Once Jack Stechschulte was ready to hang his medical shingle following the completion of his residency in Columbus’ Children’s Hospital, he and his wife Susie had a decision as to where the young pediatrician would practice. And, surely, given the five children already under their charge, it was a decision that surely couldn’t be deferred.
The couple considered Eugene, Oregon, at the suggestion of Susie’s college roommate who majored in geography, since that would afford the Stechschultes an opportunity to experience both the mountains and the ocean. However, a combination of that rainy Oregonian weather and the financial commitment needed for such a long-distance move made them reconsider.
Then an offer came to join Drs. Pinkerton and Horak in Lima after their temporary abodes in places like St. Louis, Dayton, Niagara Falls and Columbus.
Thus began Dr. C. John Stechschulte and wife Susie’s considerable contributions in the field of medicine for him and community involvement for her, especially with the YMCA and Right to Life from the early 1960s through the mid-1990s. During that time, they would also add a sixth and seventh child, first, Mark, in 1961 and then Sarah in 1965.
During those early years back in Lima, Stechschulte recalls a medical landscape far different than what it is today.
“My typical work week, which was Monday through Saturday, began with house calls beginning at 6 a.m. Then it was hospital rounds starting at 7 before arriving at the office to start seeing patients at 8 a.m.”
It also wasn’t unusual in those days for Dr. Stech to accept the barter system, especially for area farm families, a practice that extended well beyond the 1960s. Recalls, Dr. Winerman, who joined Stechschulte’s office in 1981, “Even with the advent of health insurance as a payment option, Dr. Jack still allowed bartering and provided medical care at times when money was tight for families in exchange for commodities like melons, corn and chickens.”
As for his more noteworthy memories of his Lima practice, an early one involved the case of a preemie, Mike Wrasman, whose weight had dropped to one pound, one ounce, before the baby began gaining weight under Jack’s care. Lima journalist Hope Strong dubbed the baby Mighty Mike, and her articles were picked up nationally, which gave Stechschulte some added exposure.
It would be years later in 2006 during Dr. Jack Stechschulte’s induction into the LCC Hall of Fame for professional achievement as one of St. Rose High School’s most distinguished alumni that the former Mighty Mike sat in the audience listening to Dr. Jack’s induction speech.
Recalls Stechschulte, “One of the true rewards of pediatrics is when you get to see the finished product of someone you treated. Mike and I have stayed in touch over the years, and he remains my oldest and smallest patient from the past.”
Dr. Jack also assisted in the first multiple births in a Lima hospital, the Axe quadruplets, born to Phil and Barbara Axe. He even still recalls the bill for the double sets of twins, $175 for all the office visits, the delivery and the hospital stay.
However, no doubt, there was one case in particular which would bring Stechschulte worldwide critical acclaim. It was in 1970 when the entire world would know the name of C. John Stechschulte. That was the year when a 6-year-old boy named Matt Winkler from Willshire in Van Wert County was bitten on the thumb in an upstairs farmhouse bedroom by a bat that had gotten in and contracted rabies. At this point, no one had ever been successfully treated for the virus that shuts down the central nervous system and, ultimately, chokes its victims to death.
Drawing on his experience from earlier cases in treating patients for tetanus, Stechschulte, working in conjunction with Dr. Thomas Weiss of Lima and Doctor Michael Hattwick of Atlanta, put his name on a medical marker in perpetuity when his treatment was successful and the young boy survived.
Writers for national publications like Time and Newsweek and representatives from all three television networks covered the story.
Recalls Stechschulte with a laugh, “Those were certain exciting times where we lived on Dogwood Drive. I even got my five minutes on the evening news with Walter Cronkite, who made a valiant attempt at pronouncing my name but came up a little short.”
By 1994, Dr. Jack was 64 when he went in for what he thought was some routine wellness testing that included a stress test. However, even for doctors, what is thought to be routine sometimes isn’t. He was diagnosed with silent angina. A cardiac cath revealed five blocked arteries, and by-pass surgery was performed at The Ohio State University Hospital.
And, it was that which ultimately pushed him into retirement, one he and wife Susie continue to enjoy in Ocala, Florida, living with daughter Ann. The move from Lima in 1994 ended an era for both Dr. Jack’s brilliant career and his wife Susie’s considerable community involvement, for which she has also been inducted into LCC’s Hall of Fame in 2019.
In next week’s final installment on the life and times of C. John Stechschulte, I’ll let you hear from several who have their own reflections about a Lima doctor who they feel cast the longest of Lima area shadows.
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.