By Kris Martins
Terry Andrus, East Alabama Medical Center president and CEO, remembers Robert Mardre as not only an expert in his medical profession, but an expert gentleman — one who will be missed at the hospital following his passing about a week ago.
“Everybody liked him. … He was a great contributor to what we have today medically in the Auburn-Opelika area,” Andrus said.
Mardre, 84, who was the first board-certified radiologist at what was then the Lee County Hospital, will have the radiology area of the East Alabama Medical Center named after him for his 40 years of service to the hospital and his work toward growing the radiology field there. He died Dec. 10.
Aside from his professionalism, Mardre was also known for his sense of humor, one that shined through at the EAMC, Andrus recalled.
Andrus would deliver the newspaper to Mardre every day, which led to a running joke in the radiology department.
“Kind of as a joke, at Christmastime he would get all the radiologists to give me a Christmas card, and there would be like 31 cents as my tip for the year,” Andrus said. “So we just picked at each other about me being the paper boy and he giving me this big bonus for my work as a paper delivery guy.”
Andrus stayed faithful to the task, continuing to deliver him newspapers even when Mardre was a patient at the hospital in the months before he died.
Mardre, an Opelika native, came to the hospital in 1968 after working at UAB and helped establish the EAMC’s cancer program.
“He really ushered in modern radiology to our community. I think we all owe him a debt of gratitude for that,” Andrus, who knew Mardre for 33 years, said.
The medical center will hold a ceremony in his honor after the first of the year, Andrus said, but specifics on possibly relocating the existing “Leaders of Distinction” plaque, which hangs in the ICU waiting room area, to the radiology area are undecided at this time.
It was during his time at UAB that Mardre met his wife of 56 years, Judy Mardre, who clearly remembers the day they met.
She was on a date with his friend when Robert Mardre walked in alone and joined the two for the evening. The next day, he called his friend to ask if it was OK if he called her, since it seemed like the two were not much more than friends.
When her phone rang, she said yes. And six months later, she said, “I do.”
“We had our first date on Jan. 29 and married on July 29,” she said. Six months to the date.
Judy Mardre described her spouse as a “loving, caring husband” with a wonderful sense of humor. Even through his illness, she said he still maintained that witty sense of humor his family and others know well.
“He was well-liked by the radiology staff, and I can still remember the retirement party they had for him in June 2008,” said John Atkinson, PR and marketing director for the medical center. “As a radiologist, he worked directly with our staff every day, and you could tell they had such a fun relationship. They even made T-shirts with his picture on them to mark the celebration.”
Early in his career path, Robert Mardre wasn’t sure what specialty he wanted to pursue, initially thinking he wanted to be an OB-GYN, according to his wife. Then he changed to internal medicine, but finally settled on radiology.
Once he completed an internship in Mobile, he served in the military for two years before returning to Birmingham for his radiology residency. Finally, he returned home to Opelika where he remained.
When asked if he was passionate about anything outside of radiology, Judy Mardre simply responded, “Actually, no.”
“It was his passion,” she said.
It was professionals like Mardre who led the way to establish sophisticated medicine in this area, Andrus added.
“Like I said, it just doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “You have to have pioneers for anything that’s successful, and he was one of those pioneers.”