As physician and warrior, he served with distinction
St. Petersburg resident Dr. N.W. Gable had a heart for the soldiers in his unit and for the patients who came under his care.
By SCOTT TAYLOR HARTZELL
Published February 9, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - While organizing the local National Guard in 1936, Dr. N.W. Gable Jr. bred spirit and style into his unit.
"The men were issued dashing uniforms, rakish caps and shiny boots, and won any number of drills," the Evening Independent wrote.
"But they'd never give us the prizes," Gable said.
During his four-decade long military career, Gable earned numerous American and foreign honors. St. Petersburg's armories have carried the Gable name since 1942.
As part of a family of doctors, Gable excelled as an area physician for nearly half a century. He presided over the Pinellas County Medical Society and served as chief of staff at three area hospitals.
"He was among the top 10 doctors in town during the mid 1930s," said former Guardsman Charles Louie Crawford, 88.
Nonie Worth Gable was born in Brooks, Ga., in 1899. He joined the Georgia National Guard in 1916 and battled Pancho Villa's forces near Mexico. In 1918 as a second lieutenant, Gable taught military instruction at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts. He was a first lieutenant and captain in the Army's medical reserve after World War I.
Gable graduated in 1923 as an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist from Georgia's Emory University. He later completed postgraduate work in Austria, London and Manhattan.
In 1925, Gable established his St. Petersburg practice and four years later married Ethel Rockefeller. The couple would have one son, Roderick, and reside at 2345 Trelain Drive.
While war threatened Europe in 1936, Gable established and commanded the city's first National Guard unit. "We had two ambulances (World War I surplus with frail tires), a truck and a motorcycle with a sidecar," Gable said of his 118th Ambulance Co.
"We trained at Camp Foster (Jacksonville) and Fort Bragg (North Carolina)," said Jack Rankin before passing away in 2004. "Fished, played crap and poker. We had one helluva good time."
After attending chemical warfare school in Maryland in 1938, Gable returned as a major to his unit, which had become the 116th Field Artillery, 31st Infantry Division. Two years later the physician/warrior was elected president of the Pinellas County Medical Society.
In 1942, a new $70,000 armory on 16th Street N at Woodlawn Park was dedicated and named after Gable. "Maj. Gable worked indefatigably to put through this project," a St. Petersburg Times editorial read then.
As part of the Army's medical branch in 1943, Gable was sent to China sans his unit as a surgeon and military advisor for the Southern Command of the Chinese Combat Command. During his tour that included Burma and India, Gable was elevated to major general and received the Bronze Star.
The Chinese army awarded him the Medal of Merit and the Grand Star of Honor. "A much decorated soldier," Master Sgt. Mark Warren wrote of Gable after the war, when Gable was training recruits that included his son.
In 1948, Gable was awarded the Florida Cross for his distinguished military service. His citation acknowledged his "attention to duty, continuous superior discharge of all assignments and progressive leadership."
Gable served as chief of staff at St. Anthony, Mound Park and Mercy hospitals. With Times editor Stan Witwer in 1951, Gable established the Times' Medical Forum, a monthly gathering during which residents posed questions to doctors.
"I believe they met at Christ Methodist Church," said former journalist Mary Evertz. "It lasted several years."
When Gable retired as a brigadier general in 1957, the guard honored him in Tampa with a ceremony and review at Fort Hesterly Armory.
Under a blanket of March rain in 1959, a new $270,000 armory was dedicated at 3601 38th Ave. S. About 120 civilians witnessed the ceremony; about 500 guests attended the evening ball. Six months later, the armory was named in Gable's honor.
This is "a mark of honor and in recognition of (Gable's) distinguished military service," read the order of then Gov. LeRoy Collins.
In June 1971, just months after closing his practice, Gable died "after a long illness," the press reported. He was 72. "Dr. Gable was a natural good guy and gentleman," said Sidney Hilliard, 89, a guardsman and Gable patient.
Scott Taylor Hartzell can be reached at email@example.com
[Last modified February 9, 2005, 00:43:19]
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