from Dorothy Lancaster McCoppin and Patricia Lancaster Leggett
the Scholarship | home
Early years |
Studies, Patent, and the Sea wall design
Outdoor Interests |
Mentoring & Civic Service |
Building in New Braunfels
Later Years |
His creed (a poem)
The Dr. York Lancaster Memorial scholarship was established in memory of our father. We would like to tell you a little about him in the hope that his life, as well as this scholarship, would be an encouragement and inspiration to you, as he was to us.
He was born to Minnie Lee (York) and Moore Lancaster in Bishop, Texas on November 9, 1916, the youngest of four children. He followed a sister, Lucile, and two brothers, Alden and William. As a toddler, his white-blonde hair won him the nickname Cotton, and his earliest pet was a beloved chicken.
The family moved to Houston in the summer of 1917, and York developed an interest in medicine at a young age when he visited his grandfather, Dr. William H. Lancaster, in Ganado and accompanied him on his rounds. By the age of 10, he was holding down three paper routes on his bicycle, and had also become known for his outstanding horsemanship. As a result, on Christmas Eve of 1928, at the age of 12, he was challenged to ride a spirited horse. He was thrown and his right leg was impaled behind the knee on a recently pruned palm tree. The injury severed many blood vessels and nerves to the lower leg. Although there was a serious infection, he insisted that amputation be postponed on the chance that the leg might heal. During the long hours in bed, he spoke often with his Uncle Frank Lancaster (a pediatrician) and finalized his decision to become a doctor. Without the antibiotics, microsurgery, and physical therapy available today, his recovery restricted him to a wheelchair and then crutches for many years.
Nevertheless, at a time when few allowances were made for the handicapped, he swam ten miles in lieu of a ten-mile hike to achieve his Scout First Class rank. While still in a wheelchair, he became an excellent archer (a sport which he would pursue throughout his life) and at age 14 was the youngest scout to receive the Silver Tomahawk, an award given annually to the most outstanding scout from the Heights area.
He graduated from Reagan High School in 1934 and then from Rice University in 1938. (His sister and brothers attended Rice, as would three of his four children, two nephews, and now one grandson.) He graduated from the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston in 1942. Turned down for military service because of his leg, he spent the war years practicing in San Marcos, where he met Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Dardeau, a Catholic girl from Houston who sometimes visited her married sister at the Nixon Ranch outside of town. On December 4, 1948, against her parents' wishes, they were married and in 1949 they returned to Houston. There York began a residency in surgery and gynecology at St. Joseph's Hospital. His first daughter, Dorothy Lucile, was born in 1950 and twin sons, Thomas Moore and Robert Dardeau, were born in 1951. In 1952, the family moved to Port Lavaca, where their youngest girl, Patricia Anne, was born in 1954. York was named a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 1955. He invented and patented the umbilical chord bander which applies a tourniquet to the newborn's chord once it is cut. In 1958, dissatisfied with what was available locally, he engineered his own design for a concrete piling which he used to construct a seawall and walk along the bay front of Lancashire Subdivision (where in 1962 our home was built at 1700 South Virginia). Local contractors predicted that "York's folly" would never survive, but the wall remained undefeated by Hurricane Carla (possibly the worst storm to hit the Texas coast in this century) when she came ashore at Port Lavaca in 1961, and it remains standing today.
Continuing his interests in the outdoors, he raised and trained his weimaraner Lady as his hunting dog and she became his faithful companion for almost twelve years. Despite his handicap, his abilities at shooting, climbing, and hiking often exceeded those of his non-handicapped companions. (He also prided himself on being able to grow the scruffiest beard in a weekend!)
Although not musically trained, he enjoyed music and the sing alongs which most of the parties at our home inevitably turned into. He also invented such party games as belly bumping which, on a few occasions, got him into trouble. Once his brother-in-law, Tom McCleary, unsuccessfully attempted to end a belly jousting between York and his cousin Ed Hallmark, and found himself smashed between the contestants' blows. York's sister, Lucile, was not too pleased about the broken chair that resulted either!
He encouraged his sons to be active in scouting, and they both attained the Eagle Scout rank in 1967 (an accomplishment which he himself had been denied because of his handicap). In 1964, he began to buy and train horses with his youngest daughter; his oldest daughter began working with him at his office where he fostered her early ambitions to follow in his footsteps. He was an avid bridge player and a mean opponent at chess. He served as president of the Rotary Club, on the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce, on the vestry and as a lay reader at Grace Episcopal Church, and was the Calhoun High football team's volunteer physician for many years.
In 1968, he bought a lot on the Comal River in New Braunfels, where over the next summer he directed the family in raising a two-story three-bedroom vacation home. When asked if she had ever imagined her family physically building a house, Dorothy replied, "I didn't know HOW, but I knew that if Dad said we were going to do it, then we were going to do it!"
In 1971, York and Betty were divorced. York married Audrey Butcher of Bellaire, Texas in March, 1973 and as he called it "semi-retired" to Panorama Village (north of Conroe) in September, 1974. Always active, he continued to enjoy golf, fishing, hunting, and camping with his grandchildren. Amazingly, at the age of 73, he could still best both sons in a friendly rifle-shooting contest. Firing from the offhand position, he dissected the center x of the bull's eye at 100 yards in a 25-mph wind. He practiced in Conroe until 1992, when his struggle with Parkinson's disease finally forced his retirement. By that time, he had been practicing medicine for over 50 years, and by his estimate had delivered over 4,000 babies. Diagnosed with cancer only a few weeks before, he fell victim to a stroke on April 18, 1993 and died the following evening.
Our dad was a man of great integrity, whose word was ironclad. He despised hypocrisy, proclaiming frequently that people should say what they mean, and mean what they say. He brooked no excuse for half-hearted attempts or jobs poorly done. True to his own vision, he was always courageous, determined and forceful, particularly in the face of great obstacles. He was a fierce competitor even in friendly contests. Yet, while he took life seriously, he loved a good joke and never had trouble laughing at himself. Though not always demonstrative with his affection, he was a very caring person, believing that real love was practical, and frequently manifested in service. He was generous--we will never know all those who benefited from his anonymous giving, nor could we begin to name all those to whom he made his medical services available without charge. He taught us to never live with regrets; rather, we should do the very best with what we have, apologize when we make a mistake, and then go on. We have chosen to share with you the following poem by Edmund Vance Cooke (which was often recited at home) as a description of his character as well as his creed.
How Did You Die?
by Edmund Vance Cooke
Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it.
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?
You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there--that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts;
It's how did you fight and why?
And though you be done to death, what then?
If you battled the best you could;
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only, how did you die?