, “Burl, look over there on the other side of the piano. One of these days you’ll see me there in my casket, pale and cold and you will remember this day when you quarreled with me and made me unhappy. You’ll be so sorry!” And tears would come to my eyes and I would scurry from the room.

It never failed! On one such occasion, I tried to reverse the roles. I pictured myself in the cold, cold casket and I started to cry. Mom started to laugh! What a blow to my ego! Just imagine how I would have looked if I still had my gold teeth and bangs. Sometimes Life just isn’t fair!!

During this period of my life, I was an active participant in many school activities. In sports, I was recognized as a “runner up” member of the “All State Basketball Team” and continued playing [basketball] during my first year in college at Morgantown [West Virginian University]. I was active in high school public speaking contests, winner in state contests, named to All State Choir and became quite active in the state and local 4-H Clubs. Truly, these were, I think, some of my happiest years. I was beginning to feel that I could achieve on my own merits without the influence of a very talented, very proper, and highly skilled older brother. He also excelled in sports, oratory contests, but was not involved in 4-H activities. My ever-present goal was to achieve as much if not more than my brother and guardian Ted.

Newpaper article published in the Clarksburg (WV) Exponent Telegram. Found with other clippings Mom had saved. Jim Allman was a pilot in WWII. Brief story about that is here.



In the fall of 1938 I began a more complicated life when I enrolled at West Virginia University in pre-medicine. I was not then eligible for the military draft. Life changed drastically at this time. I became aware of the disadvantages of having graduated from a small school. In spite of having enrolled in sports and other high school activities, I soon learned that I needed help in various chemistry and science courses. With the war clouds gathering, the military draft boards were absorbed in securing trained future medical doctors. Therefore we were deferred from the draft as long as our grades were high enough to continue our studies. After my freshman year, I devoted my time to studies from supper to the next morning, giving up my desire to play basketball. I did not attempt to continue basketball after my freshman year. It probably was just as well because I was not that talented.

I joined a social fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, and moved into the fraternity house. Meals and lodging were less expensive than that found in private lodging in Morgantown, or so we were told.

After three years of pre-med, I was accepted at University of Maryland School of Medicine. There began a more difficult and more rigid regimen of study, study, and more study. Our country was in a full-scale war with Germany and her allies and Japan and her allies. The need for physicians became more urgent by all branches of the military. In December of my freshman year [1941], the government compelled medical students to enlist in either the army or naval reserves. All able-bodied students except females were placed on active duty in military uniform and under military regulations.

Burl, in Navy shirt and tie. Date unknown.


We were given a small subsistence allowance and returned to the classroom. Saturdays, which usually gave us extra time to study, were now devoted to military drill, intense and mandatory. Classroom instruction was intensified with the ever-present and oft-used threat of “You had better bring up those grades or you’re going to find yourself digging trenches in the islands somewhere.” Our schoolwork was intensified by active study—lectures and laboratories six days a week—and military drill and tests on the seventh day. There was little time for rest or relaxation, but study, test, study, test for the next three years. All of this was intermingled with serving duty in several medical clinics in various hospitals throughout Baltimore. The war forced the four-year course of study to be completed in three years.

It was during this time that I met the most wonderful person in the whole wide world: Mary Francis Kirk, a nursing student at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Some of her clinical studies were in the University outpatient clinics as were some of my outpatient clinical duties. Our paths would cross on occasion. I asked her to have dinner with me at a local restaurant and with this comes an interesting story.

Mary Frances Kirk, University of Maryland School of Nursing.


Remember, I was just a boy from Lost Creek WV and I had not had any experiences with “sophisticated” nursing students. And my long-time guardian was no longer around, guiding me and telling me what I should do or say.

We went to a nice restaurant on North Charles Street. The waitress came to take our order and Mary asked, “Does the spinach have sand in it?”

I thought she was kidding, but, no, Mary was serious and repeated the question. To my unsophisticated mind, this was like asking your hostess at a dinner party, “Is this coffee cup clean?” Anyway, Mary ate the spinach and I had the common sense (without the help of my guardian) to keep my mouth shut.

Wedding day. August 5, 1944


Mary was a perfect soul mate—totally selfless and absolutely devoted to her family. She was the mother of six wonderful children, including a set of triplets. She had more common sense in her little finger than I have in my entire being. She died April 18, 2010, of maxillofacial cancer of the left jaw, caused, I am told, by tobacco and/or its products in 95% of cases. Mary had never so much as held a tobacco product in her hand. So much for statistics. For sixty-four years she was my ‘life’ in every sense of the word. She raised our family of six children in a flawless manner that any husband would be proud.


Events in my life began to change at a rapid pace during the “war years.” Graduating from medical school [1944], I received my diploma and moved directly across the stage in the Old Ford Theater in Baltimore and was handed my commission as Lieutenant JG in the US Navy Reserves. Along with these documents, I was given a release to inactive duty to serve a nine month internship at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. So, back to civilian clothing I went.

Internship year at Mercy Hospital Pittsburgh. Photo taken at Cousin Bertha’s home on Richmond Ave in Baltimore during a visit, 1945.


Mary, my recent bride, continued her education in nursing at University Hospital in Baltimore and graduated in 1945. I was unable to attend her graduation due to Navy commitments and Mercy Hospital duties. Such was life in the time of war.

Upon completion of my rotating internship, I received orders to report to the Naval Hospital in Norfolk, VA. Mary completed her duties as a nurse in Baltimore. Upon her graduation, she worked for a short time there. She closed up our small apartment with the fold-up Murphy bed that came down from the wall. The apartment in Norfolk was inhabited by bed bugs so large you could hear them hit the floor at night. We remained in Norfolk for almost four weeks when I received orders to the ammunition ship USS Great Sitkin, an ammunition ship scheduled  to carry faulty, condemned ammunition to be thrown overboard into the Atlantic Ocean. We made three such trips while I served as ship’s doctor—not very glamorous duty but definitely necessary.

Aboard the USS Great Sitkin, 1945


An interesting little story took place at this time. The 1st Officer of our ship was a graduate of the US Naval Academy—very debonair and proper in all his duties. He and I became friends and occasionally would go ashore together. On one such occasion when our ship was docked at Leonardo Piers in New Jersey, we decided to make a day trip to New York City. The trip required a train trip from the Pier into the city. Standing room only was the norm in all public transportation. When the 1st Lieutenant and I boarded the train, most all the seats were taken. My friend, the dapper graduate from the Naval Academy observed a young lady standing near by and offered her his seat. As she sat down he asked, “How long have you been pregnant?” With a gleam in her eye, she replied, “Oh! About and hour and fifteen minutes, and boy, does my back hurt!”

I spent about six months on the ship. It was at this time that I received orders to report to the Naval recruiting station in Huntington, WV, where I did physical exams on Navy and Marine recruits from West Virginia and part of Ohio. Shortly thereafter, I was released to inactive duty, returning to civilian clothes and picking up my life as a urologist. After the war was over, I remained in the Navy Reserves, though not by choice.

During this part of my life events occurred in routine fashion. My day would begin by making hospital rounds at 8:00 each morning, then surgery that had been scheduled, and back to the office where I would see 35-40 patients on an average day. As quick dinner was had with the family and then back to the two hospitals for evening rounds. This type of existence was necessary to adequately serve a large area with no other urologist within the immediate area.

During this period the Korean War raised its ugly head and once again, Uncle Sam notified me that I was to report for active duty in the Army—yes, the ARMY—evn though my previous service had been in the Navy. To  make a long story short, I made a quick train trip to Washington DC where I volunteered for active duty in the Navy. So—back to the Navy gray uniform again.

Formal Navy portrait. Date unknown.


I was assigned to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital as a urologist. While stationed there, Eddie was born. With three children, it was impossible for Mary to work at her chosen profession of nursing. Willingly and without hesitation, she became a full-time mother and soulmate. Mary was never one to complain but accepted each new situation as a new challenge—even living in the tiny temporary apartment in Norfolk which we shared with bedbugs on a regular basis. Not once did she complain! It was enough that we were together.

(left to right) Cindy, Eddie, and Pam on front porch of our home (5700 Wheeler St.) in Philadelphia PA, 1953.



By this time I had completed all the requirements to become a Board Certified Urologist. Back on the train I went, in Navy uniform, to Chicago where I was subjected to intense scrutiny about my knowledge of the specialty of Urological Surgery. The examination included oral and written questions along all phases of disease of the urinary tract. 

It would be three months later that I would learn if I had passed or failed the examination. I returned home by train to await the results and in the meanwhile return to my active practice with a skilled, knowledgeable urologist with whom I worked for ten years. I had given Mary instructions that if the results of my examination came to our home in my absence, to please call me at the hospital and just say the news is either “good” or “bad”. Thus I would be informed without everyone in the operating room sharing the information.

Weeks later, I was doing an operation under spinal anesthesia (so the patient was aware of all the conversation in the room) when the circulation nurse came into the operating room and proceeded to tell me that my wife had called and said to tell me just that “it was good news.” My response was simply “YEOW!!” The patient raised his head and said, “Damn, Doc! I’m sure glad it wasn’t bad news!!”

I continued to practice with [a local urologist] for more than ten years. It was a good experience and we worked well together until he was killed in an automobile accident. From that point on I had a large solo practice that included patients from surrounding states. Because of the volume of patients, I would recruit urologists to share the practice with me. For the most part, this was a positive experience. However, there were two or three occasions and for a variety of reasons, the association with another urologist had to be terminated for the good of the practice.

After [my partner’s] death, my life took an unpleasant turn for a period time. In attempts to settle the office financial problem, I attempted to buy various items of office furniture and equipment from [the estate]. I hired an accounting firm to make fair and equitable price on all medical and office equipment—although I was buying equipment that was ten to fifteen years old. In other words, I was expected to pay more than the price that was paid for the equipment when it was new. Upon the advice of an attorney with the knowledge of [his wife’s] brother (an attorney) and [my partner’s] brother (also a urologist) I made a counter offer and the problem was resolved, although quite contentious on [his wife’s] part.

The ultimate truth was that [his wife] made a variety and multiple attempts to destroy my efforts to build a practice in this community. These were very unhappy times for me as I desperately tried to be honest, fair, and understanding of her feelings. The office building and apartments were included, therefore, it was a substantial investment. However, until her dying day, [she] felt that I had cheated. In retrospect, I think that somehow she blamed me for [her husband’s] early death. She never missed an opportunity to degrade me in some fashion. Years later, both her son and her brother expressed to me their regret but “their hands were tied.”


To become a member of the Masonic Lodge, one must be recommended by a member in good standing. One cannot seek membership except by making a formal application. Membership is extended after satisfactorily answering many questions affirming one’s faith in God and moral and ethical beliefs, which are not based on any formal or specific church affiliation. It is my opinion that if every young man could learn the lessons taught in the masonic degrees and would live up to their meanings and obligations, the world would be a much better place!

Early portrait from Nemesis Temple, Clarksburg WV.


I was taught in the masonic degrees how to live a more meaningful life, how to be a part of the human race and to live in a society of men with similar thoughts and purposes. It was a good experience and I regret no part of it.

I was elected a 33rd degree Mason, an honor that cannot be sought (and if it is sought, must be refused). At the time of my election, there were only nineteen 33rd degree Masons in the state of West Virginia. The honor was granted in Washington DC at the ‘House of the Temple.”

I was elected Potentate of Nemesis Temple and also President of the Mid-Atlantic Shrine Association which was comprised of fourteen states and the District of Columbia. This experience required much time and energy but Mary and I met many wonderful people and hopefully gained their respect and friendship. In the meanwhile, I was appointed to the Board of Governors of the Lexington KY Cripple Children’s Hospital. This appointment required an overnight stay in Lexington each month for eight years. Mary made each trip with me and shared in the occasional snowstorm. She was a real trooper.

Why did I become so involved in these extra activities? I really don’t know! It seemed the right thing to do, and somehow, I thought I was giving back a little of all the wonderful things given to me—a wonderful, understanding wife who had her own activities where she shared her many talents with others. The children were active in their individual lives and shared their good qualities with others. This was the way Mary taught them!


Left to right: Cindy, David, Burl, Barbie, Eddie, Pam, Mary, Becky. Photo taken December, 1958


My personal life was without a doubt an ideal situation. Mary and I were married and were soulmates. I could not have asked for a better mate. We had Pamela Leigh, who graduated from University of Maryland and became an aide to Senator Joseph Tydings of Maryland. She died from a blood clot from her leg vein to her heart as she was preparing her trip home for her wedding. Mary Cynthia was next. She graduated from Towson University and married a young medical student, Dr. David Owens. They have three children and one grandson. Eddie, #3, married Elena Diamond and he is vice president and in charge of safety in a public utility company in North Carolina. They have no children.

Burl with the triplets, Spring 1959. Becky is top center. Barbie is bottom left and David is bottom right.


The triplets were next. Barbara Ann married Jorge Rodriguez, a handsome man from Mexico City, Mexico, where they currently live. They are parents of three lovely girls. Barbara met her husband at Wake Forest University. Rebecca Susan married Gary Abbate and they have two girls and are the only members of my family that live nearby. David, the last of the triplets, married Danette Burns and they live in St. Louis MO. They have two sons. All in all I have a wonderful family and I’m quite proud of their accomplishments and the way they have conducted their lives. They, all, have lived good honest lives and have been a credit to both their mother and me.

Most of the credit for their exemplary lives rests solely at the feet of Mary Kirk Randolph, their mother who gave up her beloved nursing career to become a full time wife, homemaker, and in many ways took over the long abandoned duties that my brother, the former guardian, had in my earlier years been so much a part of my life. All in all, it has been a Charmed Life and I am truly grateful, grateful beyond words.

In a less serious note, I must mention a few famous episodes about Mary. She was always The Lady—a joy to behold—always doing extra things for her family, forever her pride and joy.

She was a good dancer and knew all the proper moves, helping me to navigate the uncharted territory of the dance floor. We had tickets to the “Holly Ball”, the annual whoop-la-la sponsored by the hospital each year: tuxedo, evening dress, corsage, dinner, live music, a gaily decorated Armory, the works. Mary was dressed in a new long skirt, fur jacket, new this and new that. She was stunning—nothing less than stunning. 

It had begun to snow in the afternoon and the parking lot, as well as the roads, were covered with the white stuff. I had to park the car some distance from the Armory’s front door. I went around the back of the car to help my “beautiful bride” out of the car. There were no lights in the parking lot and when I got to the other side of the car, careful not to soil my tuxedo, there was no Mary. I called a couple of times—how could I lose her in such a short time? After another call, there was this pitiful noise coming from somewhere UNDER the car. Finally, a small voice—“I’m down here!!” Mary had slipped and ended up beneath the car.

To my astonishment, I said, “What are you doing down there?”

Her reply, “I fell down here and I can’t get out. What do you think I’m doing down here?”

After a considerable amount of time, I retrieved Mary, dusted off the snow, and made other heroic efforts to make her presentable. Mary, somehow, had a propensity for falling in the most unceremonious places and at the most inconvenient times. It became a family joke as she would attempt to explain to her friends the various cuts and bruises sustained in her falls.

At another dance, the two of us were to be seated on the stage among others. As we approached our seats, Mary grabbed my arm and said. “Hold up, Burl. My pantyhose are slipping!” With no assistance from me, she managed to twist her hips in the strangest dance step I have ever seen until she could hide behind some chairs and make the proper adjustments. Life was never dull when Mary was around. This epistle could contain many of these events but you get the idea. And besides, you probably know them better than I.


E. Burl Randolph

April 16, 1920-January 27, 2018

. . . . . . . . . . 


EDITOR’S NOTES: It was difficult for me to leave Dad’s story as he ended it. I was tempted, sorely tempted, to write a conclusion that tied it all together in some form. I didn’t. These are his words and while he was living, before he developed dementia, I did try to work with him to clarify some details and edit some paragraphs. Any bracketing in the story was done by me later, for reasons of privacy or clarification. Dad was not interested in doing any more work on it. He had done what I asked by writing what he felt necessary to say and, clearly, I had to be satisfied with that. He had decided for some reason that I was “a published author” and I could “rewrite it myself ” if I wanted to. I am not a published author. I’m not even an author. And my purpose for collecting stories into this forum is for those who come after us—after Dad who has now passed away and after me when I am no longer here—to have a sense of who we all were. What made us laugh? Or cry? What were our thoughts? How did we handle conflict? Or controversy? Were we flawed? Were we funny? What did we love? Whom did we love? What I do know is this: we are simply members of a Family and Family is Everything.

Cynthia Randolph Owens, daughter