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Doc O'Neill's turn to share story



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August 17, 2011 - By Dr. James O'Neill

This is my favorite Jim O'Neill story and as one famous commentator said, the rest of the story.

After a few weeks in med school at St. Louis University in 1954, a sister school, Fontbonne University, had a reception for us. At this reception, three of us met our future wives to be. Of course, I met my beautiful wife, Mikel Werner. To me it was love at first sight, but to her it took some convincing.

We graduated in 1958 and also had our first child Mike. Life was hurried and hectic as we left St. Louis for studies at Henry Ford Hospital. After internship, a pediatric residency and some some post graduate ER work at Henry Ford Hospital we looked for a place to set up practice.

Again it was love at first site with Clarkston. We looked at other places, but Clarkston was the "gold standard" and in a short time we chose our beautiful village and, of course, we never regretted it.

It was ironic that the first and only house we ever looked at was the old Henry Ford place on Holcomb Road. It was perfect and close to the village. We could have cattle, horses, and farm, and grew trees and vegetables.

The practice grew by leaps and bounds and we outgrew four different buildings. The planning, devotion, and many times, financial sacrifices were always Mikel's as our practice was 24-7 with a large number of patients seen at our house.

There were almost 4,200 lacerations and injuries treated on our kitchen table which eventually had to be replaced. We didn't have cell phones. Mikel answered the phone and greeted patients 24-7 when I was between the hospital, office, and home.

We were blessed with six wonderful children, Mike, Kari, Megan, Devin, Danny and Timmy. All of the coordination of finances of the home, office and farm were under Mikel's expert and watchful eye. After several years of 24-7, she said we need a 24 hour "care and caring center." She predicted we would see 601 people after hours and weekends; it was 602 the first month.

All of our children were involved in the practice. Mike built, coordinated and became the go-to guy – every task and need became a "Mike job."

Kari returned from Chicago with a wonderful husband, Lennie, and children Joe and Elizabeth. She took over a fast growing practice and put it on a solid service-based 24 hour center. Megan and Devin were always there to fill in as they pursued their education.

Timmy came along 11 years later and contributed much love and comfort. He had four dads and three moms and eventually took over the practice.

It became difficult to raise cattle near, and sometimes on, I-75 so we moved the farm to Clare, Mich., with the Amish. There we developed a new paradigm in recycling animal waste and the reduction of artificial petroleum based fertilizers and chemical weed control. Kari, Mikel, Mike, Danny and his wife Karyn completed the ground work while Megan was involved in politics, trying to bring some fiscal sanity to our state and federal government.

Devin worked for BCBS trying to understand and learn more of the paradigm of patient care, cost and finances or lack thereof in healthcare.

We lost Devin in a tragic car accident. Mikel was up north at our cabin when I finally got through to her to tell her that Devin had died. Her first words were, did he suffer badly and then she said, "we were so fortunate that God loaned him to us for 23 years." It was not how come us, why not someone else, but it was her great faith in God and His infinite love and wisdom that He only "loans our children to us" and to appreciate every one of them and cherish, nourish, and love them every day of their lives.

We moved to our new medical center with Kari's expertise and long hours of planning and negotiation during a near national and state wide economic collapse. We perservered with the concept of 24-7 presence and excellent care.

The years have moved on. We have 14 beautiful grandchildren, two wonderful sons-in-law, Lennie Gorz and Rick Nini, and three beautiful daughters-in-law, Kathy, Karyn, and Gretchen.

Gretchen has been working at our office since high school. Danny and Karyn worked at the office for many years.

Kari's children, Joe and Elizabeth, contributed to the office and performed many tasks. Mike's boys, Mike, Jeffrey, and Jeremy, have added their assistance too, and his lovely daughter, Katie. Kari's daughter, Rebecca, and Megan's daughter, Adelena, have answered the phone and performed many unforeseen tasks for Grandma and Grandpa. Danny's children Emilie and Riley have also answered the phone and helped Grandpa. Megan and Rick's children Marla and Chad have also helped Grandma and Grandpa.

Gretchen is Timmy's wife. Timmy was our special surprise 35 years ago and he and Gretchen with their two beautiful daughters, Branigan and Brecken, have picked up the mantle and carried the torch, but "Grandma" Mikel is still the "rock" of the family.

When I chose her I never dreamed of the love, care, wisdom and sacrifice she would bring to healthcare and "caring" in this community.

God bless you Mikel and with much love and affection, on behalf of Clarkston and thank you.

In honor of Dr. James O'Neill's 50 years in practice, the Clarkston News is publishing patients' and friends' memories and tributes.

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