Order Sons of Italy

Hamilton - Trieste Lodge

SOI Citizen Of The Year 2009 - Dr. Carmelo Vincent Scime

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Respect for life, these simple words effectively describe the driving force behind everything that Dr. Carmelo Scime sees as being a basic tenet of living your life. It’s from this profound respect for life, from birth to death; that has ruled his every action and for which he is being recognized as the “2009 Italian Citizen of the Year” by the Order of the Sons of Italy, Trieste Lodge.

Carmelo was born on May 16, 1932, to Italian immigrant parents, Giuseppe and Marianna Scime. He was considered to be special by his parents after being the first boy born after four consecutive sisters. His eight siblings remember his parents favouring him by giving him an extra incentive to attend school, a nickel each day or sometimes enlisting his godmother for another nickel. He soon came to recognize that not everyone was fortunate enough to get paid to go to school and his parents weren’t rich, so he better make sure he worked hard at his studies. His family led by example, working hard and always willing to give to those in need. He recalls especially around the great depression. At the time, his parents had the biggest family to take care of out of all of his relatives but they refused to take any government relief. Instead, his father dealt with depression by getting a second job. His brother got him a job as an agent selling personal life insurance. This allowed him to purchase a $2000 20-year endowment that matured in 1952, in time for Carmelo to attend university.

They also believed that family didn’t necessarily mean blood relations, so Carmelo enjoyed many close relationships with people outside of his immediate family. He chose “Vincent” as his confirmation name out of respect for the late Dr. Vincenzo (V.) Agro, who was his confirmation sponsor and who was one of many people that had a tremendous influence on his life.

As a child, Carmelo remembered the late Dr. V. Agro. He was the first Italian born doctor serving the needs of the growing Italian community, not only from a medical standpoint but from a political one as well. Carmelo recalled his father, along with some uncles, the late Dr. V. Agro, and others from the community, taking on the separate school board. They argued that they didn’t want to bring Italy here. They came for a better life, with more opportunities and wanted their children to get a Canadian experience. At the time, the separate school board kept all Italians in the same school. They stated segregation wasn’t helping their children succeed; it was holding them back since they would never learn English or Canadian practices if they were surrounded by Italians all day at school and at home. They wanted to be integrated with other Canadian students. They won their fight and the board changed their policy. This made a great impression on Carmelo at a young age and he understood that if you don’t agree with how things are, you have to be willing to fight for change. It was by seeing the impact of Dr. V. Agro in action that made Carmelo want to follow in his footsteps. Life, family and community are the most important virtues.

The goal he had chosen wasn’t without struggle. In 1951, Grade 13, he was told by a teacher that he should quit and work in the steel mill with all of the other Italians. Those words just made him more determined to succeed in medicine. His progress was stalled again when he applied for medical school in 1952 and was rejected. He recalls how difficult it was to tell his father. His father simply said, “Don’t worry, it will work out, you just have to apply again.” Carmelo did and graduated from the University of Toronto medical school in 1957. Fate would have him almost literally run into that same teacher in 1959, almost colliding as Carmelo was rushing up a set of stairs. The teacher acknowledged him and said, “Who are you, the plumber?” Carmelo was insulted and annoyed that he didn’t recognize a physician’s bag (he still is carrying the same bag today) and never forgot that moment how wrong he was.

Upon graduation, he had sought out some of the established Italian doctors in Hamilton, including the late Dr. Vic Cecilioni and Dr. E. E. Ricci, to see if one of them would be interested in hiring him. He was shocked when they all said the same, “No, you start your own practice and we will help.” Taking their advice, he started his own practice in 1958. He is forever grateful for their guidance. He is blessed and honoured to be serving a practice, consisting of not only Italians, but many Portuguese, Chinese, and central Europeans, for more than 50 years.

The early years of practice were challenging. He had married his wife Lynne (having met at the Newman Club) in 1958 and their first of seven children, was born in 1959 and a second child followed in 1961. This meant juggling the demands of a growing family and practice. He recalls sometimes having to bring the children with him on house calls and instructing them to never open the car for anyone and if there was any sign of trouble, they were to use the horn. He worked long hours but never forgot to call his family during the lunch and dinner hour if he couldn’t make it home, to hear how their day was. Carmelo and Lynne were fortunate to not have to take on the challenge of raising seven children on their own, as they always considered the children to have had an additional two sets of grandparents who were integral to the family development. The late Mr. Bill and Mrs. Laura Buckingham, who were their first and only landlords, helped especially with the arrival of the first two children. The late Mr. Jerry and Mrs. Clara Hilhorst came into their lives after their fifth child was born.

Carmelo is known for his love of fruit which commenced when he got his first paying job as a fruit peddler in 1940, for the late Mr. Nathan Silverberg. He did believe that f medicine didn’t work out for him, he was sure that he was destined for farming but his in-laws, who actually were successful farmers, cautioned him at every opportunity that it may not be his thing. To eat fruit was one thing but to actually grow it was another. To this day, one of his biggest hobbies is going to the local farmer’s market.

Carmelo acknowledges that he may have been the one to have the most schooling but it was only possible due to the contributions and sacrifices of his siblings. To this day, they help him in more ways than one, to take care of and provide advice on the more practical aspects of daily life, especially in regards to what it takes to maintain a home. He is forever grateful to all of the help and support they have given to him and his family.

Despite his dedication to his patients and family, he also managed to find time to learn a new sport with Lynne. It took three years to be convinced by his wife that downhill skiing was it. This quickly became one of his greatest passions in life. He was famous for ensuring that everyone got to the hill as soon as the mountain opened, never taking breaks for lunch, no matter the weather, always wanting to maximize his time on the slopes.

As a family doctor, Carmelo sees his patients as being part of his extended family. He looks at not only what he is doing for them but what he can do for society at large. In the 70s, through a recommendation by the late Dr. Paul Spicuzza, he was appointed as the first local Italian coroner. In 1968, when abortion became legalized in Canada, this set him on a life long journey to give voice to the unborn. This has been done in many ways, by attending many demonstrations and publicly serving as past president for Canadian Physicians for Life, and working with Campaign Life Coalition, Hamilton Right to Life and Birthright. Other organizations include The International Order of Alhambra (a Catholic men’s fraternity, helping those that are developmentally impaired) and the Knights of Columbus.

Fortunately, Lynne and Carmelo share the same political views, making it possible to be so involved. Taking a pro-life, pro-family and pro-physician stance, has brought on criticism verbally and in print by people who don’t share his views. Locally, he has been a witness for life in front Henderson Hospital, rain or shine, with or without others for over 25 years, believing that the abortion law must be changed to protect the most vulnerable segment of society. In this pursuit, at public demonstrations, he has been placed under arrest on at least two occasions.

Dr. Carmelo Scime continues to practice medicine today with the same dedication and respect for faith, life and family, as when he started over 50 years ago. As he develops grey hair along with his patients, he remains passionate in providing the best care, and contributing to the organizations that share his beliefs.