Voice — April 2012 — Dr. Leila Denmark — 114 years of memories

Pediatrician to Virginia-Highland’s “Little Angels”
by Lola Carlisle, Vice-President

Dr. Leila Denmark passed away on Sunday, April 1st. Born in Portal, Georgia in 1898, she was 114 years old and believed to be the world’s fourth oldest person at her death. And what a person!

The Atlanta Journal Constitution obituary recounted a remarkable life in medicine: the third woman to graduate from the Medical College of Georgia (1928), the first intern at Henrietta Egleston Hospital on the Emory campus and the first to admit a sick baby there, the state’s first female pediatrician, and a significant role in the research that led to the development of the pertussis vaccine and the modern day DPT vaccine.

Dr. Denmark was married to John Eustace Denmark for more than 60 years, until his death in 1991. In 1931, the Denmarks had a daughter, Mary Denmark Hutcherson; Dr. Denmark then started her own practice at home so she could raise Mary. Her first home office was in the breakfast room of their home on Kentucky Avenue; the family later moved to 1051 Hudson Drive, where the living room served as a waiting room and a bedroom as the exam room. Dr. Denmark practiced medicine in Virginia-Highland until 1949. When Karri Hobson-Pape and I researched our book about the neighborhood (Images of America: Virginia-Highland), we spoke to a number of long-term residents who remembered residents and neighbors taking their kids to Dr. Denmark.

1051 Hudson Drive – c. 1940 Mary Denmark. c. 1940. Ann Tinkler, Mary Denmark, Bootsie Holzman – 1051 Hudson backyard, 1936 Mary Denmark in the waiting room at 1051 Hudson Drive
Photos courtesy of Mary Denmark Hutcherson

Dr. Denmark’s daughter, Mary Denmark Hutcherson, had fond and vivid memories of growing up in the area. She played in the waiting room of her mother’s office and recalls her mother peeking out of the exam room to call in her “next little angel.” And she remembers a charming and happy childhood in Virginia-Highland.

Virginia-Highland was Mary’s playground. She had a great group of friends who biked and roller-skated all over the area, often chasing – or trying to chase – the fire trucks going on calls from Station # 19. Mary and her friend Ann Tinkler (whose father was the minister of the Associate Reform Presbyterian Church, now the YWCA) frequently played at Orme Park, which they called “The Little Park.” They recall the old Highland Bakery horse and buggy coming through and the strong sweet smell of the fresh bread. Mary thought the horse was very pretty – she remembers that he was white and had a big blocky head. (Some of the old Highland Bakery delivery routes are on display in the building behind the current Highland Bakery at 655 Highland Ave.) Mary described many stores at the corner of Highland and Virginia; Mrs. Georgia’s Dairy was a favorite – who can resist a milkshake!

When it came to schooling, Mary remembers every detail and there were many. Redistricting and changes in school routes and destinations are not a new concept here. Mary can tell you every bus, trolley, and transfer she made on her path to acquiring an excellent education – an education she took seriously in spite of the constant temptation to dawdle at Rich’s downtown on her route home. She attended Inman (from K–6), O’Keefe Jr. High (now part of the Georgia Tech campus), Atlanta Girls High in Grant Park (two years), and graduated from Grady as a member of that school’s first co-ed class in 1948. She found herself well-prepared when she got to UGA; she recalls her freshman year there to be largely a review of material she already knew.

These great stories about the Denmark family, including these wonderful tales of the daily life of a child in Virginia-Highland in the 30’s and 40’s, make me feel grounded. This neighborhood has a rich and vibrant history; it citizens and its buildings are full of varied and rich stories. We Virginia-Highlanders are fortunate people.

Karri Hobson-Pape, Judy Potter and Jack White also contributed to this article


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