Saralee Kaye heard every conceivable joke about her first name and a certain manufacturer of baked goods. She always managed a polite smile, even the fourteenth time someone said, "Saralee? Well, you're sweet as pie!" or "Saralee. You must do pretty well for yourself...I mean, you sure make a lot of bread!"
Then she met comedian Soupy Sales. His only comment was, "Saralee. You got great buns!"
After that the rule was, if you can come up with something better than that, go for it. Otherwise, hold your tongue.
Saralee grew up in Kingston, Pennsylvania, with her parents, Lou and Rose Bransdorf, and her younger sister Nancy. Nancy had the innocent face and golden ringlets of an angel, but as Saralee liked to say, things are not always as they seem. At various points during their childhood, Nancy ripped the heads off her sister's dolls, bit her, and tried to throw her cat down the stairs.
In Nancy's defense, the cat-tossing was all in the name of research: she learned in school that day that cats always land on their feet. Naturally, she had to test it out.
Fortunately, their relationship grew and changed as time went on, and as adults they were extremely close. They were not only sisters, but also great friends.
Saralee and Nancy both attended Penn State University, where they met future husbands Marvin Kaye and Wayne Port. The following are some of Marvin's memories of that time:
In my senior year at Penn State, I met Saralee, who was then a freshman. We'd been cast in a production of the French farce, An Italian Straw Hat. At the first rehearsal, I thought her name was Sarah Lee. It wasn't long before she emphatically explained to me: "One word, No H!"
We married shortly after Saralee graduated and moved to Williamsport, PA, where I was a reporter for Grit newspaper and she taught English at Williamsport High School. Ultimately this was not the best employment of either of our talents, and after a few years, we decided to move to New York.
Life in New York was more fulfilling than life in Williamsport. Certainly it offered both of us more career opportunities. And truly, entertainment in Williamsport was scant: if you were looking for fun on a Saturday night, your best bet was to go and watch them wash the buses.
Saralee held many jobs, including "Gal Friday," assistant to a music contractor, court reporter (and notary public), and editor. It was not until later in life that she found her true calling in medicine. "Actually, she always wanted to be a doctor, but her high school counselor (who I suspect was a chauvinist pig) talked her out of it," recalls Marvin. "But she was always drawn to the field of medicine."
It was Marvin's doctor who suggested a look into the comparatively new profession of physician assistant. Not 'physician's assistant,' Saralee would often point out, physician assistant. No apostrophe-s.
A PA performs many of the same duties as a physician, under the supervision of a licensed physician. PA's now work in just about every medical specialty, including surgery, anesthesia, emergency medicine and internal medicine. The intensive two-year training is often compared to the last two years of medical school. It is a testament to Saralee's bravery that, just as her own daughter graduated from college, she entered the PA program at Long Island University.
To be continued...