August 12, 1912 ~ May 11, 2008
Jorge Rene Sarmiento Espejo was born August 12, 1912, in Tacna, Peru (the southernmost city of Peru), under siege, at the time, by Chile. He was the 5th of 9 children born to Arturo Sarmiento Ara and Victoria Espejo Liendo, both of Tacna, Peru.
Early recollections of his childhood were raids made by the Chileans on the homes of the Peruvians. His father, a loyal Peruvian, would display the Peruvian flag, which led to their home being stoned and the family's life being threatened. When he was 6, the family left the Tacna-Peru/Arica-Chile area, under threat of death to move to Arequipa, Peru, north of Tacna. The captain of the ship that took them had intentions of letting the family die at sea. His father found this out and held a gun to his head making sure the trip was safely completed.
The family remained in Arequipa for one year until they received help to move to Barranco, a suburb of Lima, where the government had built homes to house families who had been forced out of Tacna. His father, wanting his children to be well-educated, enrolled the boys in the Methodist school in Lima, where they learned English from an early age.
Three years later, his father found a job in Huancayo, in the mountains of Peru. There Jorge attended the Instituto Andino, which was run by American Methodist missionaries in Peru. The family moved to Huacho, north of Lima, 3 ½ years later, leaving Jorge in Lima to study at the Colegio Guadalupe, from where he had received a scholarship, including room and board, and from where he graduated with a high school degree.
Having been groomed by his parents to become a doctor from a young age, Jorge applied to and was accepted to the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos to study medicine. After his two years of pre-medicine, Jorge moved to Quito, Cuenca and then Guayaquil, Ecuador, to finish his medical studies. His move to Ecuador was the result of political strikes in Lima which caused the University to be closed for many years. Jorge returned to Lima to get his degree, because one professor would not graduate Peruvians, because he did not like them. He was the top student of his class the five years that he studied in Ecuador. Because of agreements between Ecuador and Peru, he was able to take exams, present his thesis and graduate in Peru at the Universidad Nacional de San Marcos. He received his medical degree in 1941.
His interest in working with patients of Tuberculosis happened because there was an opening working with a service for tuberculosis at the Hospital Dos de Mayo. Later he was hired by the Hospital Obrero (Worker's Hospital) where he specialized in tuberculosis and chest diseases, having also served as Chief of Public Health. Concurrently he worked as chief of the mobile health unit that went to schools to check on possible tuberculosis patients.
It was on one of these visits to the Colegio America, a Methodist school, that he met Viola Geraldine Johnson of Carpenter, South Dakota, a Methodist missionary in Peru. They married January 1, 1945, and had four children, Jorge Louis, Alicia, Mary Ann and Patricia Mae. Jorge and Jerry shared 55 years, Jerry having passed away in the year 2000. It was after her passing, that Jorge moved to the United States and lived with daughter, Mary Ann, and her family.
Jorge's work always was centered on helping the people of his country, Peru, whom he felt had given him so much. His affiliation with the government hospitals, and his dedication to his work with tuberculosis, opened opportunities for training sponsored by the U.S. government. Shortly after getting married, he traveled to the U.S. to receive training and to observe methods of working with tuberculosis patients. When he returned to Lima, he was put in charge of the tuberculosis section of the Centro de Medicina Preventiva del Rimac (Preventive Medicine Health Center). In 1953, the U.S. government was looking for doctors to be trained in public health. Jorge was recommended and granted a scholarship to attend Johns Hopkins University, where he attained his degree in public health. He minored in radiology while attending there. He was named Chief of the Centro de Medicina Preventiva del Rimac. In 1959, the U.S. government again paid to send him to different cities in Central America and the U.S. to observe the operation of Public Health centers. A year later he chose to give up this job when the government of Peru decided that doctors could only hold one government job at a time. He chose and stayed at the Hospital Obrero, where he felt he had the best opportunity to help his people.
Jorge was a man of strong family values. His long hours working to help those in need, left few hours to spend with his family during the week, but he did what he could to make the remaining hours and weekends special and valuable. He instilled the value of education in his children. Of honesty. Of loyalty. Of sportsmanship. Of respect. He sacrificed to join clubs that would give his family the opportunities to create wholesome lifestyles. He joined the protestant church so that his children would know the strength and importance of unity in faith. He put his family and their needs before anything else in life. He was a loving and caring son, brother, husband, father, in-law and grandfather.
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