Eulogy to My Father, Dr. Theodore Krouse

I believe we choose our parents before we are born. I hit the jackpot.

I picked an unlikely pair—a radical feminist and a guy named Ted Krouse. Mom wasn’t home much (she was finishing up her psychiatry residency) so I became head of the household. Dad always kowtowed to the strongest woman in the room. I was two at the time. I never had a bed time or a bath time and I sent Dad out on midnight runs to 7-11 to get us Slurpees and chocolate bars for dinner. Since I rarely bathed, I ended up with dreadlocks. Dad turned my poor hygiene into a neighborhood contest. The kids on the block lined up in our living room. Dad gave $1 to anyone who could move a comb through my hair.

Ted was basically a single dad. Every so often he’d place an ad in the newspaper for a live-in nanny. A slew of women from all over town showed up at our doorstep to compete for the position. Dad lined them up across the piano bench and onto the couch. Then he’d point to me and my baby brother on the floor and ask, “Do you think you can handle them?” None lasted long. Some quit mid-shift, I think a few on their first day.

With unreliable child care, I’d accompany Dad to work. The morgue was like our secret clubhouse. Dad would open the stainless-steel doors to the cooler and say, “Good morning! Is anyone home?” He’d prop me up and introduce me to all his patients.

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Then we’d head to the Camden methadone clinic. As clients came in, Dad introduced me “This is Pamela. She’s a doctor-in-training. Show her your track marks.” Then he’d tell them a secret: “Ya know, I got an addiction too.” Opening his drawer, he pulls out a bag of banana-flavored marshmallow candies. “I love Circus Peanuts, but I’ve had this unopened bag in my desk for two years. I don’t allow my addiction to control me.” I’ve never seen anyone eat these—except Dad. His secret to longevity: cigarettes, vodka, and Circus Peanuts. At noon, he gave lunch money to clients in need. He hands ten bucks to a trans woman and tells us to “go have fun.” So I spend the afternoon on a street corner with recovering heroin users, eating pizza, and learning Spanish slang from a sexy Puerto Rican woman with huge biceps.

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At nightfall, we head to the jail, where we evaluate drunk drivers. While most kids are preparing milk and cookies for Santa, Dad and I spend Christmas Eve seeing 30 prisoners on night shift. We set up our cots in our own cinder-block room with Dr. Krouse displayed prominently on the door. I watch drunk black men staggering in and out of our bedroom all night long. Dad introduces me as a “doctor-in-training,” then tells the men, “Lean forward and breathe toward me.” He sniffs them for alcohol. Dad was the City of Philadelphia’s human breathalyzer. Ted’s nose saved lives and kept Philadelphia streets safe for over 20 years. My father had nearly 14,000 guys with DUIs breath and burp in his face—until they replaced him with a mechanical breathalyzer in the 80s.

We spent nights at the state psychiatric hospital hanging out with schizophrenics plus we were on call for the Fire Department. We’d end up at midnight apartment fires in crime-ridden neighborhoods. To keep us safe, Dad bundled us up and locked us in the car. I’d wake my brother, unlock the door, and drag his little body over firehoses until we were stopped at the police line. The magic words, “I’m Dr. Krouse’s daughter” and they’d let us wander off right toward the fire.

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Dad, you shielded me from nothing. You exposed me to sexuality, racism, poverty and death—all before starting grade school. Thank you for your courage. You weaned me from the bottle and let me to drink from the cup of truth. You never censored me. And you never censored the world around me. I didn’t understand the value of your gifts until I was older.

On birthdays and holidays, when most girls get chocolates or flowers from their fathers, you sent me a Valentine’s Day box of Godiva gallstones (the most beautiful gemstones that you retrieved from real gallbladders just for me). You sent me gift boxes with heart valves, kidney stones, and prosthetic testicles—along with my birthday cards.

You called yourself my first boyfriend and told me our solid relationship would pave the way for a lifetime of loving relationships with men. Actually Dad, you made it kinda difficult for me to find a date. Strong, eccentric, fearless females who prefer spending Saturday nights in the morgue aren’t in high demand. While my Wellesley classmates were seeking husbands at Harvard and M.I.T. frat parties, I took the night shift at the homeless shelter where people mistook me for a light-skinned black woman.

You treated all people with honor and respect whether they were black, white, Puerto Rican, whether they were on heroin, alcohol, or homeless, or dead. Ever nonjudgmental, with a heart of compassion. Your benevolent service inspires me every day to serve people with an open heart. I still do house calls just like you and—like you I’ve never turned anyone away for lack of money.

I want you to know that the people you exposed me to were more than your patients to me. They became family. You made the entire world my family. And you made me a family physician to the world.

You took me to work and now I’m taking you with me. You are scattered in stories throughout my books, on national TV interviews, on websites, and blogs—and in all my talks to medical students and physicians. For 46 years I tagged along with you. Tag along with me for the next 46. Our adventures have just begun. Rest up. You’re coming with me next week when I present my work on physician suicide to 5,000 physicians in Washington, DC. Dad, I know you really, really wanted me to be surgeon general, but our professional influence has surpassed the confines of the office of surgeon general. I hope you understand. I don’t need medals or fancy titles. Medicine is an apprenticeship profession. And I learned from the best man out there.

YOU. The one-and-only Dr. Theodore Krouse—you are SO eccentric. Ya know, you’re the reason I’ve never owned a TV. Nothing on television can ever touch my real-life adventures with you.

So I want to thank you. For everything. For never hiding the truth in happily-ever-after children’s stories. For never sheltering me in a hollow make-believe world. For introducing me on day one as a doctor-in-training. As healers, you and I are fueled by tragedy and we are forever intertwined in our pursuit of tikkun olam—a more perfect world.

In the end, we are all just spiritual beings having a brief and finite human experience. Thank you for choosing to share your human experience with me. It’s been an absolute blast. But above all—more than anything else—I need to thank you for never taming my hair or my spirit.

Bless you. Be free. . . .

Pamela L. Wible, M.D., is the founder of the ideal medical care movement. To learn more about ideal medical care, watch her TED talk. Here she delivers a final TED talk for her father, Dr. Ted Krouse (9/13/23 – 10/10/14).

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37 comments on “Eulogy to My Father, Dr. Theodore Krouse
  1. Dear Pamela: This is a magnificent tribute. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Louis

  2. Mike dineen says:

    he did give you unconventional gifts. That was the best it would G I have ever read

  3. Dr. No says:

    I loved it, Pamela. How poignant and loving. A beautiful speech and piece of writing on an extraordinary life. He approves, I am certain. I was noticing how very much you look like him. May you always carry on his creative, intellectual, compassionate spirit, with that S.E. grin that marks you both and infects the world around you with hope and humor. Yes, you have been blessed. Namaste.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      My favorite Facebook comment:

      “You smile just like him! Who would think a man’s face could be so pretty on a girl?” ~ Lady Hagathorn

  4. Josie says:

    Your spoken words enter our hearts like a symphony. How thankful I am for your parents and how lucky we all are as you cross our paths. Blessings on you and safe travels.

  5. Alisa says:

    I didn’t have a father. But if I could pick one, he would have been like yours.

  6. Arun says:

    Dear Pamela
    What a valuable piece of writing; it goes against conventional wisdom of many cultures. I learned a lot about where you come from, Pamela, in this superb, uncensored eulogy.
    May Ted’s spirit find eternal peace and bliss that he surely deserves for raising you as a “doctor in training.” Thanks for this touching eulogy to your dad. I wish millions of dads like Ted to the children (and especially for our girl children) in the world. The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner, Malala Y., might also be lucky (as you to have been) to be raised by a brave and courageous dad like yours.

  7. Sheila Swan Laufer says:

    That is beautiful, Pamela. May your father fly with the blessings he passed on to you. What a man and what a tribute!

  8. Miriam says:

    Your father was the original “Ted-Talk” and inspired you to care for the world in such a wonderful and loving way. You were lucky to have him and WE are lucky to have you. I count you among my many blessings. I’m so very sorry for your loss and admire you for carrying his spirit in your daily life.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      He had some hilarious TED talks! He could do an amazing imitation of a drunk black man. Wish I had that on video. 🙂

  9. Randy Prince says:

    That’s the best eulogy I’ve ever read. One great life that gave us another–yours.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Aw. . . thanks Randy! I love watching the video where I can see myself delivering the talk to his casket and photo. Something very transcendent about the entire thing. He took me on the original magical mystery tour through life.

  10. ken rothman says:

    What a relationship you’ve had with your father! Thank you for sharing.

  11. Char Heitman says:

    Lovely, eloquent, raw and powerful tribute! Great dad, great daughter. Lucky people! My condolences for your loss. Even though he’ll always be with you in spirit, I wish you strength on your grief journey as you adjust to your new non physical relationship with him. Hugs!

  12. Dorothy Do says:

    Beautifully written, Pamela. Your father was so inspirational. He is the perfect father role model. My prayers are with your family and may the wonderful memories of your father give you strength through this emotionally overwhelming time.

  13. John Bechtel says:

    Extraordinary, Pamela; your father, you, and your writing. We have very different backgrounds and very similar values. I am recently discovering how many of my closest friends and even some of my children share a common denominator: we don’t watch television. Safe travels, Pamela. Destiny is calling.

  14. Andrea says:

    Pamela,
    I am so moved by your tribute to your father. Your sentiments echo off the page, the sound of both your love and life with your father ringing in my ears. How lucky were you, how blessed were you, to have him. I know you will miss him, but clearly he is always with you! Good luck with your presentation on physician suicide. I’m sure he’ll be watching over you as all angels do.

  15. melissa mason says:

    so beautiful, and so grateful for your sharing. please do take him with you for the next however many moments/eternity
    I can relate and do enjoy those damn circus peanuts, and vodka, and smoking… I am no Ted Krouse, but I longed for him when reading your eulogy. xxoo

  16. Felicitasz says:

    What a beautiful eulogy. I am sorry for your loss yet consoled to read how we never lose our true relationships after all.

  17. Stephen S. Rodrigues, MD says:

    “Medicine is an apprenticeship profession. And I learned from the best man out there.”

    This concept is lost.

    Many Docs are turned into clones, patients turned into robots with replaceable parts and the rx pad in a vending machine button.

    The scientist, artist, acumen and humanitarian has been purged out of many doctors.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Ah! Exactly why we need to take back our beloved profession. Its happening. Mainstream media has not picked up the story yet. Trust me. It’s happening.

  18. Papa says:

    Dr. Wible,

    You are indeed very fortunate to have had such a special relationship with your father.
    Sounds like he was not only your father, but also your best friend.

    Papa

  19. Robin says:

    Sad to learn of Ted’s passing. He was our neighbor for many years, always stopping by for brunch, dinner, most holidays, or to ask to “borrow” some Vermouth, Gin, Tonic, etc.. which we never had, so he had to settle for wine or brandy. Anyway, as involved in the Jewish community and as religious as Ted professed to be…sad that nearly all of his children are not (practicing) Jews, but then in his later years Ted was not that nice of a person to me…or to my father…at least after my father became unable to walk… and if you read his eulogy to his last wife Joan to whom he was married for over 25 years you can see the less charming backhanded comments…upon closer look…Ted was like that to many others too…It was Ted’s mother, Ida Krouse who was a better role model. My mother worked and was rarely around after school; many times after school I would go next door to see Mrs. Krouse and she taught me how to bake different kinds of cakes and cookies when I was in 4th grade. Mrs. Krouse confided that most of her family heirloom recipes were actually from Congregation Beth El’s Sisterhood Cookbook, Cherry Hill, NJ, I think it was the 1972 edition or so, anyway her recipes for the almond cookies, most of the cakes she made can be found there. This was a secret but now that Mrs. Krouse and Ted are no longer with us….here is one of Ida Krouse’s most popular recipes for the butter cookies with jelly and/or chocolate chips she taught me how to make and that everyone gobbled up and which are really great, although the name is not so pleasing for these butter cookies!

    Hard Boiled Egg Cookies

    1 Cup butter, softened
    1/2 Cup sugar
    3 hard boiled egg yolks (mashed with a fork)
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 cups unsifted flour
    jelly (grape or seedless raspberry)
    chocolate chips
    ====
    Preheat oven to 350
    Mix butter and hard boiled egg yolks at med to high speed until light and fluffy, using a mixer. Add the sugar and beat till fluffy. By hand mix in the flour. Wrap dough in plastic, then foil and chill dough in refrigerator for about 1/2 hour. Roll dough into balls about 1 tablespoon, and place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Using thumb make a depression in the center of each ball. Add a little jelly or 3 or 4 chocolate chips. I add the jelly and place the chocolate chips on top of the jelly. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until done. You can also use a cookie press for more elaborate cookies.

    Enjoy.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Thanks for that recipe! I always wondered what was in those cookies. I knew they couldn’t have been too healthy—and certainly not vegan. The Jewish elder women in my family were always so competitive about who had the best recipes. I heard when they shared recipes they would leave ingredients out so that the one borrowing the recipe would never excel over the one who owned the recipe. When Ida died many of her secret ingredients (frozen chicken fat) were discovered in the freezer. Alas, now the stolen cookie recipe from the congregation cookbook is available.

      We all have our good (and bad) days and what we choose to remember is not always reflective of the real person, especially after that family member dies. The psychology behind what one shares (or is not willing to share) at a funeral is fascinating. I always like to remember the heroism (amid the disappointments). Does seem we selectively recall the positive experiences at death. Thanks for your honesty. My grandma and dad both incredible characters in my life story. RIP Ida & Ted. I know Ida’s happy to have her Teddy by her side. And Morty (who was always off getting in trouble). Now she can watch over both of them. They were always mama’s boys so a great ending for all 3 side-by-side for eternity.

    • Mary says:

      Hey Robin…stfu. This isn’t about you. Why would you bring up bad things, true or not, about someone else’s family? Stop baking and get a job.

  20. Brendaline says:

    This eulogy is truly inspiring and ENGAGING!! Your dad is a bonafide hero, and I am grateful for having read — and listened in on — this heartfelt dedication to a man of courage, character, grace and openness!!

    I am in awe of your life and the lesson’s learnt from your father. It is great to have this upbringing — inviting the world into your lives; and learning and growing with each and every individual. Patients becoming your family as a family physician — is truly priceless.

    Thanks again for sharing your story!! Thank you for being you Dr. Pamela Wible!! 🙂

  21. Charley Johnson says:

    A BEAUTIFUL read Pamela. The very epitome of what a father should be. You were truly blessed. It’s easy to see where you got your caring and compassion from. Wow. Charley

  22. Jill Zeiger, MD says:

    Wow!
    What an amazing guy! And story!
    I could only aspire to that level of eccentricity and compassion!
    You were blessed!

  23. Pamela Wible MD says:

    I believe we choose our parents before we are born. Now I’ve got confirmation from a gal who just told me: “I read your eulogy to your dad. You know what, I picked my mom too! I remember it too and I use to argue with her about it because she did not believe me. I told her the details of how I saw her and I picked her to be my mom.”

  24. Marcia Rosen Kemp says:

    Dear Pamela, I’ve enjoyed reading this so much, and I have just shared it on my Facebook page. As a job placement counselor I worked for years with people on welfare, then coordinated a job placement program for ex-offenders for a while. Now retired, I’ve been working part time for 9 years with the homeless. I can so relate to your dad’s love for, and universal acceptance of his patients! How beautiful that he shared that with you! I have learned so much from my clients. Although sometimes gritty and unpolished, they are to me unique and beautiful works of art, amazing in their spirit and resilience. I consider it an honor and privilege to be allowed a window to their world, and to be helpful in some way. I love your dad and what he taught you!

  25. Kathy Rodogiannis says:

    Thank you for sharing. I lost my dad at the age of 20 last year. I hope I can soon feel at peace and find him as the motivation for my goals as you have. God bless his soul and your family.

  26. Clarissa says:

    I truly love this speech.

  27. Cugeno says:

    I just read the eulogy you wrote for your Dad, aaaand it made me cry. I have a patient coming in here in 7 minutes, and I am going to look like I have freaking pinkeye. As the Daddy of two little girls, it really touched me.
    Anyway, that is a beautiful tribute. Absolutely beautiful.
    May his memory be a blessing… I can tell that it is.
    Thank you for what you do, and the fact that you do it in Eugene (I did my undergrad degree at UO, so I feel a cultural link to you already).
    Wishing you a great week!

  28. Zofia Kozak says:

    Beautiful eulogy, thank you for sharing it with the world. We are blessed to both have been born to fathers who so dearly cherished us – even if it did mean that no date would ever compare. I just wanted to bring to your attention that “transgender” is a more appropriate alternative to “transsexual,” and calling your fathers patients “heroin users” vs. “heroin addicts” is a less stigmatizing way to refer to them. I have been following you since I read Pet Goats a few years ago, and as a medical student myself, truly appreciate and resonate with your movement. I know you already know, language matters — word makes world. All the best. http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender

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