Centenarian with a Heart for Service

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What a treat to help celebrate the 100th birthday of Clyde Tomlin. He’s a long time friend of the family and I’ve had the privilege of knowing him since I was a boy. He is as good a person as any of us could aspire to be. Not sure who wrote the following. It was shared at the birthday gathering. Happy Birthday Dr. Tomlin! And thank you for showing us how it’s done.

Centenarian with a Heart for Service

If you are about to celebrate your 100th birthday, what would you do for adventure? In the case of long-time New Mexico resident Dr. Clyde Tomlin, the answer would be to take a week- long road trip into Mexico to help local communities and see long-time friends. That is just what Tomlin and several Santa Fe friends did in September, capping a nearly 50-year devotion to the Mexican communities of Casas Grandes and Creel in the state of Chihuahua.

Dr. Tomlin, who turns 100 on 7 November, developed friendships in Mexico beginning in 1968 when he first visited the region during a train trip to coastal Mexico, and he has been going back routinely since then.

During a medical career spanning more than 40 years, Dr. Tomlin began taking medicine, clothing and school supplies to the Tarahumara indigenous communities in and around Creel. He is especially fond of the multi-generational Tarahumara family in Creel who still lives in a cave near the town. The local people he visited in hospitals, schools, neighborhoods, and a convent in the town of Sisoguichi know and love him, and they showered him with hugs and prayers during this most recent visit to the region. Dr. Tomlin’s humanitarian spirit isn’t limited to this area; as the son of a Methodist pastor, he combined his medical skills with his desire to help poorer communities by serving extensively in clinics in Haiti and Chiapas, Mexico, as well as in the New Mexico prison system.

Born in Arnett, Oklahoma in 1918, Dr. Tomlin was one of five sons of Harry and Stella Tomlin. As a teenager he contracted tuberculosis and spent time recovering in a sanatorium in Oklahoma. That experience led him to a career in medicine, graduating in 1945 from the University of Oklahoma.

He ultimately settled in Albuquerque, where he established a practice in internal medicine. Friends of Tomlin’s will tell you that he often treated patients with little money, or who had no insurance, free of charge. He also was the first doctor in Albuquerque to hire a woman of color to assist him in his practice. He will tell you he is most proud of this part of his life, when he was able to know and help so many patients.

Dr. Tomlin moved from Albuquerque to Santa Fe in 1990 to work part-time in several clinics in and around Santa Fe, Mora, and Las Vegas. Post-retirement, he has continued his active involvement in community outreach and his church’s mission efforts. He has been an outspoken advocate on immigration issues, writing letters to congressional leaders to improve the nation’s immigration policies and systems for managing them, always keeping in mind how the families and children are impacted.

How is life different in 2018 from when Dr. Tomlin was born in 1918? He would say “everything and nothing”. Although the world as we know it today is unrecognizable from what it was 100 years ago, it remains fundamentally the same when it comes to the importance of honoring and respecting different people from all walks of life who share universal truths of dignity, respect, inclusiveness, and love.

To celebrate his 100 years, friends and family hosted several fiestas honoring his generosity, activism, sense of adventure, and zest for life. If his mother, who lived to be 104, is any precedent, Dr. Tomlin looks forward to celebrating many more birthdays.