When doctors made house calls — and truly served

When doctors made house calls — and truly served

{{featured_button_text}}

Throughout the history of Lake Geneva, physicians have played an important role in the city.

At the onset of the Civil War in 1861, a number of physicians living in Geneva, or who would live in Geneva after the war, enlisted in the Union Army, where they served as surgeons, including Dr. Hilton Boyce and Dr. Benoni O. Reynolds.

Physicians played important roles in Lake Geneva during the final decades of the 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th century, most notably the son of Dr. Benoni Reynolds, Dr. J.C. Reynolds (1843-1933), as well as Dr. William Macdonald (1886-1951), and Dr. Richard Halsey (1886-1959).

I remember Dr. William Macdonald very well. In the autumn of 1948 when I was a first-grade student at Central School, I was running across Madison Street near the Lake Geneva High School, heading home for lunch, when I was hit and knocked down by a car. The car was driven by Dr. William Macdonald. He picked me up and took me to his office on the north side of the 900 block of Main Street, where he examined me. He (and I) were very relieved to learn that I was OK.

During the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, physicians played an important role in Lake Geneva. But the big difference between then and today is that physicians in those days made “house calls” — that is, they actually visited their patients in their homes. In addition to the house calls that they made, they maintained offices in which they saw patients and performed relatively minor operations. Most residents of Lake Geneva maintained a longstanding relationship with their favorite physicians. In this column, I will recount the lives of six of the leading physicians in Lake Geneva during the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s.

My family’s physician was Dr. E.D. Hudson. I well remember Dr. Hudson making many house calls to our home on Maxwell Street to care for my grandmother, Lillie Wardingle. Dr. Hudson always arrived at our house promptly at the time he was supposed to arrive, opened his large medical bag, removed a stethoscope and listened to my grandmother’s heart. He then removed a blood pressure device from his medical bag and took my grandmother’s blood pressure, and then put a tongue depressor in her mouth and examined her throat. He pulled what I called a flashlight from his bag and examined her eyes and then pulled another device from his bag to look in her ears. He then examined her shoulder to see how her bursitis was. And he then departed with a cheery goodbye as quickly as he had arrived.

My first visit to Dr. Hudson’s office on the north side of the 900 block of Main Street was in about 1946. Dr. Hudson placed a cloth laden with ether over my nose. I momentarily saw stars floating, before losing consciousness. He removed my tonsils and adenoids. When I woke up, I heard him tell my grandmother to be sure to give me ice cream when we got home.

Dr. E.D. Hudson had been born in Max Meadow, Virginia, in about 1904 as the son of Robert and Margaret Balley Hudson. He graduated from the William and Mary Academy and the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and earned his M.D. from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.

In 1932, he moved to Lake Geneva, where he practiced medicine as a partner of Dr. Dean H. Jeffers Sr. He married the former Byrdie Jones in Richmond, Virginia. Eventually, he established his own practice at his office on Main Street. During World War II, he was a commander and flight surgeon in the U.S. Navy. In 1946, he became a partner with Dr. Henry Bischof and Dr. Richard Halsey.

Dr. Hudson had a then-modern house built at the northwest corner of Geneva and Madison streets, and eventually moved his medical practice to the south side of Main Street (state Highway 50), east of the St. Francis de Sales Church.

Dr. Hudson was a past president of the Walworth County Medical Society and a member of the National Abdominal Surgeons Group and the American Medical Association. He played a key role in establishing the intensive care unit at Lakeland Hospital. He was also a member of the Lake Geneva Lions Club, the Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce, and the First Congregational Church. He passed away at the Mount Carmel Care Center in Burlington on Sunday, Sept. 8, 1974, at about the age of 70.

In 1946, Dr. E.D. Hudson’s medical partner became Dr. Henry Bischof. Dr. Bischof had been born in Milwaukee on April 30, 1918, as the son of Ferdinand and Elizabeth Ritzel Bischof. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin and earned his M.D. from the University of Illinois Rush Medical School in Chicago. In 1941, he married Marjorie J. Cross in Chicago.

Following his graduation from medical school, he practiced medicine in Richland Center, Wisconsin. In 1944, he moved to Lake Geneva, where he became associated with Dr. Dean H. Jeffers Sr. In 1946, he became a partner of Dr. E.D. Hudson. He served as a major in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 to 1957 and as a base surgeon at the L.G. Hansem Field in Bedford, Massachusetts, after which he returned to Lake Geneva. He retired from medical practice in 1983.

Dr. Bischof was a member of the First Congregational Church, the Lake Geneva Lions Club, the Walworth County Medical Society and the American Medical Association. He also served as the secretary/treasurer of the Lakeland Hospital medical staff. He lived on South Lake Shore Drive across the street from the “Korean Village.” He passed away at the Geneva Lake Manor on Monday, Dec. 1, 1997, at the age of 79.

As his first name suggests, Dr. Dean H. Jeffers Sr. was the dean and mentor of Lake Geneva physicians during the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. Dr. Jeffers was born in Darien on Jan. 30, 1886. He graduated from Winneconne High School in 1905 and from Lawrence College in Appleton in 1909.

He taught high school in Tomahawk and in Wausau for three years before entering the University of Michigan Medical School, from which he received his M.D. in 1916. After graduating from the University of Michigan Medical School, he practiced medicine in Janesville, 1917-1918, West Salem, 1918-1926, and Sparta, 1926-1931. In 1918, he married Lucretia Van Zandt in West Salem. She passed away in 1930. In May 1931, he married Genevieve Masters in Sparta.

In 1931, Dr. Jeffers moved to Lake Geneva, where he opened a practice at 816 Wisconsin St. He and his wife lived nearby at 832 Wisconsin St.

In addition to his medical practice, Dr. Jeffers was very active in civic and community affairs in Lake Geneva. He served four consecutive terms (1941-1953) as a member of the Lake Geneva School Board and was the treasurer of the school board and the chairman of the board’s athletic committee. He was an ardent supporter of the Lake Geneva High School’s athletic teams and never missed a high school football, basketball, or baseball game.

Dr. Jeffers was a 32nd degree Mason and a member of the Walworth County Medical Society and the Wisconsin Medical Society. He was a founding member of the Lake Geneva Lions Club and was the governor of the Lions District 27A. He was a member of the First Congregational Church. Dr. Jeffers was also an active member of the Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce and served as its president. He played a key role in persuading the Belvidere Pottery Co. to move to Lake Geneva.

Dr. Dean H. Jeffers Sr., died on Friday, Sept. 23, 1955, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he had recently undergone surgery. He was 69 years old.

Dr. Dean H. Jeffers Sr.’s son, Dr. Dean H. Jeffers Jr., became a prominent physician in Lake Geneva, and his other son, Dr. John W. Jeffers, became a dentist in Lake Geneva.

Dr. Dean H. Jeffers Jr., had been born in West Salem on May 26, 1920. He graduated from Lake Geneva High School in 1938 as his class valedictorian. During World War II, he was a staff sergeant in the U. S. Army Air Corps, serving in the 39th Bomber Squadron. He graduated from the University of Dubuque, and in 1952 from Marquette University Medical School, and then joined the medical practice of his father. On March 20, 1954, he married Catherine Maclean in Elkhorn.

He was a member of the Walworth County Medical Society, the American Medical Association, the First Congregational Church, and Frank Kresen Post #24 of the American Legion. He served as the medical adviser to Badger High School, the Lake Geneva Elementary Schools, and the Red Cross Blood Bank.

On Thursday, July 26, 1979, he died at his home at 416 Madison St. of a heart attack. He was only 59 years old.

Quinn is a Lake Geneva native who is the University Archivist Emeritus at Northwestern University.

Get Breaking News delivered directly to you.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics