FRANK INSERRA, M.D.
In Memoriam
(3 March 1912 - 19 October 1990)

This page is in memory of my father.


He possessed uncommon dedication to his profession, family, community, and country. He was a man of refined perception, deep emotion, and noble character. Every person he met was richer for it. He had the common touch.


All the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind were hurrying over the Green Meadows. Some flew this way and some ran that way and some danced the other way. You see, Jerry Muskrat had asked them to carry his invitations to a party at the Big Rock in the Smiling Pool.


Like most Americans of his generation, he was an actor in the watershed events of history that interrupted his life. Born in the adolescence of this century, like so many other children of fresh immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, they were all somewhat lost in their own land, without knowing it. While they were in it together, somehow he could teach the others to read in a native tongue barely spoken in their home. In a corner of the classroom where the daft or Italian hovered, he read to them Mother Westwind and Her Little Breezes, translating where needed. No one told them it was a nursery school story.

They were the generation that threw mudballs at billboards of the Kaiser. Did you know he caused the penny war tax on the silent films? They were the kids who thought luxury was syrup in their two cents plain, bought with money rolled in knickers made from setting up bowling pins. While waiting for the ice man and riding the milk train, they explained America to their parents.

Just Out of East Boston | Medford, MA
circa 1925 (holding dog)

They ate lunch in the boiler rooms of the workplaces and colleges that would barely have them. Faced with the Great Depression, they left the bread lines to work for the WPA(he, among the fortunate, only had to leave school to shovel dirt). Despite all odds, many made it back to better things. He was among them. Fortunately, the local college was a good one. It had a medical school, too. Pathology was his gift, but his passion was attending to the living, and so he went into general practice.

The Young Doctor (circa 1937)

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They acted in a theater or two of operation in WWII -- in his case, as a battalion surgeon throughout Europe and in the Phillipines. He practiced a lifetime of medicine there. Still, in war, it was service to the local populations he recalled most: little French kids, a burgermeister in Germany, and old women smoking cigars in little grass huts.

They were abruptly separated from the men and women they loved, and that some would come to marry.

Captain Inserra (circa 1943)

Some fooled the war into letting them live the rest of their lives. He was one of these fortunate Americans. He knew it. Because of this good fortune, his self-reliance was always in sharp contrast to his compassion for others.

Incredibly, it was over. Some picked up where they had left off. He moved on with life, with a conviction about how good things could be when uneventful -- a warm uneventfulness that is uniquely the vision of the war weary. He quickly married his lover.

Marriage to Angela Coppola
(with Louis and Louise and Adam & Theresa)
Derby, CT 1946

His brothers, comrades in arms, made it through too. Eventually, they all came home . . . to Boston and environs. Finally, their work and families could become the priorities that they acted upon. They all had time to work and to live and to play again. The many children they had in the years that followed only knew them then.

The Brothers Inserra & Families
(Vinnie, Eddy, Louie & Frank)
Medford, MA circa 1961

 

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Frank, Angela, Donna & Lisa | Winchester, MA October 1964

He prospered with the Nation through the 1950s and the 1960s. In suburbia, there were satisfactions and scares -- material well being, heart attacks, the development and eventual emancipation of the children he watched so carefully and cherished. His attentions were as palpable as the rapt delight he showed in the things that gave us joy and in our accomplishments.

Our years together sped by too quickly, but they were good years. He practiced medicine in his locality until 1986, retiring at the age 74. In his last years, he was honored by the community in which he practiced, by his patients and the local residents. Although there were other tributes, this one was most meaningful because local color was the background of his life and personal warmth its currency. I will remember him as they remembered him: a down to Earth man of wisdom, experience, good humor, and integrity -- a man who could be trusted. They said this with two words, he was simply "the Doctor."

November 11, 1999

If you have an unzip utility, you can click here to download an important interview with the doctor.

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