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Calhoun hearts were warmed by the return of long-time friends, Dr. Juanito and Cora Aya-ay, who came back for the dedication of their former clinic at Minnie Hamilton Health System, which is now the dental clinic. Friends, former patients and co-workers gathered to witness the ceremony and visit with the Aya-ays, who were born and raised in the Philippines and attended schools there. Cora received her medical degree from University of Santo Tomas, Manila, in 1965. Juanito’s degree was earned there in 1966. They immigrated to the U.S. in 1968 and settled in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he completed his medical training at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and Long Island College Hospital.

The three older children, Gina, Paul and Jerome, were born in New York. The Aya-ays decided to raise their children in Calhoun and moved here on Independence Day, 1972. James and Jonathan were born in West Virginia.

The family lived in the Cabot Station area and the children attended Pleasant Hill School and graduated from Calhoun County High School: Gina in 1987, Paul in 1989, Jerome in 1990, James in 1992 and Jonathan in 1994. They participated in sports and other activities. All members of the family are accomplished musicians on different instruments and use their talents in their church, St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church.

Gina lives with husband Trevor Poole and three children in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Paul lives in Parkersburg and works for the Catholic Church. Jerome lives in Spartanburg, S.C., with his wife the former Maria Tascon. James lives in Tampa, Fla., with his wife the former Melanie DeWeese and three children. Jonathan lives in Huntington with his wife the former Amy Massey and three children.

The Aya-ays were the first Philippine-American family to settle in Grantsville. Juanito was president of the West Virginia Philippine Medical Association, which organized medical missions to the Philippines. In the past five years, they have had extended stays in their home town and held a charity clinic two days a week.

Juanito and Cora were both active in community groups and helped with Little League, Boy Scouts, 4-H, Civic Club and PTA. He was chief of staff at Calhoun General Hospital from 1974 to 1986. He opened his clinic in November of 1974 with Cora as office manager. He received his citizenship papers the same month. They would see 40-60 patients a day. He worked long hours, but it was his passion.

The first thing Cora said to me last week was, “You were with me when I became a citizen!” That was Sept. 27, 1978. It was a privilege to be a witness and observe the humility and respect of our new citizens for the United States. Juanito’s first comment was, “You helped Cora get the snake.” Cora called me one day and, in a panic-stricken voice, said, “Helen, there is a snake outside and I don’t know if it is poisonous. How do I decide?” I went to their home, and since I was not a snake expert, we decided to put it in a paper bag and find some one to identify it. Carl was not around and the only person I could think of was John McCoy. You can imagine his amusement when he told us, “It is a garter snake!”

A message from Cora tells about their present life: “We have a home in Parkersburg, and do our daily exercise of mall walking. That is where we gladly meet some of the Calhounians. Cora still loves gardening, and Nito keeps up with the news, and stays up-to-date in medicine through continuing education, emails and computer. We also have a family reunion in the United States every year. We enjoy our nine grandchildren.

“Most important in our lives are our daily worships in the three Catholic churches near us. It would have been a difficult journey for us with Gina’s lupus, and the lymphoma and chemotherapy, without our faith and complete trust in God’s mercy and love. We thank the Lord for putting us in Grantsville for 35 years with good Christian people. Our children also share our feelings. We are indeed Calhounians, since we have spent the majority of our lives there.”

To the Aya-ay family, we say, “Thank you for the clinic, but most of all, thank you for loving us!”


Their mailing address is 3106 Murdoch Ave., Parkersburg, WV 26104-2401.

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