During his long and protracted stay in the Health Center, my son had advised some of his friends in Duluth about his present circumstances. They in turn notified the local newspaper and suggested that former patients and their parents write to him to cheer him up.
The flood gates literally burst open. He received hundreds and hundreds of letters, cards and telephone calls expressing thank-yous to him. One family even made a visit from Duluth to Sun City just to see him for one last time, bringing their infant grandson with them. The City of Duluth sent him a formal Commendation and Thanks for "being a positive influence on the health and lives of thousands of Duluthians".
I am deeply grateful to all these people, who gave much meaning and happiness to Erkki during his final months on this earth. A few excerpts from the letters from his former patients and their parents:
A former patient writes, "I was elated to read in the Duluth newspaper, that you are still among us, though so very far away. I would so very much like to hold your hand and take a moment to thank you for the outstanding care you gave me and my siblings. You were instrumental in saving my life. I can remember your office like it was yesterday: the bulletin board with pictures of all "your kids", and of course your lovely accent. You had such a very gentle nature that I never knew fear, when it came to the dreaded shots. Your soothing, calming nature always put my fears to rest.
I grew up very poor, so I can't understand how my mother was able to obtain the finest pediatrician in the land. Thank you, Dr. Leppo for being the compassionate, loving, caring person you are. You are truly one of the greatest in my book. I will never forget you. Thank you and God bless you."
A mother writes, "For a long time I have been wanting to tell you, Thank you for being the best Dr. that any young mother could have had. It's been a long time, but I remember how safe I felt knowing you would come even to our home. I want to let you know how much we think of you and about you. May God take care of you! With much love."
Still another mother writes,"Over the years my husband and I have thought of you so fondly. You wouldn't remember us with all the hundreds of patients you've had, but you made an incredible difference in our lives. When we first met you, we were very young parents and everything for us seemed new and a bit frightening as we tried to do our best job. You always calmed our fears, reassuring us that Shawn was a perfect baby. You always made a point to take your time and made us feel that we were the most important patients you had at the moment. So, many years later I take this opportunity to wish you well and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the service and dedication you displayed as a doctor and the love and compassion you displayed as a man. May God bless you!"
Seldom does a person receive such accolades and tributes while he is still alive. Usually they are expressed after the person has already passed away. He was indeed able to "smell the roses, while he was still alive".