By Carol Cole-Frowe
Transcript Staff Writer
Longtime Norman physician Dr. Harold “Hal” Belknap was remembered Monday as a man who spent his life working to inspire young people and never stopped caring for his patients and the people around him.
The 73-year-old Norman native died Sunday after a short illness. Services are planned at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Alameda Church of Christ.
His close friend Dr. Gerald McCullough helped convince Belknap to return to Norman to practice after he got out of the military in fall 1967.
“He’s been here all that time,” McCullough said. “We worked closely together.”
McCullough said Belknap was always there for his patients, unless he was tending to his other love — the Boy Scouts.
“It was great, just watching him (with the Scouts),” he said.
Belknap’s enthusiasm for Scouting was contagious and he often coerced his medical colleagues into speaking to the Boy Scouts or letting them watch surgery.
Belknap and his wife JoAnn founded the Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop 777 at the Alameda Church of Christ, which went on to graduate 68 Eagle Scouts. And he created Medical Explorer Post 901, sponsored by Norman Regional Hospital.
One of the Scout leaders, Don Carter, said he worked with Belknap for more than 17 years on the pack and troop. Carter said when the troop started out, it had fewer than 20 members.
Now it boasts about 50 members in the troop and about 40 to 50 members in the pack.
Norman Regional Health System President and CEO David Whitaker said the hearts of the Norman Regional staff are with Belknap’s family and extended family during this difficult time.
“Dr. Belknap touched the lives of so many different groups of people including patients, physicians, employees, medical students and those connected to the Boy Scouts; the list is nearly endless. Those of us who knew and worked with Dr. Belknap are truly blessed and honored to have had the privilege of that time with him,” Whitaker said.
Norman Regional Hospital director of communications Brenda Finkle said, “Everyone here loved him and will truly miss him.”
“We had students (on a Norman Regional Hospital) tour this afternoon who chose the medical profession because of the time he spent with young people through the Medical Explorer unit,” Finkle said. “I think that’s an amazing legacy.”
Dr. Brian Yeaman was one of those young Scouts in Belknap’s Medical Explorer post. They first met when Yeaman was 13.
“He mentored me along through high school and college and medical school,” Yeaman said.
Belknap traveled to Boston, where Yeaman did his residency, to present his certificate. Yeaman returned to Norman and joined Belknap’s practice.
“We’ve had a wonderful relationship,” Yeaman said. “That was really his gift. He made everyone he interacted with as special as one of his own.”
Yeaman said Belknap was a great listener.
“That’s why he was so effective in Scouting,” Yeaman said.
He estimated Belknap was responsible for about 28 to 30 young men and women becoming physicians, researchers and nurses.
“(Belknap) is special to so many people in Norman,” Yeaman said. “It’s hard to quantify all the things he did for us as a medical community, as a town, as a Scout troop.”
Yeaman said it meant the world to him now to have taken over the Medical Explorer post and work in Belknap’s Norman Clinic.
“I don’t think anyone will ever fill his shoes,” Yeaman said. “I think it will take a whole team of us.”
McCullough said Belknap tried to cut back his patient schedule some in recent years.
“But he could never give up,” McCullough said. “He enjoyed it and he enjoyed taking care of people. … He was always a very conscientious physician who we depended on. And he was very encouraging to young doctors. … And I think that the doctors had a great respect for him. He’s been a very dedicated doctor and we’ll miss him.”
Belknap established the Gomer Jones Coronary Care Unit within the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium at the University of Oklahoma in 1971, and continued as acting chief until 2003.
McCullough said he believes it would be extremely appropriate to name the stadium’s emergency center after Belknap, because Belknap was so important to the center.
“He worked so hard doing all that,” McCullough said. “I just think it would be an honor to name that emergency center in his name. … He was the one who really helped develop and set that up. The people who give of themselves make a big difference.”
Belknap’s obituary is on page A5.
By Carol Cole-Frowe
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