The Reverend Ed Gustafson died June 28, 2016 in
North Las Vegas, NV where he had retired. He suffered from COPD.
When people asked Father Ed about St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, he said, “It was my most important ministry.”
Ordained an Episcopal priest, Father Ed came to Nogales, AZ as the Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. He was told there was a small children’s clinic associated with the church, but he didn’t have to get involved with it. “Well, I went the first month, and I was hooked.” Patient Coordinator, then volunteer, Coca Romero states, “What I noticed about Father Ed was that he talked to all the patients and families. Other people just came and ignored the families.”
The first year he drove a van to and from the Border to transport patients and parents who did not have transportation to the Church.
“One day a resident from the University of Arizona College of Medicine asked for my help in getting an MRI for a child. That’s when I discovered there was no formal budget for this organization.
I called together some people active in The Clinic, including some who were members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and suggested they form a Board of Directors and incorporate. That way we could start asking for donations. About that time I applied for 501(c)3 status with the IRS.
I sent out letters to all the Episcopal Churches in the Diocese of Arizona telling them about The Clinic and asking for donations. The money started coming in. We received some nice articles in area newspapers which helped. Then, the Board decided they needed an Executive Director, and I accepted without hesitation.”
Father Ed was Executive Director from 1993-2003. During that time The Clinic grew from a small two-room clinic with a handful of medical personnel and about 30-40 patients to almost 30-50 medical personnel to handle 225-250 patients at each clinic.
Father Ed began writing grants as well as reaching out to individuals. A newsletter was developed to get the news out to donors. The Clinic developed a Web site.
When the need for surgeries outpaced the hospital and surgeon resources available to The Clinic, he explored setting up a relationship with Shriners Hospitals. Today, a team from Shriners Spokane and Shriners Sacramento alternate months in coming to The Clinic to assess patients for surgery and to follow up on past surgery patients.
During this time, more things were done to help more children. He considered that his legacy. But, he touched the lives of every volunteer involved with The Clinic.
Our Patient Coordinator Coca Romero is the mother of one of the first seven patients of The Clinic. She enthusiastically joined the volunteers to see that children crossed the Border for their appointments, interpreted, and did whatever was needed to “help the kids.” Father Ed saw the important work she was doing, and when the budget allowed, he formalized the Patient Coordinator position and hired her. “He gave me my lifelong career,” says Coca.
Dr. Francisco Valencia, who began volunteering as a teenage interpreter, remembers one of Father Ed’s favorite sayings, “I am a rich man and someday I’ll have money.” That was a direct reflection of how fortunate he felt and how much he got back personally from The Clinic. “That had a profound impact on me and helped me to see the treasure returned from working with these children.”
Father Ed gave summer employment to Coca’s daughter, Laura Romero when she was 16. He taught her important job skills. “More importantly, he had faith in my ability to do the work of The Clinic, then and later when I was asked to be the Executive Director. He never waivered in his faith in me.”
¡Vaya con Dios, Father Ed!