A tale of three
Dr. Harvey Blumenthal shares his memories of two close friends.
Longtime Tulsa neurologist Dr. Harvey Blumenthal has written a memoir about his friendships with late Tulsans Dr. Jack Fuquay and Ralph Brewster.
Retired Tulsa neurologist Dr. Harvey Blumenthal can truly say that a career in medicine, an appreciation for old black and white movies and a love of big band music are the keys to a healthy friendship.
At least, it worked for him. That’s how he and his wife, Sandy, met cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Jack Fuquay and his wife, Beverley, as well as musician Ralph Brewster and his wife, Bonnie, more than 40 years ago. It’s also what inspired him to write a memoir about their experiences.
The 74-year-old Missouri native and former Navy doctor met Fuquay and Brewster after moving to Tulsa in the early 1970s to practice and teach neurology at Saint Francis Hospital and the University of Oklahoma. He wrote a 3,480-word narrative to commemorate their times together after the two men passed away.
Simply titled “The Tulsa Life and Times of Jack and Ralph and Me,” Blumenthal’s memoir is a heartfelt account of the special friendship among the three men and their wives and highlights the uniqueness of their relationships.
Blumenthal illustrated for TulsaPeople the camaraderie he shared with his two best friends and his experience writing the memoir.
How did you begin writing a memoir?
When I retired (in 2004), I took a course in memoir writing at The University of Tulsa. It was a room with other senior writers, and so I found that I enjoyed it ... and that’s what got me started.
What inspired you to write a memoir about Fuquay and Brewster?
We had such wonderful times. I had these wonderful stories and anecdotes in my mind and in my heart, and I thought … this was the time to document our friendship and some of the good things that happened to Tulsa and how good Tulsa was for us.
How did they become involved with your life?
(Jack) was a vascular surgeon — one of the most beloved and respected and finest gentlemen in Tulsa that I ever knew — and we became friends. The other thing that really bound us together was our love of the big band music.
Ralph was one of the original Modernaires, the singing group of the Glenn Miller Band, so Jack calls him up, introduces us and invites ourselves over. Ralph and Bonnie were so open and inviting and cordial … We had a delightful evening with them, and we became close.
How did music influence your friendship?
Jack had a big collection of records … I liked the big bands. That was the music of his youth, so he was very happy to indulge me, and so we thrived on that together.
Ralph was the embodiment of my records because he played with Glenn Miller; he played with Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra Jr., etcetera.
What “musical moment” most sticks out to you?
Ralph … had a little gig in a restaurant … called Good Time Charlie’s. One evening, he and Bonnie invited Jack and Beverley and Sandy and me … Ralph’s up there, and he announces to the crowd, “This tune is in honor of my two wondeful friends here, Dr. Jack Fuquay and Dr. Harvey Blumenthal,” and then he sang and played “Stardust,” one of the great, all-time hits (composed) by Hoagy Carmichael.
What is your favorite memory of your times together?
Jack and Beverley hosted a dinner party every year. Jack would show a rented, 16mm black and white movie, and every year (the movie) was always a surprise. The highlight was when Jack showed … “Sun Valley Serenade” that starred the Glenn Miller Orchestra … So, we’re sitting there, and I’m watching Ralph look at his younger self up on the screen, and he’s tapping his foot and singing along to himself and to me. That was one of the big moments of our friendship.
What message do you want to convey to the readers of this memoir?
To be aware of all the good things that life opens up to us with friendship and faith and doing good things for other people, especially the awareness of loved ones — family and friends.