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History-Mexico: Angel of Guadalupe (1954); ROGOFF, Mary

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History-Mexico: Angel of Guadalupe (1954); ROGOFF, Mary

Posted: 1213619111000
Classification: Query
Los Angeles Times, dated Jan 29, 1954, pg. A5

Angel of Guadalupe by Ed Ainsworth

It is rough going. The single track dirt road cuts off the Tijuana-Ensenada highway about 30 kilometers north of Ensenada. Over rolling hills and in boulder-strewn valleys it meanders through 18 kilometers of chuck holes and ruts to the picturesque Russian village of Guadalupe, settled in 1905 by persecuted Molokans, members of a religious sect who fled their native land.

About 100 yards from the lane which forms the main street of Guadalupe is the modest home of Mary Rogoff and her husband.

Mary remembers nothing of Russia. She was only a few days old when her parents left for America. She is 49 now. She speaks perfect English, but her husband prefers Russian.

On their farm in Guadalupe the long drought has left deep scars. No longer is there good forage for the cattle. No longer can hogs find sustenance in the fields. Even the chickens are greatly reduced in number because there is so little for them to eat, and grain is too high to buy.

The fields lie parched and brown. Only where the wells are extra good is there water enough for irrigation. The hay of big crops and happy gatherings has faded into memory.

Yet, in Guadalupe one thing continues as always, regardless of good times or bad, regardless of the drought. This is human illness and suffering.

Babies continue to be born. Old people die. Some young people are hurt in accidents and fires, and some of them die too.

All this stirs a great compassion I the heart of Mary Rogoff. She is not content to sympathize. She must help. She must alleviate pain, minister to the sick, welcome babies into the world, and ease death pangs.

For 16 years now Mary has been the nurse of Guadalupe and vicinity.

In the surrounding hills live many Indians, subsisting somehow even in drought. They are always poor, always in need.

Mary does not nurse for money. She does it because she cannot bear to see people suffering. Rarely does anyone have anything with which to pay even if Mary would accept it.

So extensive has been her assistance to the helpless that she has had to build a hospital of her own. It is just a little three-room adobe structure with very low ceilings and few windows, but it is shelter for the destitute. In the place are a few iron beds with faded covers, odds and ends of discarded hospital equipment, a dental chair fully 75 years old and cabinets of drugs.

Mary is always in need of supplies and surgical dressings and even pieces of colored cloth. The latter she gives to expectant mothers who make their way to the hospital.

“It helps if they sew and make baby clothes while they await their pains.” Mary says. “I try to keep them busy.”

In one recent week she delivered four babies. The morning of our visit she had just taken care of a little boy who had eaten something which gave him convulsions. He went away pale and very, very empty but Mary saved him.

She does everything she can on an emergency basis and tries to send all the really serious cases to doctors in Ensenada. Sometimes there isn’t time to wait.

One morning early Mary saw a man lying out by the road. She investigated. The man was a big Indian weighing more than 200 pounds, drunk, and with a huge hole torn in his hip. He was bleeding to death.

Everybody was gone. Mary had to handle the situation by herself. Somehow she dragged the Indian to the hospital, pulled him onto a cot. Blood was spurting all over her. She tried to take off his trousers. He roused up and resisted.

Mary hit him as hard as she could on the chin. He collapsed. Then she cut off his pants just below the belt line, cleaned the wound, sewed it up and applied dressings.

He fell into a deep sleep.

After a while the police came by to check up on things. They were amazed at Mary’s wonderful job.

“But, senora,” they asked, “what is this huge lump on the man’s jaw?”

“Just my anesthetic,” replied Mary calmly.

In the little hospital many things are needed. The demands grow greater and greater upon Mary Rogoff. She cooks, sews, washes, does housework, and raises orphans. To our large party she served on the spur of the moment a splendid meal of Russian soup, homemade goat cheese, hot rolls just taken from the huge outdoor stone oven, samovar tea with lemon and mint leaves in it, homemade preserves for sweetening the tea and a full-bodied local zinfandel wine.

Gaston Flourie, Ensenada businessman who took us to Guadalupe, is one of those who try to help Rogoff Hospital all he can. But Mary never seems to get caught up with the need for supplies.

In all the region, even with the hard times and the drought, people’s faces light up when the name of Mary Rogoff is mentioned.

“I wish I had more training,” Mary murmurs. “I’m only a practical nurse.”

Somehow, though, I imagine that in the Great Register, Mary Rogoff is listed in letters of gold as the Practical Angel of Guadalupe.
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