Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
It was billed as a book-signing, but the crowd gathered Friday at the Bullard History Museum seemed more like long-lost kin as they greeted Dr. Dan Roper and his mother, Dr. Marjorie Ferrell Roper, the subject of “Dr. Margie: Country Physician.”
In fact, as Dan greeted visitors and signed books for them, the book owners moved quickly to his mother – seated next to him – for her autograph, too.
Turnout for the event was “super,” said Bullard resident Amy Roper McKeethan, eldest of “Dr. Margie's” granddaughters. “It's just now started slowing down (at lunch), but we've probably sold about 100 books. I think most of the people have been old patients who remember the stories they'll probably read about, and just being here in the building definitely brings back a lot of memories for them.”
The museum – housed in the drugstore once operated by Marjorie Roper's father – was previously the site of a clinic she operated during her 50-year stint as a small-town doctor, at one point working alongside her beloved younger brother, Dr. Oran “Bud” Ferrell, and treating four generations of patients during that period.
One former patient even came from out of town for Friday's event, McKeethan said.
“We took a photo of a lady with her two daughters, who are now grandmothers themselves – my grandmother delivered those two girls,” McKeethan said, marveling at the bond her grandmother's former patient still felt. “That automatically makes you feel like part of the family, being there for such a long time like that. And we've met several community members who have family that were delivered during her practice … (she and her brother) delivered lots of babies here.”
And, she added, her grandmother “always treated” people like family.
“Growing up and watching her, that's what she did. These other families basically claim her for themselves. My friends did,” McKeethan smiled.
Taking a break between signings, Dan Roper said he was happily surprised by the turnout, meeting people from Tyler and Jacksonville who showed up in support.
Not only are they interested in reading about his mother, “people are buying two and three copies,” most likely to share, he said.
For several years now, the Roper family have asked their mother and grandmother to pen her story. She began writing some of it – and the city's history – down while realizing a dream to create a museum that focused on the community's history.
“She'd been talking about doing it for years and years, but nothing ever seemed to get done,” he laughed. “Then I discovered that Jane Pirtle from Lon Morris College had come down several years ago and did a series of extensive interviews. So we had some really good material out on tape, and my sister's secretary, Gail Moore, transcribed them into something you could read – 80 percent of what's in (the book) came out of those interviews.
“And that made it easy – I just needed to rearrange things chronologically a little bit and from a question-answer format to little bit more of a narrative,” he said.
McKeethan said she had hoped to finish reading her uncle's book in time for Friday's event, “but I'm only about half-way finished,” she laughed. “But so far, it's great.”
Having a family member who grew up in the community pen her grandmother's tale probably makes the material that more appealing, because “a lot of the people have grown up with Dan – this is a hometown boy who is telling stories about his mom,” she added.
Seeing “Dr. Margie's” stories published in book form has been a dream of the Roper family, and “we're very thankful that (Dan) took it upon himself to do it for us,” McKeethan said.
“It's probably nothing more as far as motivation for him as a keepsake for the family, but it's wonderful to be able to share stories that the community will enjoy seeing, too.”
“Our mom is 92, and so we felt like we were under a little bit of (a time) strain; we wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. Maybe,” Dan laughed, “if some more stories come to light, we can do a second edition.”
by Dan Roper,
in e-book edition through the websites, www.amazon.com
and www.scribd.com. The Bullard History Museum,
105 Philips Street,
also has copies for sale.