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Dr. George Speck's Life and Lives

Senior Services honors an Alexandria Institution

Most of the women in the Old Town Radisson Hotel ballroom last Friday night had had a very intimate relationship with the guest of honor. He had delivered their children and some of their children's children during his 50 years of medical practice.

Dr. George Speck has "brought into the world over 5,000 new Alexandrians." And, in his own words, "They were the most wonderful group of patients any doctor could have. Indeed, they were more than patients, they were and are my friends. And their good health, both mental and physical, has been my privilege to safeguard."

With nearly 200 of those friends and his family looking on, Speck was named Senior Services of Alexandria's "2005 Senior Extraordinaire." Accepting the tribute, he said, "Tonight in honoring me you honor my family as well."

Introducing his father, former Alexandria Councilman David Speck, said, "Every new mother heard their first rendition of "Happy Birthday" from him in the delivery room. He was the first doctor at Alexandria Hospital to have music played in the operating room."

A BOSTONIAN by birth, Speck, now 94, began his practice of obstetrics and gynecology in Alexandria in 1945, being the first to open an ObGyn practice in Northern Virginia. In 1960 he was appointed chief of staff at Alexandria Hospital and subsequently chief of obstetrics and gynecology.

He was the first physician-member of the hospital's Board of Directors and the initiator of what came to be known as "The Alexandria Plan" in emergency room service. "When you honor someone who has lived as long as my father, you are honoring that person's balance sheet," David Speck said.

"When you were his patient you knew you'd get nothing but the best. He taught us [his family] to expect nothing but the best. Never stop caring and never stop learning. Do this and everything else will take care of itself," David told the audience of his father's advise.

That advise was buttressed by Dr. Robert Adeson who practiced as a fellow physician with Speck since 1963. "I thought it was wonderful that George trusted me. He was not always easy to work with. He was wonderful to work with — just not easy," Adeson said.

"And, he is still the only doctor I know, who, at his age, never misses a Board meeting at the hospital. He is as well read on medical matters as anyone," he said.

Jane Ring, wife of Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority Commissioner and former City Councilman Carlyle C. "Connie" Ring, Jr., told the crowd stories of her experiences as an aide to Speck. "I've known Dr. Speck for 48 years and like half the women in Alexandria, whose babies he has delivered, I immediately fell in love with him," she said.

"In addition to being a great doctor he also had a wonderful sense of community responsibility. And, I know I speak for all his patients and their husbands when I say -- We love you," Ring said.

ONE OF THE THINGS Dr. Speck is well known for, beyond his dedication to the practice of medicine, is his sense of humor which became evident when he came to the podium. "I feel like I'm attending my second funeral while still alive," he said.

"When I retired from practice they gave me all these compliments and now here they are again. It reminds me of the old adage, there's never an ugly bride at a wedding and the deceased at every funeral was an outstanding individual," Speck said.

"I have prepared some remarks. I can remember what happened 83 years ago — just not what happened 15 minutes ago," he said. "But, I do want to thank you for the honor you have bestowed upon me tonight."

Speck attended Boston Latin School, Harvard University, and the University of Michigan, from which he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He received his M.D. degree from George Washington's School of Medicine in 1940. Following his internship at Cooper Hospital, Camden, N.J., he did his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at New York City's Bellevue Hospital.

"When people ask me why I chose to practice obstetrics I tell them because it is a happy form of medicine," he said. His professional memberships include: Founding Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the International College of Surgeons, and the International Fertility Association. He has authored over 25 professional articles.

He also introduced and paid special tribute to members of his

family — son David, daughter Betsy Speck Schlesinger and stepdaughter Betsy Shainis. He also has nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His daughter Betsy was not present because her daughter was being married in Connecticut the next day.

At the commencement of the award ceremony, Senior Services President William P. Harris read a letter from Mayor William D. Euille who was unable to attend. "You have contributed more than this community could have ever expected. I commend the work you have done. The citizens of Alexandria are blessed by your service to this community," Euille wrote.

In presenting Speck with the award, Senior Services Executive Director Eileen Longstreet said, "I only wish I had known Dr. Speck when I gave birth. Thank you for what you have contributed to the City of Alexandria."

This year's Gala Committee was co-chaired by George A. Pera and Susan Winn in conjunction with Claudia Kostel, events committee chair. Others on the committee were Sandy Calhoun, Judy Drewry, John Davies, Alfred P. Duncker, and Ruby Tucker.