The University of Maine at Fort Kent presented the Floyd 'Red' Powell Award on March 21 to Dr. R. Paul Johnson, a former hockey player and lifelong surgeon who was the “doctor on call” in a time before athletic trainers were on the sports field.
In remarks to the people assembled at the UMFK Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet, Coach Tom Bird described how Johnson grew up in Perth Andover, New Brunswick. He spent much of his early years working in his father's pharmacy. It is here that he learned the fundamentals of antibiotics, small talk and chocolates.
Bird described Johnson as “Expressive by nature, he possessed a disarming charm and loved people as much as people loved him. When he wasn't in the pharmacy he was either playing hockey or fishing.”
According to Bird, a legend details how Johnson dislocated his left shoulder when he fell on his outstretched left hand during a hockey game. The untreated dislocation became a recurrent problem for which he neither reduced himself nor asked the assistance of other people.
He graduated from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick with highest honors and continued his dream of becoming a surgeon. After graduating from Dalhousie University Medical School he headed south where he completed a rigorous five year residency in General Surgery at Tufts University Boston City Hospital in 1958.
At that time, a massive heart attack severely disabled Fort Kent's only surgeon. Bird said it was Fort Kent's good fortune, fate and exceptional salmon fishing that played a pivotal role in “hooking a superb physician” Doc Johnson.
“The Fort Kent Hospital was his arena. He glided about it with the agility of a tireless hockey star. As a surgeon he was always courageous and unusually quick witted. A born leader he fulfilled his many hospital duties and responsibilities with self-confidence and great skill. He was always aware of the needs in the community and rallied financial support for the creation of the Nursing program at UMFK. He spearheaded the concept of the Memorial Scholarship as the UMFK Foundation President and along with his family continues to sustain it today,” said Bird.
In 1991, he received the Distinguished Service Award from UMFK and was named Fort Kent's Citizen of the Year. In 1995, Dr. Johnson retired from Northern Maine Medical Center, where he worked for 37 years.
The Floyd “Red” Powell Award is a newly-created award that the UMFK Athletic Hall of Fame Committee presents annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the development and/or enhancement of UMFK Athletics and its student-athletes for an extended period of time. The award is named for Floyd Powell, academic dean, director of athletics, and coach at the Madawaska Training School.