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Doc Coleman has helped people feel better for decades

Interim Director of Hospice Belinda Newman with Dr. Rogers Coleman.

On the way to the nursing home to visit a couple of residents, Dr. Rogers (Doc) Coleman stops by Braum’s and buys milkshakes. The delicious cold treats and Coleman’s gentle conversations put smiles on the faces of the residents.

That’s just one of Coleman’s many good Samaritan deeds he performs for his fellow Hood Countians. The soft-spoken Coleman, 91, is long retired as a physician, but he hasn’t stopped making people feel better.

“I like to say that when Doc retired from a successful career in medicine and business, he really got busy,” said First Christian Church senior minister Justin Jeter. “First, by caring for an ailing wife and volunteering with Ruth’s Place and Interim Hospice.”

The DeCordova resident helped establish Ruth’s Place, a clinic for indigent patients, teaming with other doctors to care for those less fortunate. Coleman was honored in 2016 for his dedicated service. “He is the most giving person I have ever come across,” Craig Gossard, former director of Ruth’s Place, said at the time. “You would think, being retired, he would be doing things for himself. But he is all about doing things for other people.”

At Interim Hospice he’s among the volunteers whose cheery voices and uplifting spirit bring comfort to ailing patients.

There’s more. Coleman has helped lead a variety of ministries: a Parkinson’s support group, diabetes support group and respite care ministry, which invites caregivers to drop off a loved one at First Christian for several hours on Friday.

“The caregiver gets a chance to run errands or take a break, and the loved one receives a day of fellowship, food and fun,” Jeter explained. “I don’t know how many hours Doc has spent sitting with people and sharing a little dignity and love. Rogers (we call him Doc) is one of the true saints of our congregation. He’s a generous servant with a deep wisdom and a heart of gold. When I joined the ministerial staff at First Christian Church, I was told by my predecessor that while part of my job is teaching, I would be wise to learn from Doc.”

Jeter shared one of his favorite “Doc” stories.

“When the Disciples Class here at FCC created the Dr. Rogers Coleman Distinguished Service Award, and made him the initial recipient, they got him a cake. When I came down the hall, Doc had cut the cake up so that people wouldn’t see his name on it, and was standing at the counter serving pieces of it to everyone that came by. True to form!”

Feeling empty and without purpose? Coleman says he has the perfect prescription: volunteer. He insists it’s good for mental, physical and spiritual health.

He refers to an anonymous quote in his Sunday School class:

The fruit of silence is prayer

The fruit of prayer is faith

The fruit of faith is love

The fruit of love is service

The fruit of service is peace

“To me this indicates that service – volunteerism – leads us to a sense of peace, peace of mind, if you will,” Coleman said. “The World Health Organization defines mental health as the ability to love and work. Love and work – that sounds awfully simple, but think with me for a moment. Love requires that we get away from the focus on ourselves – to focus on the needs of others. Besides spouses and families and friends – we love them surely – but there are others needing our love – some near and some far away.

“And what about work? Work implies that we have purpose in our lives, and purpose is the essence of a meaningful life. Life has to have a purpose; our mental health depends on it.”

And how does volunteering improve physical health? Coleman explains it this way:

“The first set of hormones prepares us for ‘fight or flight.’ These are primarily from the adrenal glands and are excreted during all kinds of stressful situations. They are necessary and useful. The downside of these hormones is, used too often, they shorten our lives by causing hypertension, heart disease, strokes and other diseases. You won’t find these hormones secreted when you volunteer.

“The second set of hormones are secreted by the anterior pituitary gland -- when we are at ease, enjoying ourselves, interacting with others in conversation, games and other ways that give us pleasure. They are also secreted when we exercise, and give us a sense of well-being after bouts of good exercise. These are endorphins, and they make us feel comfortable and relaxed and pain free and inwardly satisfied. These hormones are secreted when we volunteer in ways that help others. We are made in such a way that stress shortens our lives, and pleasure lengthens our lives. These are the results of hormonal systems that are active within us.”

Coleman was born Dec. 28, 1931 in Vernon, Texas, where he learned the value of hard work on the family farm. He started milking a cow when he was 5, an early-morning routine that continued through high school. His physician father asked him after graduation if he wanted to be a farmer or doctor. Young Coleman didn’t hesitate: “I believe I’ll go to medical school,” he replied.

Coleman married “the love of my life” Mary Lou Price in 1951 and had three children. He studied pre-med at TCU and graduated from Baylor Medical School in Houston in 1956. Coleman had a family practice in Brownwood, where he was board certified in abdominal surgery. He later worked for Blue Cross health insurance, retiring at age 70. His two daughters and son all now reside in Hood County; his oldest daughter is an attorney, his second daughter is a retired minister, and his son, the youngest, retired from the United Nations.

Despite his busy volunteer schedule, Coleman enjoys exercising and reading books.

He gets up early and rides a stationary bike for 20 minutes and then lifts weights.

“Rogers Coleman is one of the kindest, most generous, most loving people I know,” Jeter, his pastor, praised. “I don’t have words powerful enough to describe how grateful I am for him.”

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