|The George Blue Spruce Story
Early in my writing career I did some ghostwriting between
writing newspaper and magazine articles and pursuing my
dream of writing books for kids. One day after I had filled a
short shelf in my bookcase with 21 titles for kids (with my
byline prominently displayed), my phone rang and a
ghostwriting opportunity came my way.
"Would you want to write my story?" I heard a familiar voice
say. It was Dr. George Blue Spruce. I had interviewed him
for a profile in Healers. He had been a very willing subject for
my project and, I would, of course, consider writing his story.
At that time, however, I had a deadline about three months
away and had my nose pretty much glued to my computer
screen. So, I told him I would "get back" to him. I was pretty
sure my answer would be "yes."
George Blue Spruce chose the dental profession because he wanted to serve his people and provide them with better dental
care than they had been receiving. Soon after graduating from Creighton University School of Dentistry in Omaha, Dr. Blue
Spruce concluded that as an individual clinician, he could treat one patient at a time; however, if he entered a career in health
care management, he could help provide health and dental care for thousands of American Indians. So, he went back to
school, obtained a Master's degree in Health Care Management from the University of California at Berkeley and, after years
of hard work, he reached the zenith of his career as an Assistant Surgeon General. I was honored that Dr. Blue Spruce chose
me to help him write his life story.
The following January, George and I began working out the details
and work began on SEARCHING FOR MY DESTINY in March.
And, George and I were about to set out on a journey down his
memory lane with me following in his footsteps all the way.
While writing the book, the Blue Spruces and the
Durretts became close friends. Here we are
enjoying a break and lunch at Dillon's in Surprise,
Arizona. Left to right: George Blue Spruce, Patricia
Blue Spruce, Deanne Durrett, and Dan Durrett.
Since George is American Indian, his story can't be told without
including his heritage in a chapter that reaches back into
Puebloean history. I researched a brief history of his people
and listened intently as George told me about his parents and
grandparents and the knowledge of the culture they passed
down to him. They left him a rich legacy - pride in his heritage
and the memory of their undying love.
I followed George through his boyhood days with his friends,
"the Campus Brats" on the Santa Fe Indian School campus
(his playground), to public schools in Santa Fe, St. Michael's
School for Boys, and Creighton University in Omaha. I shared
his joy when he received his DDS and tears welled in my eyes
when he recalled the deaths of his grandparents and parents.
Then, with me right there on memory lane beside him, George gave dental care
to death row prisoners at the State penitentiary the summer he passed the
New Mexico dental boards. I followed along to the Great Lakes Naval Station
where George reported for duty and then to Mare Island where George was
the dentist for the crew of the Nautilus, the first atomic submarine. After his
discharge from the Navy we arrived in Taos, New Mexico, moved on to the
wilds of Montana, enjoyed the bright lights of New York City and endured the
blast of winter's worst storm while George served at the US Merchant Marine
Academy. From there, George's path took us to South America, back to
Washington D.C., and we finally ended up in Phoenix, Arizona where Dr. Blue
Spruce served as the Director of Indian Health Service for the Phoenix Area
with the rank of Assistant Surgeon General (the Public Heath Service equivalent
to a Rear Admiral in the Navy) Several years later, George formally retired but
kept on working. Early in his retirement, Dr. Blue Spruce founded the Society of
American Indian Dentists and served as the organization's president for many
years. In 2002, Dr. Blue Spruce was named Assistant Dean of the Arizona
School of Dentistry and Oral Health (for American Indian Affairs). This has
given him added opportunities to encourage American Indian students to pursue
a career in Dentistry.
Dr. Blue Spruce continues to be the "busiest retired man" I ever knew. His life long ambition has been to provide better dental
care for his people and this has been his destiny. Through his long career he has worked to encourage young people to follow
him into the health care professions. In the final chapter of SEARCHING FOR MY DESTINY Dr. Blue Spruce has this message
for American Indian young people:
For years, I have been inviting the young to "Come follow me." One man cannot achieve all that needs to be done, but he can
clear a path to make it easier for others to follow. And, when there are enough who follow, the job can be done.
When there are leaders in all professions who clear paths, and there are enough who follow, then American Indians can
Dr. George Blue Spruce in dressed Pueblo
regalia on his way to a speaking
engagement in 2006.
Dr. George Blue Spruce, ASG,
Director of Phoenix Area Indian
Health Service, 1979-1986. After
retirement, his formal title became
Dr. George Blue Spruce, ASG
While learning about his Pueblo ancestors,
George visited the cliff dwellings in Mesa
Verde National Park, Colorado in 1966.
|In January 2006, Dan and I joined fifty-some other people (family, friends, and colleagues) at the Santa Fe Indian School for a
Dr. Blue Spruce's 75th birthday.
|Me, Dr. Blue Spruce, and Dan dressed 40's style
for the party.
|A table filled with memorabilia highlighting
Dr. Blue Spruce's life.
|The honoree and his best gal.
|A dining hall filled with friends and family.
Dr. Blue Spruce is a shinning light of encouragement to
young people considering the dental profession.
|Late in 2006
I finished writing George's
|Page created by and property of Deanne Durrett
Copyright 2002 - 2007 Deanne Durrett
Last update 2/24/08
I carefully packaged the
finished manuscript and sent
it to George via Priority Mail
George received it a few days later
and it met his satisfaction, received
his approval, and I received my final
I asked George to take a photo of
the check writing. He sent me this
special memento of adventure and
the friendship that developed... He
looked at my photo while he made
out the check.
Along with just about everyone who knows them, I respect and admire
Dr. and Mrs. George Blue Spruce. Patricia takes such pride in George's
accomplishment, His story is hers as well and she was a partner in this
Thank you, George and Patricia for choosing me to write your story.