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Bob Lind column: Neighbors: Couple thank local doctors

Don Littlefield isn't calling square dances any more. Not that he wouldn't like to. Throat problems have forced him to give it up. But from 1962 until recently, he was one of the premier square dance callers in the Red River Valley area, while hi...

Don Littlefield isn't calling square dances any more.

Not that he wouldn't like to. Throat problems have forced him to give it up.

But from 1962 until recently, he was one of the premier square dance callers in the Red River Valley area, while his allemande right-hand gal (and wife) Martha was showing novice square dancers how to do the steps.

It's tough, not being out there among their many square-dancing friends. But in the big picture, they're grateful they are here at all.

Both had serious heart problems. Both had surgery. Both, thanks to the folks at MeritCare in Fargo, are doing fine.


Heart of my heart

If you square-danced in the area in the last half century, chances are you know Don and Martha, formerly of Moorhead and now of Fargo.

Don called dances all over the Dakotas, Minnesota and Manitoba. He was the president of the Square Dance Federation of Minnesota in 1972, and he and Martha were co-chairmen of the Minnesota Square Dance Federation convention in Moorhead, which drew 2,500 dancers.

A special labor of love for Don: Being the volunteer square dance caller for the Clay County Association of Retarded Citizens.

Somehow, Don also found time to work for Robert Gibb and Sons plumbing and heating in Fargo. He retired a few years ago after 40 years with Gibb.

Martha knows about heart problems. She's dealt with them before. She had triple bypass surgery in the 1980s. But she kept on dancing. It was, she said, "excellent exercise."

Last year, Don spent four days at MeritCare for quadruple bypass surgery. In March and April this year, Martha was there, too, because of a heart attack; she had a single bypass and now has a pacemaker.

Don writes that "words can't do justice to describe the caring and love the doctors and nurses showed us in ICU and 2 Main."


He sends thanks to Dr. Craig Kouba, "our great cardiologist, who with his persistence found that both Martha and I had plenty of problems."

And how good are heart surgeons Dr. Roxanne Newman and Dr. Jim Burdine and physician's assistant (and Roxanne Newman's husband) Greg Lammle? Just, in Don's view, "the best on the planet," limiting his comparison to doctors on Earth only because he hasn't had a chance to check them out against those on Mars or Uranus yet.

Then there is Dr. Manuel Otero, an electrophysiologist who put in Martha's pacemaker, and Littlefields' therapists, and the "wonderful folks at the cardiac rehab (who) are really something else," Don says.

The bottom line, Don writes, is that "Martha and I think these are the world's finest doctors and staff."

Just one case in point, Don says: "Dr. Burdine spent most of an afternoon and evening in the ICU with my very, very ill wife. That's what I call loving and caring.

"I can't leave out the cardiology and congestive heart failure programs and their very caring staffs. They are really keeping tabs on us. I guarantee you that is the one place in the world where the right hand really does know what the left is doing.

"Martha and I have thanked God many times in the last months for the medical care we received.

"We who live in this area should be so very thankful that we have one of the top 100 cardiac care facilities in the USA.


"From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, MeritCare and staff."

That comes from the bottom of two hearts in pretty good shape, which indeed is a reason to be thankful.

Moving fast

Don sent in this tribute with the request that the emphasis be on the hospital and its staff and not on him and Martha.

That's understandable and commendable. Still, at the risk of getting him and Martha upset, Neighbors is going to toss in the story of how these two met and married.

Don, while in the Army, had a buddy from Texas. That buddy had a sister back home named Martha. Don and she began writing.

A year after they began their correspondence, Don took the friendship a two-step further: He went to Texas to meet her.

Here's what happened: They saw each other for the first time on a Saturday. The next Tuesday they became engaged. They were married that Thursday.


Don had borrowed $80 to get married. By the time the newlyweds arrived in Moorhead by bus that Saturday, he had $3.65 left.

That was 56 years ago this month.

Happy anniversary, Don and Martha.

And thanks to MeritCare for helping make sure you can celebrate it.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or e-mail rlind@forumcomm.com

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