The following tribute was written upon the occasion of the death of
Dr. A ndrew Taylor Still, in Dccember, 1917, by Dr. John R. Kirk who
was then and had been far some time president of the Kirksville Missourie
Normal School. Dr. Kirk died ill the midst of characteristically
vigorous activity at the age of eighty-six on November 7, 1937. This
tribute was published ill The Journal of Osteopathy for February, 1918.
I HAD knowledge of Dr. A. T. Still some forty years or more,
and was neighbor to him nearly twenty years-neighbor to him
as most of my neighbors were. We thought ourselves neighbors
to him. As neighbors we hadn't much acquaintance with him.
We didn't know him very weIl.
Nature made Dr. Still, and implanted a spark that neighbors
and schools and colleges could neither start nor dim. Some men,
it seems, are born; some are made. Dr. Still was born, born for
ideals and for deeds. He was never spoiled by the conventionalities
of social life. He was outwardly quite like the unheeding,
incredulous crowd of us who were remotely neighbors to him, the
crowd which long voiced much ridicule for the peculiar, soulabsorbed
man whom we couldn't comprehend.
But the unpretending, unconventionalized neighbor of ours was
dreaming and building wiser than we could know. For thirty
years we had seemed to know him; we, his neighbors, and had held
him off. We, his neighbors, were slow, very slow, to admit the
victory our neighbor had achieved. But we did admit and accept
and approve. We shared with him the honor. We took him
over. He was an asset to our town, and the world knew what our
town had done and knew our town.
We do not know the wizard Edison, and never will nor can. We
live on flat earth. He lives among tile giant forces of the universe.
In all America, for five years, we haven't known Gordon Edwards,
but scorched and burnt and bleeding soldiers along the firing line
in France know him, and give thanks. The mass of Americans
didn't know Abraham Lincoln, but an oppressed race knew him,
and now we say we knew him. We say this of all the great ones when
they no longer need our praise.
It 'was not easy for us to understand Dr. Still. We met him
face to face, it is true. He was frank, informal, cordial, home-like,
exemplar of simplest life. Neighbors were wont to say he hadn't
business sense and needed a guardian. The sense of their kind
which he might have shown, but for the dominating idea possessing
him, they will doubtless never know. As for the profiteer, or
promoter, or money getter, or money-saver, he wasn't any of it.
Such men never are. The inventor and the discoverer die poor, or
live and die unconscious of possessing what neighbors envy and
call comfort. Creators of wealth for us, they immerse themselves
beyond our view in reflective dreamland, and dwell obscured and
invisible from vision range of nearby neighbors, while we on the
plodding level of non-idealizing denizens reach out and grasp and
live for income and bank balance and store and farm and coarse
goods, needing telescope for our short-range vision to see the rim
of the horizon of the idealist and the dreamer that dreams for
others and not for self.
When our neighbor, "the Old Doctor, " came out of dreamland
and idealty to be nearby neighbor to us, we saw him in limitations
through circumscribed local view of ours. We saw him then.
We see him no more. We have glimpses of him in his far-away
greater self, and we wonder, admire, and praise.
We, his neighbors, begin to realize the very unusual inner power
of the man, power long hidden from us because we hadn't eyes to
see-creative, reflective, un,quenchable soul power. And what a
man he was,-unostentatious, kindly, obliging, generous, wholesouled,
sympathetic, public-spirited, humane. Did he find one of
us anywhere in need, we knew he was then our neighbor, and never
went by on tile other side, nor evaded, nor complained, nor was
ever too busy, nor ever flinched from human service. Undismayed
by obstacle, or opposition, or envy, absorbed in great hope, he
came through tile years unstained, unscathed, heroic man, sweetened
in spirit. And his reward? The dreams of half a century
come true, the service of a lifetime become a monument more
lasting than any granite chiseled by any human hand.
To curbstone lad we said, "What is it?" He said, "My kite."
'We said, "Where?" He said, "Up there in that cloud. " We said,
"No." He said, "Take the string and feel it pull." 'To us a
thread of life is snapped, and yet we feel it pull. The frail form in
simple garb is at rest. The widening work goes on. In it the man
yet lives and is and will be of the everlasting in all the ages.
By DR. JOHN R. KIRK