From the St. Louis Site of the 1904 Olympian Games:

Carrying the Torch to the 1996 Olympics

by Jane Hale

     At Washington University's Francis Field, site of the 1904 Olympics, T.M. (Tommy) Macdonnell boarded shuttle number two enroute to Varsity Walk to serve as a torch bearer for the 1996 Olympic Games.  He shared that honor with 10,000 who transferred the flame from Los Angeles to Atlanta in the Olympic Torch Relay.

     It was a proud moment for me.  I had nominated Doctor Tommy for that honor.  When he was selected, I was to accompany him as an Olympic escort runner - one of 2,500.

     As we drove along the crowd filled streets to drop off other torch bearers and escorts, we met Yoshizo Shibukawa, manager of the torch relay for the 1998 Olympics, and Brendan Harris, manager of the 1996 torch relay, who asked us:  "How will you feel July 19th when you see the cauldron being lit at the 1996 Olympics and know the flame you carry today is part of that flame?"

     Tommy Macdonnell answered quickly:  "I am proud to be a part of it.  This is a once in a lifetime experience."

     Growing up in Marshfield, young Tommy Macdonnell knew well the long hours and low pay of a country doctor.  His father, C.R. Macdonnell was a Webster County physician, and his maternal grandfather and uncle were country doctors, too.

     Tommy Macdonnell studied at Drury College and Springfield's State Teachers College (STC), and in 1942 he enlisted in the army reserve.

     Two years later, staff sergeant Thomas Macdonnell was a part of the initial assault force of the First Infantry Division and was among the first ashore on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  He was awarded the silver star, five bronze battle stars and two purple heart awards - after which he said:  "I'm going home and attend medical school.  I've done all the killing I'm going to do.  I want to start saving lives."

     In 1950, Macdonnell received his medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine at Indianapolis and began his residency in obstetrics and pediatrics at Kansas City General Hospital.  The new physician with his new bride Ann Martin returned to Marshfield to practice medicine with his father.  Patients called the younger Macdonnell "Doctor Tommy."

     Macdonnell, who practiced obstetrics, more than 35 years, has delivered more than 4.500 babies - many of them at Burge Hospital (now Cox Medical Center North), Baptist Hospital, and at the old St. John's Hospital on North Main Street.

      Tommy and Ann Macdonnell themselves parented eight children - Sally Ann, Patty Jane, Thomas, Carey, Jenalee, Nancy, John and Jeremy.  Seven of the Macdonnell offspring attended Southwest Missouri State University, where their father served on the board for six years.  He was president of the board from September 1979 to April 1981 during which time he handed three of his children SMSU degrees as a part of his official duties.

     T. M. Macdonnell currently serves on the board of directors of Citizens State Banks of Springfield and Marshfield and on the Ozarks Technical Community College Early Childhood Development Advisory Committee.

     A longtime interest in government spurred Macdonnell to seek a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives.  He was elected in 1986, and he used his 41 years of experience as a rural family physician to serve as an advocate for the health of children, the poor and the elderly.  One of the legislative bills nearest to his heart was one to improve enforcement to stop the selling of tobacco products to persons under the age of 18.  With eight children and 16 grandchildren, Tommy Macdonnell simply would not let go of that issue!  His legislative activities also included restricting smoking in public places, banning smoking in schools and childcare centers, strengthening childhood immunizations requirements and requiring administrators of residential care centers to be certified.

     In 1992, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce honored Macdonnell with an award during its annual "Salute to Health Care."

     On December 3, 1994, Tommy Macdonnell retired from the Missouri legislature and from his medical clinic.  But his "retirement" lasted two days.  On Wednesday, January 4, 1995, he began a half-time job with the division of maternal, child and family health of the Missouri Department of Health with responsibilities in a 21-county area of southwest Missouri.

     As Doctor Tommy and I were running amidst cheering crowds in St. Louis that day, he edged the torch my way.  "I need help," he said.

     And suddenly, I was helping to carry the torch!

     Concerned, I searched his face for signs of fatigue and found only a smile plus a twinkle of sharing in his eyes.

     He was sharing his moment of glory with me.