Dr. J. David Daniels was always interested in helping oncology patients with their pain—emotional, spiritual and physical. But he knew in order to help the whole patient, he would need to start with the physical pain and find new, better methods to treat it. And in finding those new methods, Dr. Daniels changed oncology care in the Tri-State forever, leaving a remarkable legacy that lives on each day at St. Mary’s Medical Center and beyond.
Dr. J. David Daniels was born January 23, 1941, at St. Mary’s. In 1963, he married the person he would later call the stabilizing force in his life, his wife, Peggy. The two met while they were both studying at Marshall University. Following in the footsteps of his father, Willard Daniels Sr., who was a physician in Westmoreland, Dr. Daniels received his medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) in 1966. He completed an internship in internal medicine at the MCV, and then spent three years of training in internal medicine and oncology at the Cleveland Clinic. After serving two years in the U.S. Army, he returned to Huntington in 1972 to join Huntington Internal Medicine Group (HIMG).
Dr. Daniels’ medical training was in oncology at a time the general public didn’t really know what the word meant. Cancer patients were scattered all over the hospital, making it more difficult for Dr. Daniels to talk to them. Many physicians told him that no one would go to a cancer ward because of the stigma of cancer. But Dr. Daniels persisted, and in 1978, with the help of the St. Mary’s nursing staff, he developed the oncology unit at St. Mary’s where cancer patients and their families found a true home.
But Dr. Daniels did not stop with just the unit. Convinced there was a better way to care for dying patients and help them with their pain, he and his St. Mary’s team introduced the ability to provide morphine orally—something many in the medical community felt could not be done. They began by squirting it into orange juice, but would later work with a local pharmacist to crush the tablets and stir them into cherry syrup. Dr. Daniels’ recognition of this early trend in pain management was a major advance for St. Mary’s patients. The methods soon moved to other floors of the hospital and eventually, the medical profession as a whole embraced the concept. As Chairman of the St. Mary’s Ethics Committee, with strong leadership from Sister Diane Bushee, Dr. Daniels also helped develop new end of life policies and procedures.
In 1981, Laura Darby, a nursing student working on her senior project, approached Dr. Daniels about helping to start a hospice program in Huntington. It was an offer Dr. Daniels could not refuse and in 1982, Hospice of Huntington began. In 1983, it hired its first paid employee, Charlene Farrell, who would later become its CEO. Dr. Daniels worked with Hospice for more than 26 years as it grew from a team of volunteer nurses into a thriving organization with more than 150 paid employees. In 2004, Dr. Daniels left HIMG to work at Hospice of Huntington full- time. Known for wearing his “No Pain” red button, as well as driving a car with a matching bumper sticker, Dr. Daniels retired as Hospice’s medical director in 2008.
St. Mary’s Medical Center is proud to induct Dr. J. David Daniels into our Wall of Fame.
John E. “Jack” Jenkins was known to be a quiet man, who only spoke when necessary. But his actions both in and out of the courtroom spoke volumes as, for more than five decades, he built a legacy of both legal excellence and community service that continues to grow even after his death.
Jenkins was born September 19, 1924, in Huntington, to the late John Earl and Kathleen Pitts Jenkins. He attended Davidson College and Brown University, and received an associate of applied business degree and bachelor of laws from the University of Virginia, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Theta Chi. A veteran of World War II, he served in the United States Army Air Corp.
Admitted to the West Virginia State Bar in 1950, Jenkins joined his father in practicing law in Huntington, helping to grow the prominence of Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC. During more than five decades of practice, Jenkins gained the deep respect of his peers and was often ranked among the best lawyers in America. Known for his ability to ask just the right questions to find the key to a case, Jenkins argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. During the 1960s and 1970s, he performed legal work for Ashland Oil as it grew into a global entity. Jenkins mentored hundreds of attorneys during his career, both at his firm and as an instructor for 15 years at West Virginia University College of Law. In 2002, the College of Law awarded him the Justicia Officium Award, the College’s highest honor, for his outstanding contributions and service to the legal profession.
In addition to his impact on the legal profession, Jenkins left a legacy of dedicated service to the Huntington community, believing it was his duty to give back to the community in which he lived and worked. Over the years, he was involved in more than a dozen membership and charitable organizations, including the Huntington Museum of Art, the Huntington YMCA, the Marshall Artist Series, the United Way, and the Boy Scouts of America. During the 1990s, Jenkins served as the attorney on the St. Mary’s Ethics Committee, offering tremendous help to the Sisters in developing policies for the medical center to stay current with changing legislation and regulations. Jenkins was extremely committed to his role with St. Mary’s, rarely missing a meeting in nearly a decade of service. He also occasionally provided legal representation to the medical center.
A gentleman in every way, Jenkins practiced law not as a job, but as a calling, treating each client as if he or she were the only case he had. A licensed private pilot, he was an avid traveler, enjoying scuba diving, sailing and golfing. A man of strong faith, he was a member, Sunday School teacher and Elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Huntington. Jenkins was the father of three sons: John, James and Evan. He passed away July 4, 2008.
St. Mary’s is proud to induct John E. “Jack” Jenkins into our Wall of Fame.
Throughout his life, Dr. Melville Homer Cummings, Jr. was a servant to others - to his faith, to his family, to his patients and to the community.
Cummings was born January 6, 1920, in Glen White, West Virginia, the oldest son of Melville Homer Cummings, Sr., a Methodist minister, and Mary Kacmar, a missionary. His childhood followed the path of his parents’ ministry and service to congregations across West Virginia, in Ceredo, Fayetteville, Glen White and Williamstown. While in Williamstown, he met Marjorie Fenton, to whom he was married for nearly 60 years.
Given his humble beginnings, Cummings put a premium on education, both in his own life and for others. In 1936, coal mogul William McKell unexpectedly gave Cummings $1,000 to pursue college. Cummings attended New River State College and received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Marshall College in 1940. He began his medical studies at West Virginia University and in 1944, graduated from Northwestern University Medical School. Cummings also completed medical training at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and Laird Memorial Hospital in Montgomery, West Virginia.
As part of the “Greatest Generation,” Cummings had a fierce commitment to serving others, which included service to his country. In 1946, Cummings became the Chief of Surgery at the 62nd Field Hospital in Rheinau, Germany, and later at the 279th Station Hospital in Berlin. Cummings also provided medical services to World War II war criminals at Spandau Prison in Berlin.
Upon his return from his military service, Cummings set down roots with his family in Huntington in 1948. He completed his surgical residency at St. Mary’s Hospital and, in 1950, he formed a partnership with Dr. William Irons. Cummings served as a member of the St. Mary’s surgery department for more than 50 years. One of his many areas of expertise was the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
For Cummings, his service to his faith extended beyond the pews of First United Methodist Church. He prayed with his patients before each surgery. He was a good samaritan which was often demonstrated in his willingness to help unwed mothers, patients or someone in need with housing, employment, education or finances. In 1975, Cummings and his wife Marjorie opened their home to a Vietnamese refugee who became their eighth child.
Cummings’ service to the community was often in support of education. He and his wife Marjorie established scholarships at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Alderson-Broaddus College and Marshall University. Other scholarships were established through First United Methodist Church in Huntington. He was a member of the Cabell County Board of Education from 1953-1960 and was a trustee at West Virginia Wesleyan College from 1959-1992. In 1997, he received the West Virginia Wesleyan College Rhododendron Award, which honors West Virginians who have brought distinction and honor to their state or have given extraordinary service to the College. Cummings was also a professor of surgery at Marshall, where in 2000 he received the Faculty Humanism in Medicine Award from the Marshall University School of Medicine. The award was later named in his honor.
Homer and Marjorie Cummings were the proud parents of eight children: Mel, John, Fenton, Norma, Lillian, Martha, Jim and Loan, as well as 30 grandchildren.
Cummings died on July 5, 2001, after caring for patients earlier in the day. As one of the Sisters attending his funeral observed, “He died with his boots on.”
St. Mary’s Medical Center is proud to induct Dr. M. Homer Cummings, Jr. into our Wall of Fame.