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Great Grandpa Hayward

© PJ Hayward, New York 2018

R.I.P.  Dr. Herbert L. Hayward
8/26/16 to 7/6/88


I have never before really written anything positive or even acknowledged anything positive about my father, who passed away at this time twenty years ago.

My father was blessed with many gifts.  He was a gifted pianist and a child musical prodigy who played concerts in Vienna, his birthplace, at the age of five. In his elder years he played the organ at Sunday services at New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where his ashes are now interred in the Columbarium.  He was a brilliant scholar and in his younger days, had a photographic memory.  Yes, my father  had his failings – especially when it came to personal relationships – but which of us can say we don’t share that frailty at some point in our lives?  Some of us maybe at every point in our lives…

What I want to acknowledge and speak on today is my father’s greatest legacy – his pioneering research and work in the field of Craniofacial Reconstruction.

During World War II, though just a young Dentist, my father was called upon to use his skills to help reconstruct the damaged or destroyed faces or jaws of GIs caught by enemy land mines or artillery.  The experience formed the foundation of his lifelong pursuit of helping repair or reconstruct facial and maxillary damage or deformity.  He developed many pioneering methods and techniques in that field and his work gave new life to many whose disfigurement had caused them to be shunned and avoided by much of society.

When I was small I would watch with fascination as my father, sitting at the kitchen table, used strange looking tools to draw endless mechanical diagrams onto tracing paper placed over x-rays clipped onto a light box, then bring them to life using spools of wire and plaster models.  These were the human engineering feats he was learning and inventing to make necessary repairs to the bones of the face and head, the techniques that later on would give hope and new life to so many.

One of my father’s favorite stories was that of a young boy who was brought to him by the child’s mother.  The boy suffered from a badly deformed cleft palate.  He could not speak and was considered to be mentally and emotionally challenged.  The mother, who was convinced her son was simply withdrawn and shy, had taken him to a number of doctors seeking help, all of whom had said there was no hope for the child. Finally she took him to my father, who said he would try his best to help.

After a number of surgeries to repair the boy’s cleft palate, lip and other hidden maxillary deformities, slowly he began to speak. The mother had been correct all along – the only thing wrong with her child was the facial deformity that made it impossible for him to speak . Being shunned by all around him and being made fun of by the other children, had caused him to become extremely withdrawn.  That withdrawal had caused others to assume he was mentally challenged.

Over the years and after more reconstructive surgeries, the boy flourished and thrived physically, emotionally and academically. The young boy grew to be a successful man who became a doctor who stayed in touch with my father throughout the years.

That is only one story. There were many others.

In later years my father became a professor at Columbia University, teaching his skill to young students of oral surgery.  For many years he was Chief of the Dept. of Craniofacial Rehabilitation at Harlem Hospital, the teaching hospital connected with Columbia University. He also was Chief of the Dept. of Craniofacial Surgery at Kingsbrook Hospital in Brooklyn.  

My father was a great man, a man who made a difference and used his life to help many others – and he did not believe a child should suffer because of the parent’s inability to pay.  My father remained unpaid for much of his work.

In my old age now I have learned from my own child, the incredible Power of Forgiveness.  It has really enabled me to look clearly – and with love and pride – at all the wonderful gifts my father left behind him and to recognize with gratitude, his most precious gift to us his children: the Gift of Life.

3 thoughts on “MY FATHER”

  1. That was beautiful! Whatever flaws your Father had, they were balanced by all the people he strove to help.
    I hope you are doing well,


  2. That was beautiful! Whatever flaws your Father had, they were balanced by all the people he strove to help.
    I hope you are doing well,


    1. Thank you Jeane…yes, as I say, who among us is without those same flaws? And yes, I think those efforts to help his fellow man went a very long way to counter-balance those negative actions. Thank you again… : )


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