Jesse Talbot Littleton III, M.D.

April 27, 1917May 22, 2011

Jesse Talbot Littleton III, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Radiology, University of South Alabama, passed away May 22, 2011, at his home in Theodore, Alabama at the age of 94, after a losing battle with cancer. He was a world renowned radiologist, a compassionate physician, teacher, author, investigator, consultant, and developer of new x-ray devices. Dr. Littleton was born in Corning, New York, April 27, 1917, the son of Dr. Jesse Talbot Littleton, Jr. and Bessie Cook Littleton. His father was Vice-President and Director of Research at Corning Glass Works (now Corning, Inc.) and was one of three scientists who developed Pyrex. His mother was the first person to cook in glass. She was the daughter of Joseph Anderson Cook, first President of the University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg. Dr. Littleton received his early education in Corning, attended Emory and Henry College, Emory, Virginia, and completed his pre-medical education at Johns Hopkins University. He earned his medical degree from Syracuse University, where he graduated cum laude in March, 1943. He was a member of Beta Theta Pi and Phi Chi social fraternities and Alpha Omega Alpha, honorary medical fraternity. He married Martha Morrow April 17, 1943, the devoted mother of their five children. One day after completing a medical internship at Buffalo General Hospital, Buffalo, New York, he was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the US Army Medical Corps, January 1, 1944. After a short tour of duty stateside, he was transferred to the 363rd Medical Laboratory in the Philippine Islands where he saw duty in Leyte and Manila. He received an honorable discharge as Captain in June 1946. Upon leaving military service, Littleton completed a one year residency in both medicine and surgery followed by a three year residency in radiology, all at the Guthrie Clinic, Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pennsylvania. He was certified by the American Board of Radiology, September 1951, and made a Fellow in the American College of Radiology (FACR) in 1960. The practice of radiology became his lifelong, highly successful, and totally satisfying career. His passion and enthusiasm for the practice of radiology never wavered. Littleton was appointed chairman of the radiology department at the Guthrie Clinic, Robert Packer Hospital in 1953, and remained in that capacity for 24 years. He also held hospital staff appointments at nearby hospitals in Blossburg and Towanda, Pennsylvania. From 1955 – 1977, he was first a Clinical Professor and later a full Professor of Radiology at Hahnemann Medical School, Philadelphia, which was affiliated with the Packer Hospital. Littleton was director of the Donald Guthrie Foundation for Medical Research in Sayre from 1972 to 1977. After accepting a position as tenured Professor of Radiology at the University of South Alabama, College of Medicine, in 1977, he and his wife Martha moved to Mobile, Alabama. Upon retirement in 1997, he was appointed Emeritus Professor of Radiology at the University of South Alabama, a title he held until his death. Of the many accomplishments to Littleton’s credit, foremost was his reputation for being the leading pioneer in this country in the field of pluridirectional tomography, a type of x-ray body section imaging. Pluridirectional tomography exams produced sharply focused detail of one section or layer of a body part being examined while excluding all structures above and below the designated section. Littleton said, “This procedure was a new development in diagnostic radiology that provided an aid to the radiologist which could not be equaled by any other roentgen method of that day. For example, new structures like the bones of the middle ear, small bone tumors, fractures not visible on routine x-rays, small early chest tumors and other diagnoses could be seen for the first time.” Pluridirectional tomography was the precursor to computed tomography (CT), which utilizes computers to develop and display radiographic body section images. For the next three plus decades, he conducted many types of studies to tap the full potential of what this type of tomography could do. He was a consultant to all of the major x-ray companies on the design, manufacture and implementation of tomographic equipment during the era when this modality was at the technological forefront of radiology. His telephone rang constantly with queries from radiologist around the country asking advice about which tomographic unit to buy and how to operate it. In 1976, Littleton authored the only definitive textbook on pluridirectional tomography. After the demise of pluridirectional tomography, Littleton’s longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Gil Brogdon, commented, “Jess, pluridirectional tomography was a victim of high–tech ‘progress’. However, you should not be saddened by the turn of events. Your impact on the field of diagnostic radiology with more than three decades of tomography is imprinted in the history of our specialty and will not be eroded by the sands of time.” The transportation of injured patients, and the problems of x-raying them was another one of his interests. In 1956, he patented a stretcher with a removable top to enable transfer of patients from one surface to another, for patients who were unable to move themselves. His hands-on efforts and written studies of transportation of the acutely injured evolved into placement of the first backboards in ambulances. Studies concentrating on transportation of trauma patients and methods for triage and handling mass casualty accidents continued until his retirement. He also designed a dedicated x-ray device called the “Traumex,” in 1979. This machine was primarily for x-ray examination of trauma patients. It allowed an injured patient to be x-rayed from any angle without moving the patient. The units sold well in the states and abroad before the advent of emergency CT examinations. Among his other scientific innovations were: a plastic, wire and bone test object called the “Littleton 3M Phantom”. This allowed radiologists and technologists to do maintenance testing of their tomographic equipment; he had special glasses made to protect the eyes of patients undergoing middle ear tomography from excessive radiation; he developed test objects of unembalmed frozen cadavers that simulated real patients and could be x-rayed any number of times for various research studies with no concern for radiation dose exposures. Littleton was the first radiologist to show that cancerous lung masses would enhance when a patient was injected with a contrast media (commonly called a dye) whereas a benign lesion would not. This study was published and was also presented in exhibit form. A major project was the writing of a comprehensive book on anatomy of the chest published in 1994. For this “Chest Atlas”, human unembalmed frozen cadavers were used as specimens to maintain true body color and organ shapes. Thin anatomic sections, each from a different angle, were labeled and compared side-by-side with corresponding images of pluridirectional tomography, computed tomography (CT), and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The mechanics of working with frozen material required design and fabrication of a number of innovative ideas. Littleton authored 95 publications in radiology journals, wrote four books, and eight chapters in books, developed 15 exhibits for scientific meetings, and gave approximately 200 presentations to scientific and lay groups. He served 33 visiting professorships in medical centers in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia. He held memberships in a long list of professional societies here and abroad and was on numerous radiology committees. He held two government appointments, being the first consultant from radiology to the Food and Drug Administration, and serving on President Johnson’s Committee for Traffic Safety. From this latter committee came the recommendation requiring seat belts as standard equipment in automobiles (prior to that seat belts were in automobiles only by special order of the customer). In addition to medical articles, he wrote for the Police Journal, Golf Digest Journal, and several Sportsmen’s Journals. He was a Past President of Bradford County Pennsylvania Radiological Society and a Past President of the Pennsylvania State Radiological Society. After his first wife Martha died, in 1995 he married Mary Lou Durizch who had been his radiologic technologist, research associate and co-author for many years, and later was Assistant Professor of Radiology, University of South Alabama, College of Medicine. When he wasn’t working, Dr Littleton’s greatest passions were hunting, fishing, and golf. These pastimes he enjoyed with his family, his wife Mary Lou and her family, long time very special friends, and sometimes new friends. As a boy, Jesse learned great love and respect of the outdoors and nature from hunting and fishing with his father. He fished the Indian River and coast of Florida, the rice paddies and ocean near Manila, salt waters off the coasts of Texas and Alabama, fresh water lakes and trout streams in New York and Pennsylvania, and salmon rivers in New Brunswick. For almost two decades he traveled with his brother Joe and friends to a camp in Labrador, Canada to fish for Atlantic Salmon. Jesse tied his own flies and made some of his own rods, including the first prototype fiber glass spinning rod, now in the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum (CFFCM), Livingston Manor, New York. Littleton hunted the lower United States and Alaska, Canada, Russia, Mongolia, and Argentina. He heavily supported wildlife causes, associations and conservation programs. He was well read on all outdoor issues, including nutrition requirements of birds, deer and big horn sheep. Jesse told people, “The game mounts in my trophy room are preserved for posterity.” Though in later years, Jesse no longer hunted mountain sheep and big game, he spent many active years in hunting clubs near his Alabama home. At the time of his death he belonged to the Ravenwood Plantation Hunting Club on Slade Property in Washington County, Alabama. Bird hunting was also a favorite pastime. In earlier years he shot, pheasant, ruffed grouse, woodcock, dove, quail, turkey, geese and ducks all over the country, and as the saying goes, “You can say something bad about my wife or family, but you better not say anything bad about my bird dogs.” Jesse had English Setters all of his life and also Labrador Retrievers after he moved to Mobile. In more recent years his bird hunting was confined to local dove and quail. Up until March of 2011 he ran a dove club with John Cannon called the Bellingrath Dove Club. He was an enthusiastic golfer and after retirement hit the links two or three times a week. While his game was not what it used to be, at 91 he shot his age. Jess developed a close camaraderie with his fellow golfers at the Country Club of Mobile. Sometimes he enjoyed the friendship of his golfing buddies more than the game. He also spent time golfing with neighbors and numerous family members. Jesse was the patriarch in every sense of the word to a large family clan, involving his children in the outdoor activities he loved—a love he wanted to pass on to them. As adults, the children look back and marvel at his patience in mentoring and staying by them through and beyond their growing-up years. Not only for the children of Jesse and his wife Martha, but also for those of Jesse’s and Mary Lou’s blended family, his enduring love could not be questioned. He never doubted in any of his children. Jesse’s wife, Mary Lou, was his ever constant companion in his hunting, fishing, and sometimes golf endeavors. She comments, “As Jesse roamed the land to hunt, he loved every meadow, woods, hill, and mountain he ever walked or climbed.” Lou and Jesse supported each other throughout their years together, finding joy in each other and in their common interests. They read each other like a book. Some of his medical publications were the result of their joint research and clinical efforts. One need be around them for only a short time to see their devotion to one another. Littleton was a well-mannered, agreeable man, honest to a fault, with a positive attitude. He loved a good story, of which he had an abundance. He had many friends from all walks of life in this country and abroad and especially enjoyed mentoring the many radiology residents he trained. He was an eternal optimist and toward the end said, “My long, full life should leave no cause for grief.” He was preceded in death by his parents; his first wife Martha Morrow Littleton; sister, Dr. Martha Littleton Kelly; brother; Joseph Cook Littleton, former Vice-President, Corning, Inc. He is survived by his wife, Mary Lou Goble Durizch Littleton; five children, Dr. Christine (Tom) Littleton Ilgen, Claremont, CA, Joanne Littleton Baker, Medfield, MS, James (Sally) Littleton, Eatonton, GA, Robert (Alice Cheng) Littleton, Brooklyn, NY, and Denise (Barry Thompson) Littleton, Mobile, AL; one stepson, John (Nelle) Durizch, Pittsboro, NC; eleven grandchildren; six step-grandchildren; eight great grandchildren; one step-great grandchild; brother, glass artist, Harvey Littleton; brother-in-law, John Goble; two sisters-in-law, Barbara Gunnell Littleton, and Jean Goble Durrand; numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives and friends. A memorial service will be held from the chapel of Radney Funeral Home on Saturday, June 4, 2011, at 3:00 p.m. with Rev. Jeff Spiller officiating and eulogy by Dr. Gil Brogdon. The family will receive friends from 1:00 p.m. until service time at the funeral home. A light buffet and gathering will follow the service at Radney Funeral Home. Private interment of his ashes will be in Mobile Memorial Gardens with arrangements by Radney Funeral Home and in Tioga Point Cemetery, Athens, Pennsylvania with arrangements being handled by Jay Lowery Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers the family suggests that donations be made to: Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Tribute Program, P. O. Box 1000, Dept. 142, Memphis, TN 38148, or Fred and Harriet Memorial Library, P. O. Box 395, Hammondsport, NY, 14840. Condolences may be offered at


  • Memorial Visitation Saturday, June 4, 2011
  • Memorial Service Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jesse Talbot Littleton III, M.D.

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Isaac Pipkin

July 2, 2011

Dr. Littleton was a true gentleman and an outstanding radiologist who loved all aspects of life. Jessse being a long time customer, my wife ,Jacquie and I are lucky to call him a friend. ....Ike Pipkin

Bonnie Packer

June 10, 2011

I have very fond memories of Dr. Littleton, his wife Martha and his children, severalof whom I went to school with when we lived on South Main Street, Athens, Pa. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. What an incredible life your father lead!

With sincere sympathy,
Bonnie Brigham Packer
12 So. Lincoln Ave.
Wenonah, NJ 08090

Gerri Vance

June 10, 2011

Mary Lou: My prayers go out to you and your family. Dr. Littleton will be greatly missed! Gerri Vance
~ Gerri Vance, Mobile, Alabama

Gil Brogdon, M.D.

June 10, 2011

Eulogy for Jesse Littleton, III, M.D.
It is fitting that we gather here this afternoon for a memorialization of our friend, Jesse Littleton. I use the word friend for he was such to his colleagues, associates, hunting, fishing, and golfing buddies, neighbors, caretakers, and even family. Not every patriarch can accomplish friendship with his progeny, but Jess achieved that status as evidenced by the outpouring of love and true admiration he received from them as they visited during his final weeks.

We grieve for ourselves because we have lost this dear friend. We need not grieve for Jess who departed his long life, lucid, in control of his faculties, at peace with himself, without regret for things done or for things left undone of which there were precious few! So, instead of grieving, we should celebrate the life of this remarkable man, not only for its unusual longevity but also for his accomplishments, contributions, compassion, resourcefulness, imagination and inventiveness and, especially, his infectious joy and enthusiasm for life itself.

I think Jess’ character was strongly molded by his father, a highly successful inventor and scientist who endowed his four children with sufficient financial security that they probably could have lived out their lives as dilettantes or even wastrels. But he also endowed them with a strong sense of responsibility for service and achievement. And indeed, sister Martha, brothers, Joe and Harvey and Jess all distinguished themselves and their family in the social sciences, fine arts and medicine.

As he finished medical school, Jesse married Martha Morrow and they produced five bright, achieving children in the family pattern who have, in turn produced grandchildren and beyond fit the mold. I hope that most of you have read the newspaper story or the obituary of Jesse because I cannot possibly condense his career and achievements into the short time allotted today. Suffice it to say that he was a fine physician, an organized thinker, a solid and inventive researcher with an inquiring mind who held full professorship in three different medical schools.

Jesse was in great demand as a speaker and guest professor in this country and abroad. He produced 95 scientific publications including four books and eight book chapters for other people’s books – often with Mary Lou as his research assistant or co-author-radiologist came to train with him from throughout the US and Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, and Japan.

Jess’ principal research and clinical interest for most of his professional life was the concept of sectional body imaging that is the acquiring of an x-ray image of only a thin section of the body without the confusion of other structure lying above or below, because the x-rays go through and through. Jess had the distinction of decades of recognition as the world expert in this particular procedure – it was called pluridirectional tomography.

Eventually, pluridirectional tomography was a victim of high-tech progress and was superseded by the “cat scan” or as we now know CT or Computed Tomography, a new method based on computer technology and producing images with better definition and separation of tissue densities.

There is no question but that Jess’ advocacy of sectional imaging in the pre-computer era prepared the way for the rapid appreciation of the value of CT and its immediate acceptance throughout the world of medicine. But Jess was no “Johnny-one-note”. His interests, research and inventive talents ranged widely from devices and systems to transport and examine severely ill or traumatized patients without adding to their misery, to automatic exposure techniques for chest films, to special glass to protect the eyes of both radiologists and patients from the harmful effects of x-rays on the lens, to the routine installation of seat belts in automobiles. He was truly a renaissance man, the product of an era when radiology and its tools, along with the rest of medicine, were advancing with extraordinary speed, when fresh procedures and equipment would flower, and then wither to be supplanted with newer ones. His kind is unlikely to be replicated in our burgeoning scientific future.

It’s funny, but neither Jess nor I could remember precisely when we first met. Of course I knew of him by reputation and through his publications before. But in the early 1960’s shortly after I had gone to John Hopkins as chief of diagnostic radiology Jess, full of enthusiasm for a piece of equipment called the polytome, the first capable of pluridirectional tomography and available only at Jess’ department in the Guthrie Clinic in Sayre, PA, as a result of that visit I soon acquired funding for a polytome at Hopkins, and of course, had to ask Jess back to teach us how to interpret the images it produced. He brought along Mary Lou Durizch, his main technologist and research assistant to teach our appointed technologist, Mary Dubrowsky, how to operate the equipment. And that was, to borrow the famous final line of dialogue in the movie, “Casablanca”, “The beginning of a beautiful friendship” that survived and thrived over many years and long distances until quite by unrelated happenstance we both came to Mobile, Alabama – Jess in 1977, and I in 1978.

Although Jess was born, educated and spent more than 2/3 of his long life in the north, he had strong family ties in Mississippi and his persona, manners and social grace closely exemplified those characteristics commonly attributed to the idealized southern gentleman. He fit into southern Alabama like a hand in a glove. He made friends in all parameters of his wide-ranging interests and activities, Martha, too, fit right into life as a southern lady, even becoming a docent at Oakleigh.

Jess continued, even intensified, his research and teaching after coming south, but the move to warmer climes, especially in winter, also intensified the other defining interest of his life – his love of the outdoors, especially while hunting, fishing or playing golf. His opportunities and seasons for pursuing all those activities were greatly broadened.

Jess was no wanton slayer of fish, fowl or fauna. Indeed he was a sincere conservationist and generous supporter of wild life causes and preservation.

The Littleton family, for generations, at what they caught or killed. Many visitors had their first taste of Venison or grilled fish or baked wild turkey in Jess and Martha’s home. There is even a family legend, perhaps apocryphal, of an owl consumed at dinner after it stayed over a Littleton hunting party and was prepared and served by an unwitting cook along with a brace of grouse.

Years ago, I enjoyed the most expensive meal of my life at the Littleton home in Pennsylvania. Jess had recently returned from an expedition to Alaska to bag a Dahl Sheep to add to this collection of all the horned animals on the continent. The trip had cost about $15,000, not just pocket money in those days, but was successful. Jess returned with the head and horns from his trophy room and a small lump of meat that the three of us polished off for dinner. I used the word “enjoyed” rather loosely, for even Martha’s mint jelly couldn’t do much for that wild mutton. Still, by anyone’s arithmetic, that was a $5,000 a plate meal.

On occasion, Jess was a charming dinner companion. He loved a good story and was a fine raconteur with a substantial repertoire. One of his favorite was a tale of a fishing venture when none of the usual baits or lures was working. Finally, in desperation, he walked back to his car, came back with a handful of suppositories which worked like a charm and he soon caught his limit. No one could doubt Jess’s confirmation of the efficiency of suppositories as fish bait, but one wonders why he had suppositories in his glove compartment in the first place.

Tragically, Martha was stricken with a rare neurological disease which reduced her a helpless bed patient requiring round the clock nursing at home for many months, and Jesse devotedly undertook a lion’s share of her care upon himself until Martha’s final release form her long travail in 1994.

Jess kept himself in good shape with all his outdoor activity and a healthy diet – barring the occasional owl. He always met life’s challenges head-on, with incurable optimism and a positive attitude. Jess Littleton was one of the steadiest people I’ve ever known. He was invariable—without the mood swings, erratic behavior or attacks of pure cussedness that afflict most of us from time to time.

It has been such a pleasure to observe the happiness that Jess and Mary Lou have shared since their marriage. They had an almost uncanny perception of each other’s thoughts and needs, seemed to communicate almost telepathically, with a total sharing of common interests and activities. Lou’s family – brother, son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren, have melded almost seamlessly into the larger family, sharing their love and respect for the patriarch. Lou’s devotion to Jess during his short terminal illness has been inspirational and touching to all who have witnessed it, but it was really only a continuation of her usual devotion to his needs, only under more trying and exhausting circumstances.

Now we survivors must come to grips with the departure of Jess Littleton from our midst, at the end of a long life well-lived. Jess will endure in the memories of his friends and family. The legacy of his professional life will continue to touch people who never knew him, and never will, in surprising ways.

A friend of mine wrote a note this week saying “This morning I read Dr. Littleton’s obit and was totally caught up in his fascinating life and family. How did any one man accomplish so much in 94 short years? Now, every time I fasten my seat belt, I’ll think about a man I never met.”

So we celebrate the life of our friend who’s work will continue to benefit and enhance the lives of many others unknown to him or to us, a remarkable man cherished by innumerable friends, a man of whom his parents would have been proud, a man admired and loved by an immediate family counting four generations, a man who has enjoyed the love and devotion of two adoring wives….what better could be said of any many, of any age.

Gil Brogden, M.D.
University Distinguished Professor Emeritus
University of South Alabama

John Durizch

June 8, 2011

A recollection from Mary Lou’s son, John:
Doc was my other dad. He was a powerful role model. Among his attributes, he was a problem solver and inventor. If he didn’t have a tool or piece of equipment to lift something, slide it, or make it go faster, he’d make one. If all else failed, it was off to the local hardware store or Lowe’s. He shared his legendary secret of “triangulating” to find his favorite fishing spot on Keuka Lake with me. At 93, he could still tie a fishing knot by instinct. He taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to. Much of what I learned from Doc came from watching the way he lived his daily life. Even things that seemed to be mundane, such as his ritual of setting-up grapefruit and English muffins for breakfast everyday were an education. Any time my kids and I were with Doc, we always found a golf course. I watched him patiently teach my sons to golf. When it came to hitting the ball, Doc always reminded me to just go with my “great natural swing.” Whenever Doc was in my home, he sat on the couch in our sunroom reading a Louis Lamour western, with our loyal dog at his side. There are memories of his visits all over our home. Today as I gaze into the sun coming through the window this thought comes to me: “He was here…and now he is everywhere.”

Denise Littleton

June 7, 2011

A recollection from Doctor Littleton’s third child, Jim:
The Best Dad
Mid-February Dad called to say it was a great day. Always the scientist, he pondered how and when his life would end, and now he knew. He covered the medical details with his typical doctor-patient manner, and shared a side seldom seen. When asked, “What now?” Dad replied: “I want to sit and hold Mary Lou’s hand and watch sunsets”. “Goodbyes” were not his forte. Dad blazed the trail, and believers followed. His schedule was relentless, and his ability to balance work and play envied by us all. Everyone was a friend of Doc’s. His favorite rationale for any adventure was: “You only go round this world once, and I don’t intent to waste it!” His life was rich with experiences and his bucket list small as he savored the simplest of pleasures. Dad was at his best sharing the world with his children and grandchildren as they aged. Conducting anatomy lessons while dressing a deer, perfecting a golf shot or solving a crisis was Dad at his best. Dad wondered if he got it right outside of his professional career. I say well done, you are by rock and my hero.

Bob Littleton

June 7, 2011

A recollection from Doctor Littleton’s fourth child, Bob:

More than a Canoe Trip
Our house in Athens was on a peninsula between two rivers. The summer I turned 12, Dad took me on a twenty mile canoe trip downriver to the county seat. I remember our first rapids. First I saw them, then I heard them, then the river picked up the canoe and threw us into them. Everything happened at once. In the bow, I paddled furiously on the right, then the left, then the right again. Rocks charged out of the foam. We bumped and scraped and splashed. Then, just like that, we were back in slow water, drifting safe and dry in the sun. Dad, beaming, congratulated me for steering us through. I didn’t know then that the person in the back of a canoe does all the steering. The best fathers, like mine, imitate God. They take you to places you’re afraid you can’t handle, but they know you can. Then, they let you take credit for what they did. They aren’t proud or self-seeking. The best fathers, like mine, are hard to anger. They keep no record of their children’s wrongs. The always protect, always trust, always hope, always preserve. Their love never fails.

Jim Littleton

June 7, 2011

A recollection from Doctor Littleton’s third child, Jim:
The Best Dad
Mid-February Dad called to say it was a great day. Always the scientist, he pondered how and when his life would end, and now he knew. He covered the medical details with his typical doctor-patient manner, and shared a side seldom seen. When asked, “What now?” Dad replied: “I want to sit and hold Mary Lou’s hand and watch sunsets”. “Goodbyes” were not his forte. Dad blazed the trail, and believers followed. His schedule was relentless, and his ability to balance work and play envied by us all. Everyone was a friend of Doc’s. His favorite rationale for any adventure was: “You only go round this world once, and I don’t intent to waste it!” His life was rich with experiences and his bucket list small as he savored the simplest of pleasures. Dad was at his best sharing the world with his children and grandchildren as they aged. Conducting anatomy lessons while dressing a deer, perfecting a golf shot or solving a crisis was Dad at his best. Dad wondered if he got it right outside of his professional career. I say well done, you are by rock and my hero.

Joanne Littleton

June 7, 2011

A recollection from Doctor Littleton’s second child, Joanne:
Fly Fishing with Dad
Home was a tiny valley nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. By necessity or choice most families farmed, marking each year’s passage by the repeating cycle of earth’s seasons….
Thru Dad, a passionate outdoorsman, our family also marked each year’s passage by the repeating cycle of “open” seasons…fall and winter were for tracking quail, pheasant, grouse, rabbit, deer, and turkey…early spring to summer’s end belonged to the pursuit of trout in high mountain stream.
In the early ‘50’s, on opening day of trout season, our fishing master was joined by one very young but willing new apprentice. Slipping out of the house at first light, we crept our way up familiar rutted back country roads, their dirt beds made muddy and soft from the first spring thaws, their terminus a high mountain meadow. Once there, we donned waders, gathered gear, crossed thru still browned grasses into woods, and followed the sweet sounds of rushing water to the banks of the nearby trout stream.
I sat on the bank as Dad stepped with care into the streams’ fastest swirling rapids. He anchored his feet among rocks scoured clean by the water’s force. Then, with an economy of motion, he slowly let out the line, drew back his rod, and flicked his wrist, sending fly and line floating out over the water. This rhythm was repeated, with mesmerizing grace, until the first trout soon leapt up to take the tempting bait. It looked so easy!
Dad returned to the bank. I stepped near him to follow his example. I looked at the rapids with growing trepidation, and chose instead to step into quieter, shallow water, where the creek bed was a comforting, wavery green below. Instantly, I sat down with a splash. Dad smiled, helped me up and suggested the bank might just be an excellent fishing locale. I agreed. My first enthusiastic, awkward casts caught just about everything…except trout. Time and again he patiently freed line and fly from tree limbs, undergrowth, and occasionally, his daughter. Following my final try of the day, he untangled the line from the edge of the stream and noted I was improving. After all, with that cast, the fly had actually reached the water! Fly fishing lesions continued. Dad remained ever patient and steadfastly encouraging. The meadow greened quickly. Slowly, slowly, the apprentice’s casting accuracy improved.

Christine Littleton

June 7, 2011

A recollection from Doctor Littleton's eldest child, Christine:

The Scientist

Dad was the teacher who, early in my life, introduced me to the scientific method. My memory of the event is that we were in the bathroom upstairs in the original, tiny Athens, Pennsylvania house and it was bath time. As usual, we three older kids were sharing a community head cold. Before he lowered me into the tub for my turn, Dad attempted to wipe my runny nose with toilet paper. Toilet paper?!!!! I refused to have my nose in contact with anything but Kleenex, although Dad claimed that there was no difference between them. Thus came the setting for the experiment: Dad sat me down on the toilet seat; had me close my eyes; and, asked me to feel two different tissue samples to see if I could distinguish toilet paper from Kleenex. I failed the test but the experimental design was superb! Who knows? That evening may have been the spark for my career in scientific research!