Toasting town’s doc Holladay
Family physician retires after 43 years in Eudora
Eudora physician Kenneth Holladay is still having dreams about giving patients advice.
"I realized I don't have to do this anymore," said the recently-retired Holladay.
After 43 years practicing family medicine in Eudora, such relapses could be expected. Holladay celebrated his retirement June 6 with a reception including friends, family and patients.
It was rare, Holladay said, to see a doctor stay in a community that long, and not just today, either. Holladay's research taught him one Eudora physician from the late 1800s was in Eudora about half as long as Holladay's 43 years.
"It doesn't seem possible," he said of the passing time.
A native of Lawrence, Holladay said he probably would have started practicing there if possible, but he said God's will put him in Eudora. In 1961, pharmacist Alf Oleson had a medical facility at 10th and Maple streets, but Eudora had no doctor.
"There had been other doctors, but no one had stayed," Holladay said.The whole time Oleson owned the building he never upped the $50-a-month rent.
"He made it really attractive for me," Holladay said.
Moreover, Oleson threw in a heavy wooden desk Holladay used all of his years in Eudora. One of his sons recently carted it back to New Mexico.
"He said, 'There's a sentimental desk,'" Holladay said.
Road to Eudora
At the time Holladay interviewed for medical school, the "right" answer to what a prospective physician wanted to do was to operate a general practice in rural Kansas. Of 100-some classmates, Holladay estimated he was one of about 12 to back up that statement.
Starting school early and skipping kindergarten meant Holladay graduated from high school as a 16-year-old.
Spending summers on a relative's farm north of Lawrence, Holladay picked potatoes, milked cows and put hay into barns. Holladay said his uncle became a father figure to him and vowed if the student could get through college, he would help get him through medical school, too.
After three years as an undergraduate, Holladay started medical school, the first year of which also served as his fourth year of undergraduate work. After internship and a stint in the Air Force, the young doctor set up shop in Eudora.
Becoming a physician was a dream documented in Holladay's ninth-grade yearbook and something he'd been told he'd do, even as a young child. For Holladay, such circumstances are proof of a higher intent.
"The Lord led me here," he said. "There were doors opened that would not have been otherwise."
Meeting his wife, Elisabeth, in church was fated, too, Holladay said.
"There's no question about that -- the Lord wanted us to be together," he said.
The couple had a two-year engagement, during which Elisabeth moved to Detroit, meaning the betrothed saw each other two or three times a year.
Although money was tight, the newlyweds decided to spend several months with family in Elisabeth's native Switzerland.
"All we had to do was get there," he said.
During his 43 years in practice, Holladay said Elisabeth had served as a strong partner, filling in at the office when needed.
"She was really a big help," he said.
At the retirement reception, Elisabeth joked about Holladay's changing priorities.
"Medicine was always first," she said. " And guess what: Now I get to be first."
In the days when Elisabeth would help out at the clinic, Holladay said he had one assistant who could juggle the various duties from drawing blood and giving shots to filling out insurance paperwork.
"When computers came in, it got more complicated," he said.
More assistants were needed, Holladay said, when other physicians began joining him in the mid-1980s. To Holladay it seems his most recent partner, Dr. Daniel Dickerson, was fated to join the Eudora practice.
Holladay's former partner, Dr. Stephen Nolker, was leaving when Holladay had a medical meeting to attend in Kansas City. Elisabeth wasn't feeling well and decided not to go, and ordinarily Holladay said he wouldn't have attended alone.
Deciding to go anyway, Holladay ended up sitting next to Dickerson, who was looking for a change.
"It's not a coincidence, I believe," Holladay said.
Fortunately, Dickerson and his family took to Eudora, and Dickerson is adding a nurse practitioner.
"I feel comfortable retiring," Holladay said.
In his four decades of practice, Holladay has seen changes from the inside out. When he came to Eudora in the early 1960s, Holladay said the town seemed more isolated than it did now, thanks to four-lane Kansas Highway 10.
But even in the days when he was the only doctor in a rural town, Holladay still found time for ample vacations, spending time with his wife and taking family trips.
At the retirement reception, some of the couple's children expressed their gratitude.
"I'm proud of you, Dad," son Matt Holladay said. "You've raised a fine family and built a fine home. You have the respect of the community. You've done a stand-up job."
Holladay said the rugged, outdoor camping experience passed on a love of nature to his children, who are involved in many ways from working in the fish and game field to teaching outdoor sports.
But such freedom for family time would be unheard of to someone entering medical school today, he said.
"You're not going to be your own boss," he said.
The complexion of medicine had changed in 43 years, too, in part because insurance companies can dictate a patient's care from what medicines he or she may be prescribed to what physician he or she may see. Holladay said he'd lost patients that way.
"I'd say, 'You'll come back some day,' and most of them did," he said.
During the years Holladay was able to build a loyal relationship with his patients.
"I don't think that happens anymore," he said.
The full experience
With retirement coming, Holladay decided to do the math on how many babies he'd delivered. Putting parameters on the calculation, such as those babies delivered in medical school and during his time in the service, Holladay delivered 1,440 babies.
"Most of the time it was rewarding and happy," he said.
Being a physician in a small town for 43 years allowed Holladay to experience the highs and lows of patients' lives, from birth to death.
"You see everything," he said. "You take care of the little babies to (those) 100 years old.
"It's neat to be able to take care of everybody from one end to the other."