Hines remembered as ‘champion’ for those who needed it
BUNKIE, La. (AP) — Donald Hines’ grandson, Donald Newton, said his grandfather “could accomplish more in one day than many people could in a lifetime.”
The marks of that are everywhere you look.
In Bunkie, where he was a beloved doctor and community leader. Across the state, where his tenure as president of the Louisiana Senate included spearheading efforts to provide health care coverage to the state’s most vulnerable citizens. Even in a small orphanage nearly 2,000 miles away, where he took it upon himself to make sure the children had access to medical care.
“I’ll never meet anyone like Don Hines again,” said Mike Clark, who founded Casa Aleluya children’s home in Guatemala. “He gave of himself in so many different ways.”
On Thursday, mourners packed Haas Auditorium in Bunkie for a memorial service for Hines, who died Tuesday, June 19, at age 85.
Like a lot of things around Bunkie, the auditorium had Hines’ fingerprints on it. He helped to lead efforts to refurbish the building, just like he did to create Bunkie General Hospital in 1971 and the new Bunkie High School in the late 1970s.
“Can you imagine what this town would be like without that vision?” said former Bunkie Mayor Gerard Moreau. “That was Don. He was a man of vision.”
After serving four years in the U.S. Navy — during which he was decorated for bravery for coming to the aid of servicemen injured in an aircraft crash — Hines began his medical practice in Bunkie in 1966.
He served on the Avoyelles Parish School Board from 1971 until he was elected to the state Senate in 1993. He was in the Senate until 2008, serving as president during his final term.
An avid outdoorsman, he was a former chair of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.
No matter what office Hines held, though, “he never stopped being that country doctor,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards.
“He was the guy who would meet you at his clinic at 1 a.m. because your child was sick,” Moreau said.
Edwards said Hines was a “truly great man” and credited Louisiana’s third-lowest in the nation rate of uninsured children to Hines’ efforts to create the Louisiana Children’s Insurance Program.
During his time in the Senate, Hines also spearheaded efforts to support rural hospitals and provide low-income seniors access to discount medication, and was a key figure in Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.
He was inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame in 2006.
“He was someone every public servant should emulate, because he never forgot who he was supposed to be serving,” Edwards said. “He was a champion for the people of Louisiana, particularly for those who needed a champion.”
“Senator Hines, Doctor Hines, my friend Don — you were a man of many titles, talents and boundless energy,” wrote former Gov. Kathleen Blanco in a message read by Gov. Edwards’ wife, Donna. “You have led a good and blessed life.”
After leaving the Senate, Hines stumbled onto the passion of his later life when he read about former Bunkie residents Mike and Dottie Clark starting Casa Aleluya for orphaned children in Guatemala.
Before the Clarks knew it, Hines had become Casa Aleluya’s strongest champion.
He set up telemedicine services so doctors in the U.S. could diagnose medical issues with the children at the rural orphanage. He donated and tirelessly raised money for medical equipment. When he met a little girl who had been born with one foot facing the wrong way, he arranged for surgery to correct it at a Shriner’s hospital.
“He loved our children,” Clark said. “Hines celebrated Christmas with them, spent so much time at Casa Aleluya that he eventually built himself a living space there, wept for the children who died.”
The last time Clark saw his friend, he told Hines, “Don, Jesus is waiting for you.” Soon after that, a shipment of hospital beds arrived at Casa Aleluya for new facilities for children undergoing dialysis treatment, courtesy of Hines.
Soon after that, he was gone.
“He had the biggest heart and the kindest demeanor,” Clark said. “He never talked about his pain, what he was going through. He would always just say, ‘Mike, what can I do?’ when he saw a child who needed a miracle.”
Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, http://www.thetowntalk.com