Pediatrician Jaime Parladé made medicine his life, from his native Santiago de Cuba to North Dakota and the northeast before retiring to South Florida.
But even in retirement, Parladé couldn’t stay out of the field, and he took a job at Miami’s Borinquen Health Care Center, where he worked well into his 70s.
He died March 22 at Kendall Regional Medical Center at the age of 98 after a stroke.
“He was the quintessential doctor, a real humanist,” said Parladé’s grandson Oscar Corral, 38. “His life revolved around it. He didn’t care whether you had money or not, he’d treat you. He was a rock.”
Parladé was born in 1915 and arrived in the United States in 1961 after fleeing Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba.
He sent his two oldest sons ahead of him through Operation Pedro Pan, said son Alberto Parladé, 59, and the rest of the family – Parladé, his wife Caridad Parladé Fernandez de Castro and their seven other children, including 8-year-old Alberto – followed in stages and met in Miami.
That first move was hard, said Corral.
Parladé had saved $600 for the trip, and sent it ahead of him to a friend in Miami.
But when he arrived, the money wasn’t there, and Parladé spent his first few days in the U.S. almost penniless, wondering how he’d pay the bill for the motel he was staying at on Biscayne Boulevard.
“He’d taken a huge leap of faith and a huge risk coming here, with a lot of hope, and it started on a note of destitution,” said Corral, a Miami filmmaker and former Miami Herald reporter.
But his grandfather didn’t panic, and spent the next few days trying to track down the money.
It arrived a few days later, and the family moved to the tiny mountain town of San Haven, N.D., where Parladé worked at the North Dakota State Tuberculosis Sanitarium and studied for his U.S. medical license.
Parladé’s son Alberto said his father’s determination showed in those early months in rural North Dakota when he prepared for the exam while raising nine children.
“He’d have all the kids screaming and yelling and fighting, and he’d be able to sit there in the living room with all of his medical books and study,” he said.
Parladé arrived in North Dakota in August and passed the exam in October.
But he wasn’t entirely new to the U.S. when he came in 1961, said his daughter Maria Corral, 67.
He’d spent a few of his high school years in Boston, she said, and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before completing his medical studies at the University of Havana.
That experience, she said, made the move to snowy North Dakota, where the family lived on the sanitarium grounds and used a heated underground tunnel system to get from their house to the hospital in the state’s brutal winters, a bit easier.
Parladé spent three years in North Dakota, said Corral, before moving the family to Virginia, where he had his youngest son, then to Washington D.C. and finally to South Florida’s Westchester suburb, where he planned to retire.
But he wasn’t the kind of man to sit around, and when a position opened up at the Borinquen Health Care Center, where his distant cousin and fellow pediatrician Maria Buch worked, he took it.