In Memory of Harry Park Borgeson

Harry Park Borgeson passed away in his sleep in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 2, 2024 in his Albuquerque home. He was 99 years old. He spent his life in service to his community, with love and support for his children and their families, and over 73 years of shared devotion with his wife, Laura Lea, who passed away in January 2023 at 100 years old.

Park was born on February 5, 1925 in Chisholm, Minnesota, the only child of Anshelm Cyrus Borgeson and Alberta Park Borgeson. Alberta passed away in 1936 when he was ten, and his father remarried Else Nolting in 1938.

Park spent his entire childhood and adolescence in Chisholm. As a Boy Scout he enjoyed skating on the area’s frozen lakes, a wintertime five-day dog team trip, and summertime canoe camping in the boundary waters of northern Minnesota and Canada. He became an Eagle Scout as a sophomore in high school and was initiated into the local Order of the Arrow the following year. During high school he played trumpet and French horn in the band and orchestra, as well as in the Chisholm city band, frequently performing as a soloist at school and community concerts and events. He was a member of the forensics team and the Quill and Scroll national scholastic journalism society. He lettered in swimming, specializing in freestyle, and received membership in the National Athletic Scholarship Society of Secondary Schools. He and his father were half of the Borgeson team at the Chisholm Curling Club.

Park attended the Chisholm Methodist Community Church and excelled academically throughout his schooling, ranking third in his senior high school class. He placed first in the Isaac Walton League Conservation essay contest and was awarded the American Legion award as the outstanding boy in his senior class. He received his Chisholm High School diploma in June 1943 after leaving high school in March 1943 to contribute to the war effort.

Park enrolled in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s inaugural “accelerated medical school program” established to address physician shortages during WWII. He received his Bachelor of Science in March 1946 and Bachelor of Medicine in August 1947. During his 12-month internship at Indianapolis General Hospital that began in September 1947, he became licensed to practice surgery and medicine in November 1947 and was awarded his Doctor of Medicine in June 1948.

Park began a residency at El Paso (Texas) General Hospital in October 1948 where he met his life-long partner, Laura Lea Stickney, the director of the El Paso Cerebral Palsy Treatment Center. He completed his residency in September 1949 and began practicing medicine in El Paso. Park and Laura Lea were married on October 16, 1949 in Dallas and moved to Monahans, Texas in January 1950 where he established a private medical practice. They welcomed their first child 8 months later. In January 1951 he was ordered into active military service and commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the US Army Medical Corps Reserve. He was stationed in Büdingen, Germany during the Korean conflict as part of the European post-WWII occupation. Laura Lea and son Bill joined him there. They took full advantage of their allotted leave time, traveling by car to Paris, Rome, Switzerland and Holland with baby in tow. Their love of travel continued throughout their lives.

In 1954 after honorable discharge from military service, Park and Laura Lea moved to Alamogordo, NM and set up a private medical practice with Richard and Tina Sherman. The two couples’ partnership lasted for the next 32 years. Park organized the local chapter of the American Association of Medical Assistants. He served on the Gerald Champion Memorial Hospital board and eventually served as chief of every department as well as chief of staff. He chaired the committee which established a coronary care unit at the hospital and served as director of the unit. He chaired the local polio immunization program in 1962-63. Active in the Otero County Mental Health Association for many years, he was a member and served as president of the association and was on the board of directors of the Otero County Counseling Center in 1976. He served as president of the local Medical Society, also served at the state level, and was councilor for six years in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

Park was active in the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce, serving on the board of directors and the education committee. He played a key role in their Career Conferences and was active in working toward quality education, receiving various awards from the Alamogordo High School and the Alamogordo Education Association. He received the Chamber’s inaugural Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award in 1967. The committee reported that during the years of shortage of medical doctors in Alamogordo, he unwaveringly served his patients, took on numerous emergencies, and worked unreasonably long hours. His family still recalls when a NM State Police officer drove him in the dark of the early morning hours deep into the Sacramento mountains to treat a hunter with a rattlesnake bite. On countless occasions, even 65 years after the beginning of his Alamogordo practice, unacquainted individuals would approach him or members of his family saying, “You/he delivered me when I was born.” Park also spent considerable time serving the youth of the community including serving as a boy scout leader and providing free physicals needed for students to participate in school activities. And he chaired various committees for the Otero County United Way throughout his time in Alamogordo.

Park was active in the Alamogordo Rotary Club beginning in 1954, serving as president and developing the first Rotary Interact Club in the district as well as organizing the Pony League baseball team exchange with the team from Ciudad Chihuahua, Mexico. He chaired the committee that laid plans for Alamogordo’s second ‘White Sands’ Rotary Club. He received Rotary’s “Service Above Self” award in 1977 and was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation in 1978.

Park was described by Alamogordo community leaders as “always effective, usually in the background” and that "Alamogordo is a darn sure better place because of you.”

Upon his retirement in 1986 Park and Laura Lea moved to Albuquerque to be close to their first grandchild. Laura Lea had doubts that Park would settle into retirement, but he took to it easily. He took up photography in earnest and was prolific for the next 30 years, documenting their travels throughout the US and Europe. They visited a majority of the National Parks with family and friends and attended numerous Elder Hostels (now Road Scholars). They both started birdwatching, frequenting the Bosque del Apache where Park served on the board of the Friends of the Bosque. Park loved to ski and spent many hours on the slopes, with Laura Lea, family, and friends along for the fun. He enjoyed being Laura Lea’s partner at party bridge. Park was a voracious reader of all genres and spent much time in careful consideration of recommendations to fellow members of the book clubs he joined. His latest book was always a topic of family discussions over the dinner table or during video calls even as recently as the week before his passing.

Park was preceded in death by his parents and his wife of 73 years, Laura Lea. He is survived by children Bill (Barbara), Bob, and Ann (David); grandchildren Marika, Genevieve, Paul, Sam and Emily; and two great-grandchildren.

Park and Laura Lea made countless friends over the years. They were loved by those who knew them well and they, both individually and as a couple, will be immeasurably missed.

Per his wishes Park has been cremated and his ashes, along with those of his beloved wife Laura Lea, will be scattered in the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos at a private family ceremony. A gathering for family and friends to celebrate Laura Lea and Park’s lives is being planned for later this fall.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Park’s name should be made to your favorite community service organization.

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