It was early in 1986 in the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale. I was a 24 year old public relations manager at Hinsdale Hospital who was hired to develop the organization’s first “media relations” program. I had been blessed to work in radio broadcasting in high school and college and had spent the better part of the first two years at the hospital establishing proactive relationships with the major and minor Chicago area media.
I was sitting at my desk one day when the call came. She said she was Paul Harvey’s producer and she wanted to know if Mr. Harvey could visit our hospital to conduct some research for an upcoming radio broadcast. Among media relations professionals, this was like discovering the Holy Grail. I had not been targeting Paul Harvey for any hospital exposure…this was an unsolicited call from the most listened to radio commentator in the nation…and it had come to me!
We arranged for the visit. In fact, we pulled out the red carpet: putting together a private dinner in a conference room for Harvey and his wife with about a dozen senior hospital administrators. Following lunch, we adjourned to the hospital board room where Harvey intervied a handful of physicians and health educators about recent advances in healthful living.
For at least ten years prior to our visit, Harvey had developed an affinity for the healthy living principles espoused by the Seventh-day Adventist faith: exercise, lots of fresh air, vegetarianism, the observance of a weekly 24-hour “Sabbath rest”, and refraining from tobacco and alcohol. He had already promoted the Adventist lifestyle in previous broadcasts over the years and had come to Hinsdale Hospital, an Adventist facility, in an attempt to learn about possible new developments.
I greeted Mr. Harvey, and his wife, Angel, as they were dropped off at the hospital by their driver, and was honored to serve as his personal coordinator during his three hour visit. They were both as gracious and unpretentious as anyone you might meet. I was on cloud nine all day because, as a former broadcaster myself, Harvey was my personal hero. Prior to, and subsequent to, his visit I would often daydream that somehow fate would pluck me out of obscurity to be named his successor when he finally turned off his microphone for the last time.
I was a bit chagrined that the hospital food service director had prepared a feast for the private dinner…a feast that was not exactly in keeping with the healthy lifestyle principles in which Harvey was interested. I can’t blame the the director for wanting to put forward such a feast for a VIP but I couldn’t help wondering what Harvey may have been thinking during the luncheon.
During the discussion after lunch, he made a somewhat startling statement to me and others by saying, “I am a disciple of Ellen White.” White was one of the founders of the Adventist church and her writings serve as the basis for many of the Adventist lifestyle principles.
I don’t remember much else about the discussion, other than being privileged to sit next to him and hear his stomach “growl” (which I attributed to the high fat lunch we had served him).
As Paul and Angel left the hospital, they chatted briefly with several passersby in the lobby and also greeted my new wife, who worked part time at the information desk. He autographed my paperback edition of “The Rest of the Story” and left with his driver.
A few weeks later he broadcast a five minute weekend special broadcast on how to lengthen your lifespan by following the health principles of the Adventist faith. Though he never formally joined the Adventist church, in his later years he and Angel attended and financially supported an Adventist church in the Phoenix area, or so I’ve read.
Paul Harvey, a dedicated Christian, conservate icon, legendary broadcaster, and, most importantly, a humble, decent man. I look forward to meeting you again someday.