Today was the birthday in 1899 of Al Capone.
Most places in the world wouldn’t exactly brag about getting a gift from someone as notorious as Capone.
But there’s a hospital in Baltimore that’s happy to share their connection to the gangster.
When you hear the story, you’ll understand why.
In 1939, Al Capone was eight years into an 11 year prison sentence at Alcatraz in San Francisco.
But the man known as Scarface was released from federal prison early.
He’d been diagnosed with a case of neurosyphilis, and was suffering serious physical and mental issues as a result.
After his release, Capone’s family wanted him to get the best care available, so they took him to Baltimore.
They had hoped that Capone could be admitted to Johns Hopkins University Hospital, but the hospital board said no.
They weren’t thrilled about hosting the man other crime bosses called “the big fellow” for inpatient treatment.
But another facility, Union Memorial Hospital, said yes.
Al Capone spent six weeks there under the care of a renowned syphilis doctor, Joseph E. Moore.
He was the only patient on the fifth floor and he even had food tasters in case someone tried to poison him.
After those six weeks in the hospital, plus a few more weeks as an outpatient, Capone left Baltimore.
He wasn’t cured but he was grateful that Union Memorial had been willing to treat him.
So he gave the hospital two Japanese weeping cherry trees as a thank you gift.
One of them was only on site for a decade or so, before it was removed for a building project.
The other tree’s health isn’t what it once was, largely thanks to a winter storm in 2010, but it’s still there.
The hospital has worked with an artist to turn some of the tree wood lost in that storm into objects of art.
And they’ve used cuttings from the Capone tree to plant new weeping cherries around the Union Memorial campus, which they call “Caponettes.”
Today in 1931, James Earl Jones was born.
He has done it all in film, television, theater, and, occasionally, CB Radio.
Jones told the New York Times Magazine that once, after “Star Wars” became a phenomenon, he was traveling cross-country and got on CB radio with the handle “Darth Vader,” doing the voice.
He said it freaked the truckers out so much he had to stop.
For Union Memorial, Al Capone’s tree keeps on giving (Baltimore Sun)
James Earl Jones on Darth Vader, Mufasa and, natch, Totes McGotes (New York Times)
Photo via Wikicommons