Living in The Very Tall Shadow of Lucky Garvin

Dennis Garvin
Dennis Garvin

A requiem or eulogy is offered to honor the deceased.  But the deceased can’t blush.  That is why, while he remains breathing and larger than life, I wanted to offer a commentary on my brother, Lucky Garvin recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Roanoke Valley Academy of Medicine.

It is unusual, in the Valley, to encounter any creature, human or otherwise, who has neither met Lucky nor benefitted from his labors. Lucky attended medical school, Medical University of South Carolina.  It was after this that he came to Roanoke for internship and the legend began.

His resume covers enough paper to endanger a small Brazilian Rain Forest.  If he didn’t care for you directly in the ER, he has yet saved lives in your family by helping to establish most of the Rescue Squads in the lower valley.  Bradley Free clinic?  Cofounded and presided over by Himself for many decades.    He has been on the teaching staff of multiple medical training facilities.  Not content with that, he has served the critters of this area with Wild Life Rescue, including being a Federally Licensed raptor rehabber – he cares for birds of prey; absent vultures, most of them being politicians and having their own physicians.

Going over to visit Lucky is always an adventure.  The visit begins with a quick hello, then a baby orphan squirrel is put in my hands to feed with a syringe, then stroke its tummy with a wisp of cotton until it poops.  Meanwhile the door opens and a groundhog pimp-walks in the door, opens a mini-fridge, and grabs a carrot.  Like a small furry teenager…

How, most folks ask, could he accomplish so much in merely one lifetime?  Someone once asked him if he took amphetamines and he remarked that he was afraid that it would only slow him down.  The success of his endeavors is the result of two things: application and preparation.

He and I both self-taught playing the guitar; he was better.  I got him interested in wood turning on a lathe; he became better.  He got me interested in writing for public consumption; at which he remained better. In fact, you may be reading this column because you were first drawn to The Roanoke Star as a result of Lucky’s commentaries within.  It is clear that I was only his superior in that I could out-sleep him.

It has not been easy existing in his formidable shadow.  Here is a short list of nick-names I was given: ‘mini-me’, ‘unlucky’, ‘brand x’, ‘generic substitute’, ‘bait and switch.’  There are also stock phrases I hear when folks find out I am not the ER Garvin: “So you ain’t him? We really like Him”, “Are you a real doctor like him?”  Then there is the good old utilitarian phrase: DAMN, thought you was him!  I can’t count how many times I had to correct someone:  “No, LGMC does NOT stand for Lucky Garvin Medical Center.” (sigh)

Growing up, Lucky was always the big brother. At the ocean, as a youngster, when the undertow was pulling me away from the beach, I banged up against something solid and looked  up to see Lucky’s leg; just above that was his grinning face. In high school, I was a wiseguy who no one touched.  I thought it was because I was tough.  Then Lucky graduated and, left alone, found out that it was Lucky’s presence that had prevented a few good thumpings by people who had only been circumspect with Lucky nearby.

When I became a Christian at age 38, I must say it was because the concept of a spiritual big brother who covered my butt, took the heat for me, and protected me when I didn’t deserve it was not in the least alien to me.  Jesus filled the Lucky-shaped space in my receptive spirit.

I want you to share in making Lucky blush.  If you are reading this in paper edition, please go to on your computer and punch the name ‘Dennis Garvin’ into the search box.  Select this commentary.  If you are already reading this online, you are right near the bottom.  There is a place for comments.  Stuart, the editor, and I invite you to put into the comments section your own story about Lucky Garvin and how he impacted your life.  I will start it out and, in the comments section, I will reveal how my brother got the name ‘Lucky.’

Come join us and help celebrate a great life of giving . . . While we can still make him blush.

– Dennis Garvin