Harlingen – When a patient has to be in the hospital, their stay is made brighter
by caring doctors, attentive nurses and other healthcare workers –
and in some cases by a volunteer who will sing the patient's favorite
At Harlingen Medical Center, Samuel De Corse is the "singing volunteer"
who visits patients just to see who how they're doing – or if
the patient wishes to sing or pray.
"When I visit a patient's room, I ask them if they like for me
to sing a song for them – and if they and their family members would
like to join me," Mr. De Corse said. "I enjoy sharing God's
love to them through singing."
Examples of spiritual songs that Mr. De Corse sings with his patients include
"How Great Thou Art," "Amazing Grace," and
"Be Not Afraid" – but he also takes requests.
"I always carry a song book with me," he said. "I really
enjoy singing whichever song the patient picks out."
Mr. De Corse, a retired U.S. State Department employee, has been trained
as a "pastoral services volunteer" who has been assisting Harlingen
Medical Center Chaplain Jesus Reyes for the past four years in visiting
patients at the hospital along the Expressway.
"I visit with the patients and families, and pray with them, if they
wish to," Mr. De Corse added. "It's been a blessing for
me as well. I've developed many good friendships because of this.
It's a privilege to share God's blessings with them."
Mr. De Corse, 80, visits patients regardless of their denomination, tailoring
his prayers and songs for each person's needs and preferences.
"When I give God's blessings, I work with all people, regardless
of which religion they are," he said. "I've learned to respect
If the patient is Catholic, Mr. De Corse is available to give them Communion
if they wish, and on Ash Wednesday, he also helps distribute ashes to
patients and visitors. He also brings small gifts, such as rosaries which
are hand-made by local church parishioners, as well as pamphlets with
the words of several prayers.
Mr. De Corse also sings at church, as he is a member of the choir at St.
Anthony's in Harlingen, as well as a lector (reader of passages from
the Bible) and Eucharistic minister. Mr. De Corse estimates he puts in
over 20 hours per week volunteering at two local hospitals as well as
his participation at the church.
With all of that volunteer work, Mr. De Corse has become quite a conversationalist,
able to chat or pray with 12 to 20 hospital patients on any given day,
in either English or Spanish.
"I have a type of personality where I like to greet people and talk
to them, and put them at ease," he said.
But Mr. De Corse first started doing volunteer work not in the Valley,
but in Mexico, where he was working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture
to help eradicate the screwworm parasite in Mexican cattle. While working
in the southern state of Chiapas, near the border with Guatemala, Mr.
De Corse would drive for 30 minutes into the rural areas to do volunteer
work with impoverished families.
"I helped teach religion classes to the children – and in turn
I learned to appreciate their culture and religion," he said.
Most of the people in that area lived in extreme poverty – and shared
an ancestry background with Mr. De Corse, as they came from a Native American
or "American Indian" background. Mr. De Corse was born on the
Fort Yuma Indian Reservation in Arizona – and one of his great-great
grandfathers (Chief Pascual) was the tribal chief of the Quechan Tribe.
The chief's daughter, Luz Pascual, married Mr. De Corse's great-grandfather,
Dr. Albert De Corse, who later became the mayor of Yuma, as well as the
physician at the Yuma Territorial Prison in Arizona.
Mr. De Corse followed in his great-grandfather's footsteps somewhat,
by also helping with healthcare for the Native American population while
working for the U.S. Public Health Service in Phoenix, Arizona. He later
became the first Native American to serve as a Regional Equal Employment
Opportunity Officer, where he worked to secure training and education
for Native Americans and to prevent discrimination again them in employment
A veteran of the U.S. Army, Mr. De Corse served with the U.S. Army 2nd
Infantry Division during the Korean War.
After the war, Mr. De Corse finished up his college education at San Diego
State University – where one of his classmates, Raquel Tejada, later
became a famous movie star and singer, Raquel Welch.
Mr. De Corse and his wife Silvia first came to the Valley in 1992, when
he served as a Regional Management Analyst for the USDA in Brownsville.
"We were very happy here in the Valley, and decided to stay here after
I retired from working with the government," Mr. De Corse said. "We've
been involved in a lot of church activities, as well as my volunteer work
at the hospitals, which I plan to keep doing as long as I am able."
Mr. De Corse is one of nine "pastoral service" or chaplain volunteers
who help brighten the day of patients at Harlingen Medical Center by bringing
them a smile, a word of hope and consolation. In addition, other volunteers
at Harlingen Medical Center bring flowers and newspapers to the patients
-- while still others serve in various areas of the hospital, including
the Emergency Room and the Finance, Human Resources and Marketing departments.
With April being National Volunteer Month, those interested in volunteering
at Harlingen Medical Center are encouraged to call for more information
at (956) 365-1888, or visit