For my senior thesis project in 2000 in the University of Chicago English Department, I wrote a dual biographical narrative of my grandfathers: Doc and the Doctor: The story of John L. “Doc” Lawler and Dr. Jerome T. Y. Shen. I never found the time to revise the manuscript, so I present it as-is (rough edges and all).When my Grandfather Shen died in 2003, I also put together a tribute to him. You can see that here.
Abstract: John L. “Doc” Lawler (1904-1972) started life as a member of a street gang in the Kerry Patch, St. Louis’ impoverished Irish-Catholic ghetto. He was remembered for becoming one of the most influential union and political leaders the city of St. Louis had ever seen. Jerome T. Y. Shen, M.D. (1918-2003) was born into great wealth, but had to leave the family fortune behind when he fled, and barely escaped, the Communist takeover in his hometown of Shanghai, China. After arriving in St. Louis, he became a leading practitioner of adolescent medicine, spearheaded much of the city’s pro-life movement, and, after she accepted his personal invitation, helped to host a visit to St. Louis from Mother Teresa. This narrative is about the amazingly different lives of Doc Lawler and Jerome Shen, but it is also about stories: the way we tell them, the way we remember them, the way we pass them down to younger generations. It is a story that includes families, religion, immigration, the FBI, the Supreme Court, Mother Teresa, Lyndon B. Johnson, and a host of other characters. It is a story not yet finished, a story which grows today in the lives of the children and grandchildren who trace their roots to these two men. It is a partial, dual biographical narrative. But more simply, it is a story I want to tell to my children someday.