In the 1970s, Palm Beach residents who suffered a heart attack or other medical emergency had a better chance of survival than most. The island’s inhabitants were among the first in the country to have their own medical van, recalls current resident and retired cardiologist Dr. Donald Warren.
Dr. Warren, who frequently made house calls to patients on the island during that time, was instrumental in helping this come about. He said he approached resident Helen Fraser, whose husband Andrew died of a heart attack in 1969, about donating a van to the town, which she did. The dedication took place in 1972.
Over the years, Dr. Warren and his wife Betty Anne, better known as “Bebe,” earned the admiration of many in the town. Palm Beach’s Centennial Commission, which is organizing this year’s 100-year celebration, has recognized the Warrens as Centennial Ambassadors, a title awarded to 42 residents with a long-standing connection to the island.
The Warrens are one of only three couples in which both the husband and wife were asked to be Centennial Ambassadors. The Ambassadors were announced in November and will be honored on April 16 at the Centennial Dinner Gala.
Dr. Warren, Palm Beach Atlantic University’s founding chairman, said he was “very surprised” by the honor and pleased to have become acquainted with many of the other Ambassadors over the years. “There are people on the list who I served with at Good Samaritan and St. Mary’s medical centers,” Dr. Warren said.
Among them is fellow Ambassador Dr. Saul Rotter. Dr. Warren said he practiced alongside Dr. Rotter for 38 years.
Mrs. Warren, who chaired PBA’s Women of Distinction luncheon in Palm Beach for 15 of the 20 years of its existence, also expressed surprise about being recognized as an Ambassador. “It was very nice of them,” she said of the centennial committee members.
The Warrens moved to Palm Beach in 2002. Before that they lived in West Palm Beach for more than four decades.
Born in Miami, Fla., Dr. Warren attended Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va., and graduated from Duke University in Durham, N.C., where he served as a junior and senior assistant resident in internal medicine. He also completed a cardiology fellowship with Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Ga.
After the Warrens settled in West Palm Beach in 1956, Dr. Warren quickly built a stellar cardiology practice that eventually included some of the wealthiest and most influential men and women in the United States.
The Warrens were active in First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach and were integral in the founding of Palm Beach Atlantic in 1968. Dr. Warren served as chairman of the board of trustees from 1968 his retirement on Dec. 31, 2006, after which time he became a life trustee.
PBA’s Warren Library is named for the couple. In 2009, Dr. Warren published a book about PBA, Miracles and Wonders: A Chronicle of Palm Beach Atlantic University.
In the book, Dr. Warren writes that he became a deacon and lay leader at First Baptist, and his wife taught Sunday school and was involved in starting the church’s day school program.
While she considers her work with the church to be the most significant, Mrs. Warren also volunteered for the Junior League, the Norton Museum of Art and Good Samaritan Medical Center. In the early 1990s, she co-chaired the Good Samaritan Medical Center ball with Edie Schur.
A longtime volunteer for health care causes in New York and Florida, Mrs. Schur said she was pleased to hear the Warrens had been chosen as Centennial Ambassadors. “They’re very special people,” Mrs. Schur said.
In addition to her church and community work, Mrs. Warren labored many hours in support of PBA. She remains honorary chairwoman of the Women of Distinction luncheon, which raises money for scholarships.
“I feel I’ve been really blessed,” said the Greenville, S.C., native and former teacher. “I’m willing to help other people and I want to do whatever I am able.”