A single gunshot wound influenced Bob Brimble to change his career direction more than 50 years ago.
While serving with the U.S. Army in China during World War II, he was shot in the leg. The nearest doctor was 10 days away by pack mule. But after five days on the trail, he chose to be tended by a veterinarian who came to his aid.
The decision not to be treated by a physician, Brimble believes, cost him a Purple Heart, because an attending physician did not provide official certification of the battle-related wound. However, as a result of the veterinarian’s concern and care, Brimble decided to pursue a career in veterinary medicine at Washington State College. The profession gained thereby a skilled and dedicated animal doctor.
Brimble already had a WSC degree when he enrolled in the veterinary program in 1945. He had come to college in 1939 from Coulee City, planning to teach. During his junior year, he met Maryhelen Laney of Selah in a chemistry class. She was majoring in pharmacy. The couple dated from then on.
After graduating (’42 Veterinary Science), Brimble received a commission as a second lieutenant. He was shipped to China, where he spent three-and-a-half years as a liaison officer with Chinese troops during the opening of the Burma Road. Awaiting his return, Maryhelen (’43 Pharm.) worked as a pharmacist in Everett for two years.
“He was down in the jungle fighting,” she says. “I wrote to him every day. One time when he got back to camp, he had 100 letters waiting for him.”
Bob was discharged with the rank of major in 1945. The couple was married that May.
“I don’t want to teach,” Maryhelen recalls her husband saying soon after he returned. “I want to be a veterinarian.” Then he told her of his life-changing experience of injury and recovery while in China.
She encouraged him to pursue his new career aspiration, even though it meant four more years of school. “Don’t always wish you had,” she told him.
Five months after their wedding, they drove back to Pullman from Ft. Benning, Georgia, so he could enroll at WSC. She worked at Higgins Drug Store in downtown Pullman until he completed his second degree (’50 D.V.M.).
Brimble spent more than 35 years as co-owner of a successful large- and small-animal practice, the Town and Country Animal Clinic in Portland, Oregon. His experiences were varied. He recalls the time, for example, his medicine froze in a Montana winter when he rushed from the car to treat a sick cow. Another time, he spent 98 days in traction after he suffered a crushed femur while trying to treat a horse.
“He loved it all,” Maryhelen says, even the “leftover” animals their young children, LeAnn and Randy, would take home from the clinic.
Long retired in Portland, the Brimbles fondly remember their college days and life in Pullman. “WSU was very good to us,” Maryhelen says. “If it hadn’t been for WSU, we would never have been able to accomplish what we did.”
In recent years, the couple has made generous gifts to the WSU veterinary college to demonstrate their appreciation and love for animals, the veterinary profession, and their alma matter.
“Animals were certainly a big part of our life, and they are for a lot of people,” Maryhelen says. “This seemed like something we could do to give back.”
“I don’t want to teach. I want to be a veterinarian.”