12/29/2017

Resident Spotlight: Veteran, Physician and Former Surgeon Takes a Walk Down Memory Lane

The following article appears in the winter 2017 Villa Voices newsletter.

Resident Spotlight: Veteran, Physician and Former Surgeon Takes a Walk Down Memory Lane

Pedro Vallejo, M.D., and his wife Erlinda moved into Light of Hearts Villa in March 2015. Both were familiar with the building, having sent their three daughters to Lumen Cordium High School, which was transformed into a senior care facility in 1989. Both came to know Light of Hearts Villa well in their 14 months living there.

“Being a doctor, I had been to many health care facilities. The Villa was different,” said Pedro, who is also known as Pete. “The first time I visited, I was impressed by the friendliness of the employees. I knew we would really enjoy it because we would receive exceptional care and have the freedom to do what we wanted.”

Born in 1922 in the Philippines, Pedro was a medical student when he joined the Philippine Army in 1943 during World War II, fighting under the American flag as a second lieutenant in the infantry. After the war ended in 1945, Pedro returned to medical school. He went on to become a surgeon and met his future wife Erlinda, a nurse, in the operating room.

“The first time she assisted me, something clicked,” said Pedro. The two married in 1950, not long before he came to the United States for a medical residency at Syracuse University.

He came to Cleveland in 1952 to interview for a position at what he thought was the Cleveland Clinic. It turned out to be Polyclinic Hospital on Carnegie Avenue, not far from the Cleveland Clinic. He saw the opportunity to be part of a smaller hospital and chose to stay there as a general surgeon. Erlinda and their infant son Peter joined him in the United States soon after.

When Polyclinic Hospital closed in 1978, Pedro went to the former St. Alexis Hospital and later St. Vincent Charity Medical Center before retiring in 1991. He led a distinguished career, serving on the governing boards at Polyclinic and St. Alexis, and as the director of the outpatient clinic and director of family practice at St. Alexis. He founded a Filipino physician group, where he was affectionately known as the “godfather,” and served as the physician to the many Polish, Hungarian and Lithuanian families in Slavic Village for 40 years.

Pedro and Erlinda raised a son and three daughters while living in Bedford Heights, Ohio. After retiring, he went on several medical mission trips to the Philippines to bring medical supplies and perform surgeries.

While Filipinos fought under the American flag during World War II, it wasn’t until 1990 when their service was recognized by the United States. It took another 16 years before Pedro received veteran’s health benefits and eligibility to be buried in a national cemetery.

“Ms. Hickle [Executive Director Betty Hickle] was instrumental in getting my military service recognized. We didn’t care about receiving money. We wanted to be recognized because we did our job out of allegiance to the American flag,” he said.

After Erlinda passed away in April 2016, Pedro went to live with his daughter, Lisa Yokiel, in Solon. Lisa continues to volunteer at the Villa. Pedro returned to the Villa in September 2017 and said with fondness, “I’m home.” When asked to describe the Villa in one word, his response: “Excellent.”

Editors note: Pedro passed away November 5 at the age of 96. This story was written before he passed away.

Prayer

Loving and Provident God, you are the one who grants us the days of our lives and fills them with your loving care. We praise you for the many years and countless blessings that you have given. Strengthen us with the reminder that our days are in your hands and our purpose in this life comes from you. Fill our minds and hearts with thankful thoughts, pleasant memories and quiet contentment. Your grace alone is enough for us. Amen.