Scion of the Pittsburgh oil and banking family, William Larimer Mellon, Jr., was married, the father of three, and a successful rancher in Arizona when, at thirty-seven, he read a Life magazine article about Albert Schweitzer’s “reverence for life” that guided his mission hospital in a remote area of Gabon, Africa.
Mellon immediately wrote to the famous humanitarian in Lambarene, expressing admiration of Schweitzer’s life of service and the wish to engage in similar work with his wife, Gwendolyn.
Schweitzer’s reply in March 1948 was alengthy letter of realistic encouragement. He wrote, ‘1 was very much moved upon reading your letter and felt a certain responsibility towards you . . . Do not delude yourself about how difficult it will be. . . .Be sure from the beginning that you have a sound foundation in practical things: physical examinations and the laboratory procedures for blood and urine. . . .One thing that will astound you coming from me: avoid specialized study intropical disease! … What matters most is to have knowledge that is both basic and practical, solid and far-reaching.”
In time, Mellon received his medical degree from Tulane University and later established a well-equipped hospital in one of the poorest regions of Haiti, where, with his wife, hespent the rest of his life working as a physicianand a community development engineer.The hospital continues to thrive.
Brothers in Spirit brings together sixty-five of the letters written between 1947 and Schweitzer’s death in 1965. Presented here inboth English and the original French, they eloquentlytell the story of a comfortable lifeabandoned for the goal of serving humanity.
Jeannette Q. Byers is chair of the Modern Language Department at the Foote School, New Haven, Connecticut.
Series: Albert Schweitzer Library
6.3 x 9.32, 208 pages