Wednesday, April 01, 2020

PART 2: Friends, patients, staffers share stories and tributes about Dr. Tom Coburn


Dr. Tom Coburn passed away on Saturday, leaving behind his cancer-ridden body as he entered into eternity with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Those of us who remain behind now gaze at the full measure of his life, and the tremendous legacy that he leaves behind.

On Tuesday, I posted stories, memories, and tributes from "real" people, folks who were medical patients during Coburn's career, friends from the community, people who worked on his congressional or campaign staffs. You can read that post here.

Thanks to all who sent in their stories and memories. Dr. Coburn was a truly great man who touched countless lives.


Wayne and Suzie Buck (Muskogee, OK):
Our best memories of Dr Tom Coburn: When we first think of Dr Tom Coburn  we remember his smile and laugh. He was always so friendly and kind. He loved his wife Carolyn and his children, and you could tell it. His love for children and families was widely known especially in his medical practice, and support of pro-life issues.

Dr Coburn was an amazing US Senator. He was a one-of-a-kind Statesman, and leader in his strong support for eliminating government pork spending, and support of states rights. He was a man of honor and out spoken about his faith in Jesus Christ.

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to know Dr Coburn and experience parts of his life. We love and pray for his precious family.

 Gwen Coburn (Muskogee, OK):

I never in my life considered working for anyone in politics, but when Tom asked me to be part of his first campaign, I couldn’t say no.  Bob and I had both worked with Tom in the family business in Virginia.  What an education I received!  Everywhere we turned people said 'that’s not how you do it', but that’s how Tom did it.  We kept primary office staff in Oklahoma, not Washington.  I spent time standing in his doctor’s office hallway to catch him between patients because he didn’t want to lose touch.  Keeping the proper balance between medical and congressional was always priority.  He read all the time in the car as he traveled District 2 and on the airplane as he came home most weekends. He always said coming home kept him focused on what was important. He depended on Carolyn to keep him grounded.  There are memories I’ll have for a lifetime because Tom decided he could make a difference.  And he did. I’m proud to call him my cousin through marriage and a friend through our time together.
Dan Hourigan (Bartlesville, OK):
I never thought a 4 month internship working in Dr. Coburn’s DC office would lead to some of the best 8 years of my life. It was a privilege, an honor, and a humbling experience to be able to work under his leadership. When thinking about Dr. Coburn, the words ‘moral courage’ come to mind, as well as ‘surrender’, ‘compassion’, ‘sacrifice’, ‘humility’, ‘principled’, ‘ethical’, ‘committed’, ‘loving’ and ‘reconciliation’.

Dr. Coburn was one of the greatest living examples God has given me of true servant leadership. He was a difference maker.

A memory I have working for Dr. Coburn was a morning at the Tulsa office back in November of 2008. He had a few morning meetings scheduled before he caught a flight to DC, and I had planned to get there about an hour before I thought he might get there. Anyone that knows Dr. Coburn knows that getting somewhere before Dr. Coburn gets there was going to be difficult 🙂. He was always early, and he was at the office before anyone else that morning. He was excited about a book that he was reading by A. W. Tozer called “The Pursuit of God”. He had the book in his hand and he took some time that morning to share with me what he was reading and learning.

He shared about living with a spiritual sense.
He shared about living for and experiencing Heaven here on earth.
He shared from the book...

“We apprehend the physical world by exercising the faculties given us for the purpose, and we possess spiritual faculties by means of which we can know God and the spiritual world if we will obey the Spirit's urge and begin to use them.”

“Faith enables our spiritual sense to function.”

“A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here waiting our response to His Presence.”

That is how I will remember Dr. Coburn. This is how I saw him live his life. He had a spiritual sense about him that gave him clear direction, courage, strength and peace in all that he was called to do.

His desire to trust God, and to walk in obedience in whatever the Holy Spirit led him to do in life...was not only a part of his testimony here on earth, but this example that he lived out has touched and encouraged many, and will carry on into eternity.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Dr. Coburn’s wife Carolyn, and his entire family.

Deloris Branch (Muskogee, OK):
Wonderful man. Delivered my granddaughters.

John Hasler (Muskogee, OK):
Many memories! Dr. Coburn's father, Bill, and my Father, Joe, were very good friends so our families interacted quite a bit.  My brother and I used to go horseback riding at the original Coburn ranch near Taft.  Tom's mother, Joy, in later year's would go to the nursing home to read and visit my mother after my father's death.  The main memory I have of Senator Coburn was went I was sent to Washington, D.C. to receive an award from the VA for working with Veteran Owned Businesses while I was a government contract consultant working at Indian Capital Tech Center. I received a call from Senator Coburn apologizing for not being able to attent the award ceremony but would like to to stop by his senate office to visit.  Upon arrival there, and aide ushered me to the Senator's office where Senator Coburn immediately dismissed the aide saying, "Leave us in private, we have hometown to talk about."

From that point, he first congratulated me on the VA award, recalled working with me when he was a congressman and our visits at the Muskogee office, thanked me for my assistance to Veterans and all small businesses in my service area, then, said that was enough business talk...let's talk family and Muskogee.  The rest of the visit (about an hour) centered around our fathers and mothers friendships, his brother Jim taking my brother and me on horseback rides, all about my children and his and their accomplishments, life in Muskogee during the time we grew up, Coburn Optical and Bebb Floral. We discussed our religious beliefs and how important they are to us...and as an influence on our family and community. He remembered my sisters and brother by name and I his and we exchanged condolences over family losses.

I left his office realizing our "jobs" were important....but, but more importantly our dedication to our beliefs, our family, community and country.

A few years later, at a gathering at NSU Muskogee, I was blessed with personally visiting Senator Coburn again.  Later, addressing a standing room only crowd he made a statement I'll never forget.  Answering a question about legislators and elections he stated:  "You need to vote the whole batch of us out and elect people who truly care!"  It was not exclusive, it was inclusive, which struck me odd and yet was so like him.

I only regret Dr. Coburn did not get to visit much in the last several years, I often thought of him with great admiration and appreciation.

The Steve Tinnin family (Fort Gibson, OK):
Hi Jamison, I hope I am not too late but wanted to add a memory.  I actually have many. He was such a kind and caring dr to our family.  Always taking the time to listen to our cares and concerns..... always made sure we were very well taken care of.  Not only as a physician, but as a man of strong faith, always ready to offer godly encouragement And wisdom.  One example of the kind of Dr. he was for us...when our oldest daughter, Katy, was 3, she had tripped and had gashed her eyebrow.  I rushed her to the ER knowing she would need stitches.  While waiting nervously in the waiting room, Dr Tom just happened (divine appointment) to be walking through on his way out.  He could have easily waved and offered pleasantries on his way out, but instead stopped to see what had happened and after finding out....wisked us back to an area in the ER and stitched up her eyebrow himself. Not only saving us an actual ER charge but even suggested that instead of going to the ER after his office hours.... always call him first and he would meet us at his office to care for us or meet us at the ER if need be.  I know he did this for many of his patients.  It was because  he genuinely cared for his patients. Also, when he delivered our second Daughter, Amelia, he gave us 2 books by Christian author, James Dobson.  (Dare to Discipline and Parenting isn’t for Cowards) writing a touching message on the inside cover of each and signing ”Dr. Tom”. These books are special and are now being used for our grandchildren.  I could go on and on.  He always went the extra mile. It showed in everything he did. Including politics. He will always be special to our family. We are thankful and blessed to have known him.

Katie Bailey (Rockville, MD):
Dr. Coburn was a rare politician in that he was a-political.  Most politicians are “credit hoggers”—always taking credit for accomplishments or stretching the value of their contribution to curry favor with constituents.  Like so many areas, Dr. Coburn cut against the grain in this regard.  He regularly let other members take the lead name on bills (even if he drafted the bill).  This happened time and time again!  Similarly, members often quibble over who gets the “bill number” when a piece of legislation is about to become law (for example, will the S. version in the Senate become law or the H.R., House version—“I want my number to be come law!”).  Dr. Coburn always used to tell the team—what matters is that the bill gets done, let them have the bill number.  Perhaps this was a dangerous game to play in the world of politics to give bills and credit to others when one is supposed to prove their efficacy.  However, I believe people recognized how hard he worked, still knew how much he contributed, and continue to see how his legacy bears fruit even today.

Denise Crosswhite-Hader (Piedmont, OK):
Sad to learn today that we have lost a great statesman. As a staffer for Congressman Ernest Istook, I had the privilege to work along side Dr. Tom Coburn when he was in the US House and I worked for him when he ran for the US Senate. He said his wife had been praying about him running and we had been praying that he would run. If you recall he got into the race very late and still won handily. He was a good and Godly man.

He inspired me to be a better citizen and legislator. When I ran for the OK House of Representatives I had the chance visit with him for about half an hour. We talked through several of the issues and he asked me to not just increase taxes to fix a problem and to support parents to have the best choice for their children's education. I promised to do both. I am sorry for the loss for his family and the loss for our nation. We have all lost the example of what a Pubic Servant should be. Thanks Dr. Coburn for serving us all.

Chris Johnson (Tulsa, OK):
On May 31, 1998 my little sister was born. I was 6 yrs old and he was her deliverer. He came out to announce her birth to my family and made sure, me being the big brother, was the first to see her. Was the only time I was around him but I definitely won’t forget it! RIP

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