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Houstonians From All Walks Pay Respects to DeBakey

July 15, 2008

By Todd Ackerman, Houston Chronicle

Jul. 15–Houstonians today paid their last respects to Dr. Michael DeBakey, steadily filing past the legendary heart surgeon’s casket as he lay in repose at City Hall.

In the first two hours of the public viewing, the visitors ranged from a homeless man to city officials to loved ones of former patients, who took a moment at the casket before moving on.

Some choked back tears.

“I loved the man,” said a moist-eyed Francis Darr, a lifelong Houstonian who said DeBakey operated on her father in 1961.

“He was just such a wonderful, warm human being,” Darr said. “I know some of his colleagues didn’t see that part of him, but his patients felt his concern. Plus, he gave my father 16 more good years.”

DeBakey died Friday night of natural causes, after an extraordinary career as a doctor, scientist, educator and medical statesman. He was 99.

A number of visitors to the viewing lamented that he didn’t make it to his 100th birthday. DeBakey would have turned 100 on Sept. 7.

He lay in repose today in surgical attire — including white scrubs and a pulled-down mask. In one hand he clasped a small cross.

A military honor guard and a doctor flanked the casket and a screen above it displayed historical photos and footage of highlights from DeBakey’s long career.

The public viewing marks the first time City Hall has been used to so honor one of Houston’s residents.

Lying in repose is not the same as lying in state, which is reserved for the U.S. Capitol or a state capitol.

todd.ackerman@chron.com

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