If you’re of a certain age, you remember when there were far fewer channels on what derisively used to be called the boob tube and pretty much all of us were watching the same programming — especially when there was one of those big miniseries events like “Roots” that made each installment from Jan. 23 to 30, 1977 appointment TV.
I thought this month I’d create my own miniseries on someone whose love for Lima and her surrounding areas during a pediatric career that covered parts of four decades was indeed a fondness of profound proportions. That retired doctor is living with his wife of 66 years, Susie, and their daughter, Ann, in Ocala, Florida, and just celebrated his 90th birthday on the penultimate day of that COVID-dominated year most of us would like to forget.
And while it’s been more than two decades since his retirement when he and Susie left Lima for the warmth of the Floridian sun, there are still so very many that will recall the imprint that C. John Stechschulte left on Lima during his 30-plus years in pediatric care.
In a larger sense, it would also be appropriate to acknowledge the Stechschultes, who raised their seven children primarily in Lima as the source of a familial medical river. Counting their children, sons and daughters-in-law, grandchildren and nieces and nephews, eight more doctors have followed.
Dr. Mark Winerman joined the group Stechschulte and Dr. Doug Daniels opened, Pediatrics of Lima, in 1981, and remembers fondly someone he remembers as a mentor.
Recalls Winerman, “Jack had a profound effect, especially on my early career. It was largely because of his stellar reputation as well as Dr. Daniels that made it an easy choice to join their office.”
Winerman remembers not only Stechschulte’s professional achievements but also the man many came to know as Dr. Jack’s uniqueness and sense of humor as well.
“Even after health insurance became a payment option, Dr. Jack would allow the barter system with his rural families and accept as payment some type of produce or farm product. And, he had a wonderful sense of humor. I can remember he’d sometime with dead seriousness say to a patient he wanted back for a follow up, ‘I want you back here in two weeks or 14 days, whichever comes first.’”
Clarence (his father’s name) John Stechschulte’s journey began with his birth at Lima St. Rita’s on Dec. 30, 1930, and his early formative upbringing in Leipsic while his father earned a living selling men’s clothing in the family business.
While attending St. Mary’s School, Jack showed an early interest in science, and, as he revealed in a memoir he wrote in 2014 when he was 84 titled “I am Blessed,” that interest came by way of a shenanigan. He was disciplined for using a mirror to reflect the sun into classrooms as a means to disrupt the educational process that he would eventually embrace.
Once the family moved to Lima when Jack’s father took a job as the manager of the men’s department at The Leader in downtown Lima, Jack was enrolled in St. Rose, which in those pre-Lima Central Catholic days included both an elementary school and a high school. During his high school years, Jack took a part-time job with his always nattily attired father, who wore a fresh carnation in his lapel every work day at The Leader. According to Jack, his most memorable sale was selling a certain local boy anxious to break into radio his very first suit. That Shawnee graduate’s name was Hugh Downs.
For Jack Stechschulte, his Rosarian high school years were marked by some medical adversity early in his junior year. While running for a fly ball at Halloran Park just off Murphy Street, he stepped in a hole. After seeing two doctors whose diagnoses concurred, that he just sprained an ankle, Jack and his parents saw no real improvement.
His parents then took him to Dr. Jim Tillotson, who made the correct diagnosis almost immediately after seeing him walk. X-rays confirmed the diagnosis, a slipped femoral epiphysis, which, according to orthoinfo.org, occurs in pre-teens and teens for reasons not fully understood when the ball at the head of the thigh bone slips off the neck of the bone in a backward direction.
Following an ensuing operation, an inordinately long recovery process began, a process that featured a cast from the waist down on both legs. However, some adversity carries with it a silver lining, one I’ll explain next Wednesday in the next installment on the life and times of C. John Stechschulte.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.