Raul Dario Isern, M.D.
Raul Dario Isern, M.D.
April 11, 1918 - January 22, 2014
Raul Dario Isern, M.D.
Raul Dario Isern, MD, also known as “Papi,” “Abu”, and “Rubén” to his family and close friends, received his eternal reward on January 22, 2014 in Beaumont, Texas, at the young age of 95 surrounded by his family. He was the consummate husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, son, brother, friend and physician.
He was born to Luis and Rafaela Isern in Manzanillo, Oriente, Cuba on April 11, 1918. His father was a grocery distributor who owned warehouses across the city and his mother was a homemaker. He was a devoted and loving brother to his three siblings, Luis, Jr., Olga and his youngest sister, Ivetty, known as “Chiqui,”. Luis, the eldest, died at a young age, Olga was a pharmacist and Chiqui was a schoolteacher. As a youth, he participated in his family business and became a vital cog in his father’s company.
While Rubén enjoyed working at his father’s business, he felt a calling to study medicine and heal others. When the time came to continue his education, he enrolled in the University of Havana Medical School and in 1944, he earned his Doctorate of Medicine and Surgery degree, setting the course for a long and prosperous career.
While at medical school, Rubén met the Hernandez sisters, who he called “las Chinitas”. One sister in particular, a beautiful medical and dental student named Graciella, caught his fancy, and the two began a relationship. Shortly after graduation, on December 8, 1945, Rubén and Graciella (who he lovingly called Chelita) married in Havana, Cuba. They later moved to Manzanillo, where Rubén worked as the director of public health in the nearby town of Campechuela and Graciella began to practice her own profession as a dentist. One year later, Rubén became aware of an opportunity in Contramaestre, a growing city in the province of Oriente which was in need of doctors, and the young couple moved there to established their permanent home. In the period of time he lived and worked in Contramaestre, he was very well-liked and respected as a physician and surgeon and eventually became the main physician for the area’s population. He built a clinic and hospital to service the community; here, he welcomed all those who needed medical and dental care. One of his supplementary responsibilities was to tend to the health of the owners and workers of the Bacardi (a well-known Cuban rum producer) estate as its head physician. This responsibility established dear friendships and relationships that would later help the family weather unimaginable storms.
In November of 1950, Rubén and Graciella welcomed their first child, a daughter named Yvette. Only six months later, Graciella became pregnant again, and in February 1952, the Iserns’ first son, Reuben, was born. The family continued to grow throughout the decade, adding son Raul, Jr. in September 1955 and daughter Isel four years later. Rubén and Chelita raised their children with love and a deep appreciation for family.
As the young family was enjoying life in Cuba, political storm clouds brewed in the distance. Batista’s dictatorship was being challenged by guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra mountains of the Oriente region, which is where Rubén and his family lived. Many Cuban citizens were against Batista’s oppression and saw the opposition’s leader, Fidel Castro, as the island’s potential savior. The guerrillas had the support of much of Cuba’s citizens; during one of the battles, Castro was nearly captured but saved by a Catholic priest. Ironically, Catholics would end up being one of Castro’s main targets during his own dictatorship. In 1959, the guerrillas successfully overthrew Batista and proclaimed their victory marching through the streets of Havana.
Once in power, Castro made no secret of his true intentions, declaring himself a Communist shortly after taking control. Cuba and the United States engaged in several showdowns, most notably the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The island’s citizens underwent reduced freedoms and oppressions, and for many, the only way to escape this way of life was to leave Cuba. All of the family property was seized by the government and the family was left with only the family home. In 1966, with their son Reuben nearing the mandatory military service age of 15, Rubén and Graciella made the heart wrenching decision to send him to Spain to seek the freedom they lacked. Rubén asked his good friends the Bacardis, whose granddaughter Cristina Dandicour lived with her husband Adolfo in Spain, to take care of Reuben and help him seek a way to emigrate to the United States. The Dandicour’s agreed to help, and Reuben was sent alone to Spain in search of freedom. He eventually made his way to Miami, where he found a home again with more good friends, Pedro and Ana Arisso, who took Reuben in and cared for him as if he were their own flesh and blood. The distance between Reuben and his family was difficult, but Rubén and Graciella knew that sending their son away from Cuba was a sacrifice they needed to make.
With the Iserns in Cuba and their son Reuben 90 miles away in the US, Rubén redoubled his efforts to reunite the family. In 1967, the Cuban government seized the final Isern-owned property, their home, and allowed the family to immigrate to Spain. The Iserns stayed in Spain until Rubén was able to obtain visas for the entire family, allowing them to reunite with their son in the United States.
Upon the family’s arrival in Miami, Rubén was faced with the task of finding a home and seeking employment to support his family of six. Arriving in a new county with no assets and facing a new language was no easy task for the 50 year old Rubén, but his fervent work ethic allowed him to procure a job in a local hospital while he studied to revalidate his medical licenses in the US. Through his efforts and hard work, he was able to pass all of his licensing exams and gained his medical license in the state of Florida. Although there were opportunities in Florida for physicians, a colleague told him about greater opportunities in a small town in southeast Texas called Beaumont. He discussed the possibilities with Graciella, and the decision was made to seek to obtain his licenses in Texas.
The license exam was to be administered in Fort Worth and he made arrangements to travel there in November of 1969. He boarded the plane to travel to Fort Worth from Miami and when the plane was about to land, the pilot announced that the plane had been hijacked to Cuba and they would be landing in the Havana airport momentarily. He was shocked and concerned since this brought forth the possibility of not only being detained but also of not being able to leave the island at the whim of the communist government. Once at the airport, the Cuban nationals were separated from the American citizens and Rubén was placed into an interrogation room. There, the authorities went over all of Rubén’s activities while in Cuba, but he was fortunate that his departure had been authorized by the government and he was able to leave with the other passengers once the plane had been cleared to return to the US. Now in Fort Worth, his intended destination, he needed to present himself to the Texas Medical Board offices and request that they allow him to take the State Board Examination he missed while he was inadvertently detained in Cuba. Initially they were surprised by the occurrence, but the Board made an exception to allow him to sit for the exam. He passed with flying colors and became fully licensed to practice in the state of Texas.
Now Rubén needed to move his family to Beaumont and set up shop as a Family Practice physician. He initially found a doctor in Vidor who allowed him to lease office space and there he began his Texas medical practice. After several years in Vidor, he saw the opportunity to move to an office in Beaumont enabling his practice to grow further. He practiced continuously for many years while forming deep bonds with his patients, other physicians and care givers as well as the local hospitals. He was the type of doctor who cared for his patients in a personal way, and it was not rare to find him making house calls when an elderly patient was unable to make it to the office. At his retirement in 1989, he left a thriving medical practice filled with patients who loved and admired him as the doctor who saw them as people and who demonstrated to them how much he cared about their well-being.
In Texas, his family grew and thrived as Yvette studied to become a teacher and later married. Reuben followed in his father’s footsteps and went off to medical school in Zaragoza Spain, becoming a magnificent physician and ultimately an Internist and Rheumatologist. His two younger children also heeded his lessons of learning, with Raul Jr. also following his father and brother to study Medicine in Guatemala and later become a Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist. The youngest child, Isel, received her Bachelors in Government and later a Masters in Business Administration, which as served her well in her career as a Financial Advisor. He was extremely proud of all of his children and it was evident that his sacrifices and decisions had been well rewarded. His children filled him with happiness and pride and subsequently his grandchildren and great-grandchildren brought him the ultimate joy.
Throughout his life, he and Graciella loved to travel and always invited any of his children that could go with them. They visited Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Canada and of course the all across the United States far and wide including Alaska and Hawaii. He was a proud member of the 50 Year Club, an organization which recognizes physicians who have graduated from medical school for over 50 years. He and Graciella attended their Galas annually and looked forward to their events. He was a member of the American Medical Association, the Texas Medical Association and the Jefferson County Medical Society. He was the Medical Director of various retirement homes across Jefferson County. He was a lifelong member of Los Pulpos, a fraternal society of doctors from his medical school graduating class and served on the board throughout the years. Los Pulpos met during the Cuban Medical Association in Exile Conference which was held annually in Miami. He looked forward to the meetings and most years traveled with the group to far off lands.
During his life and into retirement, Rubén enjoyed going to his farm north of Vidor, which he initially purchased as an investment upon arriving in Texas but which ultimately became a source of relaxation and a place for family gatherings. The farm and his cattle were a source of true happiness for him as well as for the entire family. He raised and sold his cattle and planted “calabaza” and peppers every year which he shared with family and friends. His other passion was the Astros baseball team who he supported though thick and thin. Many times his mood was determined by the Astros win/loss record. You could always find him with his Astros shirt and cap cheering them on to victory. One of his favorite topics of conversation was the game highlights but you could never convince him that they were doomed to failure; he was their ultimate fan. In addition to baseball, the other highlight of his week was his bi-weekly domino games with friends. These passionate get-togethers were a source of entertainment and an avenue to hone his strategic thinking.
Rubén was a lover of life and enjoyed sharing his passion with his friends and family. He was charitable and caring, and his giving character was evidenced by all of the organizations he supported. As a young doctor in Contramaestre, he was president of the Lions Club International and helped build and establish a children’s park and playground benefiting the city’s youth. Although this was something he had done for the benefit of the community, his children stubbornly held on to the belief that it was actually built for them.
The last years of Rubén’s life were marked by ups and downs. He was extremely proud of the accomplishments his family had achieved and the children and grandchildren he helped raise, but in the last years of his life he suffered his greatest loss. His son Reuben was killed in a tragic accident in August of 2012 and this event was traumatic for Rubén, his adoring wife and his family. Reuben was a magnificent human being and was loved by all who knew him.
Rubén raised four adoring children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He was a devoted family man and the love he shared with his wife of 68 years was unlike any love anyone has ever witnessed. Rubén leaves a legacy of love, kindness, honor and devotion. He was a principled man of few words but of powerful insight. No matter what hardships came his way, he never forgot what brought him the most joy: his God, his family, and his Astros. He was preceded in death by his brother, Luis Isern, Jr., his sister, Olga, and his beloved son, Reuben A. Isern.
Those left on earth to celebrate his life and carry on his legacy include his wife of 68 years, Graciella (Chelita) Isern. His children, Yvette Estrada, her husband Rolando, and her son Mario, his son Raul D. Isern, Jr., his wife Mary and Raul, Jr’s son Raul III, his daughter Isel Isern Caballero, her husband Eduardo, and their children Gabriella and Eduardo, Reuben’s daughter Diorella McGuire, her husband Joe, and their children, Cosette and Beckham, his beloved sister Ivetty Isern and her daughter Olga and her children Alexia and Marcus as well as countless friends and colleagues who will remember him for his kind nature, easy smile, and indomitable spirit.