Orange County man has devoted life to mental well being of local residents
We are taught as children to be kind to our neighbor. Our neighbor may be the fella that sits across us at a desk; our neighbor may be the family next door; our neighbor may be miles up or down the road; be nice to your neighbor and they will be nice to you.
It is a lesson we learn early. It is a lesson we should all never forget.
And for Peter Kramer, of northeast Orange County, it is the only way to live.
Kramer first arrived in this broad neighborhood in 1969 as an undergraduate at Duke University. From the big neighborhood of Manhattan, in New York City, Kramer became a Blue Devil studying within the gothic confines of Duke. “I fell in love with Southern music and literature and I wanted never to leave,” Kramer says.
Without a doubt, Kramer is well known and well respected in the many volunteer circles in and around Durham and Orange counties.
For most of his life, he has not just lived the expression of being kind to a neighbor, Kramer gives to his neighbors and then he gives even more.
From Duke, Kramer became involved with the mental health of people, especially juveniles. It was his love of music, and his ability to play, that caught the attention of a future employer who asked Kramer to play for mentally ill teenagers undergoing therapy. From there, Kramer subsequently worked at Hassel House in Durham and from there, Kramer attended UNC where he received his post-graduate degree with a Master of Social Work, eventually becoming a licensed clinical social worker, working professionally for 20 years.
Kramer is devoted to the mental health and well being of others. His professional tenure with various local mental health associations, allowed Kramer to witness the power in those he assisted. “I saw many people overcome many hardships,” Kramer says.
Perhaps seeing the strength in others prepared Kramer to endure a personal hardship of his own. In 2011, Kramer was diagnosed with an esophageal cancer that led him clinically down the path of chemotherapy, radiation, and eventually surgery at Duke.
“I get emotional talking about it but I just want to say that my wife is very special to me. I also want others to know what a wonderful resource Duke Hospital is, especially the care from Dr. D’Amico and his surgical group and Dr. Uronis and all of the support staff at Duke,” says Kramer.
For Kramer, becoming part of this community of Hillsborough and Orange County was about falling in love with Southern music and Southern culture and also the legacy and history of the crossroads of Orange County. “I grew up in the early ’60s and I developed a strong interest in music, especially black music, Motown; music speaks very powerfully to me,” says Kramer.
A professed music lover of all genres, Kramer cites an interest in Doc Watson as one of the roots to why he became so engaged in the South and specifically with where he lives. Kramer has been about as active as anyone could ever be, not to actually be born from the community in which he lives. He is quick to remind that his only flaw is that he was not actually born here; he reminds with a clever smile across his sharp face.
An active member of several local groups, including the Schley Grange, Kramer believes that it is the duty of all of us to become involved with our communities and to help one another. When he became ill, Kramer discovered that his longtime devotion to community and being a good steward of the term neighbor also applied to him. “I came home from being treated one day and members of the Schley Grange had mowed my yard,” said Kramer.
Music and culture brought Kramer to this area and he maintains a deep connection to the power of music. Kramer plays guitar and harmonica in the band Red’s Rhythm; they were playing that night at the Depot in Hillsborough and Kramer speaks often of how music shaped his life.
Along the walls of his music room, there are photos and posters and he points out local people whose creative influence sparked a genre and stoked the fires in Kramer’s life, too.
Though he is in his early 60s and has tussled with cancer, Kramer continues to help those around him, and he devotes much of his life to the history, legacy, purpose and understanding the community in which he lives.
“I am involved with the Murphy School Radio Show; we produce an old-time radio show with music, comedy and theater and contribute funds raised through this to area nonprofits. I also lead a support group at the Durham VA hospital for those that suffer from PTSD. The focus of the group is to provide a medium for patients to write and allowing writing to be an effective therapy,” says Kramer.
Of the community around him, Kramer can recite generations of family trees and he lives on historic land that belonged to a small tobacco farming family, before he purchased the property years ago. Of his interest in the community, Kramer cites his role as a father to his two daughters as being the catalyst to being involved in the community. “I was the volunteer in the classroom and anything that was needed I was there for my daughters; It became the priority to support them,” Kramer says.
These days, Kramer stills sees a few patients through his practice. He also devotes his semi-retired time to special events and public happenings that raise awareness to a cause that he is passionate about. For Peter Kramer, his coming to this town and this area was because of a love and fascination of the power of culture and music and literary prose. Yet, what has kept his feet planted in this soil is devotion to his neighbors, his community, and to a lifetime of helping others, both professionally and personally.
Kramer is rooted in the delicate nature of being a steward to the community. More importantly, Kramer is a neighbor’s neighbor and it is a creed he not only lives, but shares with others, too.
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