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Larimer Mellon was the youngest son of Paul Mellon renowned Pittsburgh financier and seemed destined for a life of high finance and high society Instead he went to med school and upon graduating moved with his wife Gwen to Haiti the poorest country in the hemisphere In one of the most isolated and impoverished areas of the country they built a hospital and for the rest of his life Larry Mellon served as a physician there To this day Gwen Mellon remains at the hospital and in Haiti Song of Haiti is a beautifully written look at the passion that drove this couple and that inspired them to leave behind a world of almost unfathomable wealth and luxury and devote their lives to the poorest of the poor in a country far from home

10 thoughts on “Song of Haiti

  1. says:

    I had the good fortune of reading this book while on location It's the story of how a wealthy Pittsburgh heir Larry Mellon gained no satisfaction from his fortune and struck out on his own to work hard as an Arizonan cowboy until he met his match in a woman Gwen Grant and read an article about Albert Schweitzer building a hospital in rural Gabon Larry went to medical school in his 40s to become a physician while Gwen studied as a medical tech Then they searched the world for a suitable location to follow in Albert Schweitzer's footsteps They found it in a remote rural valley of Haiti a country with a fascinating and devastating history In the 1950's they opened Hopital Albert Schweitzer built a gracious stone home nearby and lived out their days providing care to the poorest of the poor The story of the project its successes and failures the exhaustion and exhilaration of their work the characters who cycled through the hospital is all riveting But deeper is the soul searching it provokes The hospital was deliberately kept nondenominational but giving everything you have to the poor is a profoundly difficult and profoundly Christiancompassionate thing to do To immerse myself in this story of how Larry and Gwen did this throwing every ounce of energy they had like tiny droplets in an ocean of need triggered some deep thinking on my part about how the privileged can and should conduct themselves in this world

  2. says:

    Before I left for the LaCroix Haiti New Testament Mission I wanted to read some books about the Haiti and its history My favorite book that I read was Song of Haiti The Lives of Dr Larimer and Gwen Mellon at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital of Deschapelles by Barry Paris The book is a biography of Larimer Larry Mellon and his wife Gwen and as their lives become intertwined with Haiti and the Haitian people the book explores the country and its history as wellLarry Mellon was the youngest son of Pittsburgh financier William Mellon and he once wrote that there were times when I felt ashamed to be from a family that was known only for wealth He eventually left the family business to become a rancher in the American Westwhere he met and married his wife Gwen Then in 1947 Larry read an article that would dramatically change the course of their lives Life Magazine published a piece about Dr Albert Schweitzer's work in Gabon West Africa in which Schweitzer said It struck me as incomprehensible that I should be allowed to lead such a happy life while I saw so many people around me were wrestling with care and suffering Those words touched Larry so deeply that at age 37 he decided to attend medical school and then open a hospital in Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere Larry and Gwen made a permanent move to Haiti and Hôpital Albert Schweitzer opened in 1956A fellow doctor said of Mellon “What surprised us when we became close to him was that a man like Dr Mellon so wealthy had made a choice to come to Haiti He could have done so many things in so many other places But that simple life in the country giving health to Haitians meant to him than anything elseHe realized something very important That curing the disease is fine but if you go to the cause of the disease it’s much better That’s what gave him the idea of the community development projects”In addition to starting the hospital the Mellons also started an elementary school and provided vocational training They helped to build houses dug wells to provide clean water and builtirrigation systems so that people could grow crops for food Their desire to do all of this came from the Presbyterian faith One of Larry Mellon’s associates said “Dr Mellon was very much impressed by the gospels especially the passage in Mark where the rich man asks ‘Whatshould I do to get to heaven?’ and Jesus says ‘Honor your parents don’t steal – all the commandments’ The man says ‘I’ve been doing all this’ so Jesus says ‘Give all of your money to the poor and follow me’ The man became sad and left He could not separate himself fromhis riches”Unlike the rich man in the Bible Larry and Gwen Mellon gave their entire fortune to the poor They also gave their time and their love to the people of Haiti As I read this book I was struck by the similarities between Larry Mellon and Pastor Vaugelas Pierre who started the mission in LaCroix Pastor Pierre is a humble man who is doing remarkable things for the people of Haiti Like the Mellons Pastor Pierre has been implementing community development projects for LaCroix and surrounding villages In addition to building churches schools and medical clinics he is also helping to build houses and wells so that people can have access to clean water All that I saw in Haiti reflects the message that resonates in Song of Haiti and that message is hopeFrom my church's newsletter March 2012

  3. says:

    Information about L'Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles Haiti is what I was looking for when I found this book Larimer Mellon and his journey to becoming a rancher then a physician and finding his wife Gwen along the way fills the early chapters The mission they chose for themselves and pursued until the end of their lives was to work within the limitations of Haiti and their budget to offer basic medical services to the people of the Artibonite region Well written with some photographs of the place and characters for enhancement the book offered a great deal of what I was searching for My only real criticism is that the Mellons are painted as saints It's just a bit too glossy In the few instances where conflict is mentioned it is brushed off They were extraordinary people for sure but also powerful and in absolute authority And Hamish benefited immensely from his experience visiting and working at HAS The great accomplishment the Mellons strove for appears to be living on Staffed largely by Haitians at this point still staggering under the weight of infrastructure failure in Haiti the hospital goes on helping to heal when possible and providing comfort otherwise An extremely cool place

  4. says:

    What a story I was able to relate to this book for a couple of reasons First my parents have done some work in Haiti and are going back in February to do some My mom and dad have a real soft spot for this country and its people Also my dad works for Bank of NY formerly Mellon Bank and the gent centered in this book is a family member of the bank and a Pittsburgh native giving it the local tie It is fascinating and heart warming to find a person with so much money yet willing to go and do such service instead to help those in dire need While and after reading this it motivates you to give back for sure

  5. says:

    This is a great book telling the amazing story of Dr Mellon his wife and their hospital in Haiti I was fortunate enough to go to the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles Haiti and stay at their home with Mrs Mellon's daughter It was an amazing learning experience

  6. says:

    Reading about the life of Dr Larry and Gwen Mellon is incredibly inspirational If of us could set our priorities like they did this world would be a much better place

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