When Elizabeth Gregory traveled to various parts of the world, she returned with photographs of children, who were a common thread that bound together her experiences at home and abroad. Wherever she went, she wanted to chronicle the lives of the children she encountered.
Although she had no children of her own, she often regarded herself as a mother figure to the 10,000 patients she estimated she treated as a pediatrician in Arlington. During the more than four decades she ran her medical practice out of her Arlington home, Dr. Gregory kept nearly every card or letter she received from her young charges, some of whom returned years later with their own children in tow.
“I think she earned respect by demonstrating her knowledge and being very straightforward and clear with people about what was needed,” said her nephew, Robert Gregory of Montclair, N.J.
Dr. Gregory, who also was a mainstay in Greater Boston’s Armenian cultural community, died Oct. 30 in the Kendal-Crosslands Communities assisted living facility in Kennett Square, Pa., of an apparent stroke. She was 95.
“She was full of zest, full of life, and one of the most well-read people I’ve ever met in my life,” said Ara Arakelian, president of the Friends of the Armenian Culture Society in Belmont.
Dr. Gregory had served on the organization’s advisory board, and had co-produced a weekly radio show on WCRB-FM that played Armenian music, starting in the late 1970s.
She also helped to promote the works of Alan Hovhaness, a composer of Armenian and Scottish descent.
‘She was a straight-shooter, and that was helpful to people. . . . People could count on her.’
“Dr. Elizabeth Gregory befriended Hovhaness in the early 1940s and was the driving force behind his first concerts in Boston,” Marco Shirodkar wrote in a biographical summary of the composer on the website www.hovhaness.com.
She also was friends with artists including Hyman Bloom, and donated her files and correspondence to her alma mater, Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.
According to a historical note about Dr. Gregory online with the college’s Edmund S. Muskie archives and collections, she “amassed an important collection of modern art, focusing specifically on the work of painter Hyman Bloom, a member of the Boston Expressionist movement.”
In her Arlington office, Dr. Gregory had a way of distilling information for parents and their children that put them at ease, her nephew said.
“She was pretty methodical about getting to the answer and was very diligent about following up, and in many cases, agonized in making sure she did the right thing with these patients,” he said.
Dr. Gregory took meticulous notes and spent seemingly endless hours keeping current with medical advances by reading journals and scholarly papers written about cutting-edge studies.
“She was very confident in her knowledge,” her nephew said, “and I think that generally gave people confidence in her ability and she was generally right.”
Her medical offices made up the front portion of her Arlington home, which she designed and had built in the early 1950s. Dolls lined the shelves of a glass case in the waiting room, which also was filled with toys for youngsters to play with while they waited for their appointments, as well as an ample supply of books.
Dr. Gregory was born in Bridgewater to immigrant parents who had fled the Armenian genocide. Her father ran shoe factories and the family moved for a time to Chelsea and Lewiston, Maine, where Dr. Gregory graduated from Lewiston High School in the mid-1930s.
She went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Bates College in 1938, where she was “the only female in her class to complete the pre-med courses,” according to the college’s historical note.
At a time when it was less common for women to study medicine and become physicians, she graduated in 1942 from Boston University with a medical degree.
Over the years, she served as a Bates College trustee and taught at Harvard Medical School.
In 1992, the Armenian Students’ Association, based in Warwick, R.I., presented her with the Sarafian Award for Good Citizenship for her contributions to community life.
During her career, according to the association, Dr. Gregory also helped launch or served in roles with the Armenian American Medical Association and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research.
According to the association and her family, Dr. Gregory had said that her father “was way ahead of his time. He felt that a girl should have the same education as a boy, and that all of us should go into service professions of some kind. As an immigrant, he had the idea that education was the most important thing you could have because no one could take it away from you.”
In 1989, Dr. Gregory retired and closed her Arlington practice after more than four decades as a physician. She later moved to Pennsylvania.
In addition to her nephew, Dr. Gregory leaves her brother, Robert Sissag Gregory of Montclair.
Her family plans to schedule a memorial concert in the spring to celebrate Dr. Gregory’s life. Burial was private in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.
“She was a straight-shooter, and that was helpful to people,” Arakelian said. “They knew what she stood for. She always spoke her mind in meetings, and that was very valuable. People could count on her.”
Dr. Gregory, Arakelian added, “never thought that failure was an option. She was result-oriented and very much wanted to succeed in whatever she did.”Emma Stickgold
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