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‘Luckiest man in the world’ turns 90 today

John Sandlin
Special to the Mountain Eagle 
Thursday, Nov 19, 2009

Dr. Carey Gwin, who turns 90 today, considers himself “the luckiest man in the world,” and not just because his teen years included chances to meet the all-time greats of baseball, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Feller and Dizzy Dean.
“I’ve always said I was the luckiest man who ever lived,” said Gwin, who practiced family medicine in Jasper for 51 years, following in the footsteps of his father, the late Dr. P.E. Gwin of Sumiton.
When he was a student at Dora High School, Gwin’s older sister, Josephine, married a professional baseball player, “Ivy” Paul Andrews, who pitched middle relief for the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Browns.
Gwin would board a train in Dora and stay for a month each summer with his sister and brother-in-law in their apartment in what is now the Mayflower Hotel in New York City. He slept in a pull-down bed in the living room and watched the ball players come and go. Andrews played on the teams boasting Yankee sluggers Ruth and Gehrig and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Gwin would board a train in Dora and stay for a month each summer with his sister and brother-in-law in their apartment in what is now the Mayflower Hotel in New York City. He slept in a pull-down bed in the living room and watched the ball players come and go. Andrews played on the teams boasting Yankee sluggers Ruth and Gehrig and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Gwin recalls many anecdotes from the period, but his favorite is the time he met Dizzy Dean in St. Louis. Dean had an apartment in the same complex as Gwin’s sister.
“I was 14 years old and with my cousin when Dizzy Dean came in the lobby and bought us two big cigars. We were sitting in chairs smoking when Josephine came in and caught us smoking them. I thought she was going to kill us, but not really,” recalled Gwin with a smile.
Gwin bonded quickly with all-star pitcher Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians.
“He was a 19-year-old boy from Iowa, still a country boy and he was absolutely lonely for friends his age. I was a year younger and we hit it off. I had dinner at his place several times,” Gwin said.
Gwin’s sister became a social studies teacher at Dora and her husband ended his career as pitching coach for the Birmingham Barons.
Baseball figures aside, Gwin’s real hero was his father.
“I never thought about being anything but a doctor. My father was my best buddy,” said Gwin, who recalls the coal miners his father served paying $1.25 a month for complete medical coverage that included doctor’s visits and hospital stays. A man with a family would pay $1.50.
After graduating from Dora as valedictorian in 1938, Gwin earned his undergraduate degree from Howard College and his medical degree from Tulane, his father’s alma mater.
Gwin advises young people “to work hard and be responsible for what you do.”
“Work, make up your mind what you want to do and do it,” he said.
Gwin’s downtown practice included everything from repairing a broken wrist to delivering babies. During one 20-year period he averaged 150 babies a year, and exceeded 200 some years.
Gwin and his wife, Marie, have been married for 65 years and their union produced three children.
He met the love of his life when she was teaching at Dora and renting a room from the Andrews.
At first, Gwin told his father he would wait until he finished medical school before marriage. Then, he asked if he could marry after two years of school.
Then, he wanted to get married right after he passed anatomy class, halfway through his first year at Tulane.
“He said, “I don’t see why you two don’t just get married,” Gwin recalls his father saying.
Gwin boarded a train in New Orleans on a Friday, sat on a suitcase until he got to Walker County, got married, grabbed his new bride and they were back at Tulane on Monday in time for him to attend classes.
Marie is the sister of Jasper broadcasting legend J.L. Sartain.
Gwin has been a faithful member of Jasper’s First Baptist Church for decades, serving in practically every capacity over the years, including chairman of the board of deacons and the pastoral search committee.
This past week, Ernest Crump led Gwin’s Sunday School classmates in singing Happy Birthday for him.
“That was great, men,” Gwin beamed after the song, “now I’m going to try for 100.”

 

 
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