Girard Icon - Dr. Wesley Hall!
Article by Alex Battitori, Hometown Girard
He’s one of the most well-known and well-liked Girard locals. Though he didn’t arrive in Girard until his professional career began, he has impacted just as many lives as any native Girardian. In fact, if you were born in the Girard General Hospital or Girard Medical Center between the early ‘60s and early ‘90s, this man may have very well been the first person you saw.
But, believe it or not, Dr. Wesley Hall didn’t always have his heart set on becoming a doctor.
He was born in Green Forest, Ark., but didn’t remain there long until his family uprooted first to Sherman, Kan., then back to Arkansas, and then on to Canyon City, Colo., when he was in eighth grade. The constant moving was a necessity for Hall, whose father served as a Baptist minister.
His largest move came in the midst of WWII, when he was still in high school. Temporarily breaking off his education, Hall joined the Navy and was assigned as a gunners mate in the Philippines.
“That was when I really began thinking about going into medicine,” he said. “I decided I wanted to attend KU and take the pre-med curriculum.”
And, after returning from the Philippines and finishing his high school degree, that’s exactly what he did. It was also during that time that he met his future wife, Norma.
“I was serving as a nurse at Halstead Hospital, where Wesley worked in the research lab,” Norma said.
The two were married in 1952, and Dr. Hall completed his undergrad a year later in 1953. He would remain at KU for medical school before relocating to Kansas City for his internship at Bethany Hospital in 1958.
But Dr. Hall, who had spent his childhood in a plethora of small towns, already had his sights set on practicing medicine in a rural setting—so long as the town had its own hospital. Fortunately, such an opportunity came calling that same year, an opportunity by the name of Dr. Jack Walker.
“Dr. Walker grew up [in Girard] and came back there to practice, but he was wanting to head up the program at KU, so he came recruiting for someone to replace him back in Girard,” Dr. Hall said. “I bought his practice upon arriving in Girard, and he went up to KU.”
Girard’s medical landscape looked much different back then. The hospital—then Girard General Hospital—didn’t have a lab or even an X-ray machine of its own. Anyone in need of either service had to make the trip to Mt. Carmel instead.
“Fortunately, we did get an X-ray machine, thanks to Barbara Lohmeyer,” Dr. Hall said. “She came on as administrator in 1958.”
It also wasn’t uncommon for Dr. Hall to make house calls.
“They would call, and he would go, and I would call the place where he went to tell him where he needed to be next,” Mrs. Hall said. “Mostly for things like the flu. Even if it was in the middle of the night, he usually went.”
On one such occasion, when Dr. Hall arrived at the house, his patient was sitting calmly for him at the kitchen table, waiting.
Recalling the incident with a laugh, Dr. Hall said, “He said to me, ‘It was cheaper for you to come to the house than for me to go in to your office.’”
Though house calls formed a part of his practice in the early days (he didn’t take house calls for the last five years of his practice), those types of calls were dwarfed by another: deliveries.
“I can’t tell you how many babies I’ve delivered,” he said.
He does remember one night, though, when he delivered two pairs of twins, one right after another, in rooms directly across from each other.
And Dr. and Mrs. Hall had a large family of their own—five sons and two daughters. Mrs. Hall spent most of her time at home raising, a task which she said her nursing background came in very handy for.
Dr. Hall retired from his office practice in 1993, having split his medical career between the old Girard General Hospital and the new Girard Medical Center, which was erected about a decade after he came to Girard, in 1969.
“After [my retirement] I went down to Cherokee for a little while, and then came to cardiac rehab at GMC,” he said. For those who know Dr. Hall, it’s not surprising that his official “retirement” wasn’t really a retirement—he’s always liked to stay busy.
In his spare time, he can frequently be spotted on his family’s farm working on some project or another. He has also been an active member in his church, the Girard Bible Church, which he founded with Martin Schifferdecker, an aspect of his life he has always been proud of.
On the medical side, he is also especially proud of his AAFP fellowship, which he earned in 1975. The test to become certified as an AAFP fellow is a rigorous one, and it is considered to be the one of the most difficult tests a medical professional can take because it draws questions from across all medical disciplines.
He has also made a major impact on those he worked with.
Dr. James Wilkins said of his former colleague, “Dr. Hall was instrumental in my coming to Girard in 1979. He had first met me on a recruiting trip to Kansas City when I was a senior resident. I was immediately impressed by his passion for health care in Girard and as I came to know him better, by his integrity, compassion and faith. He blessed me greatly as I worked for and with him for 19 and one-half years.
“When I and my family felt called to the mission field, Wes was a great encouragement. Girard has been enriched greatly by his presence and I am proud to be able to add my thankfulness to such an outstanding, extraordinary man. He continues to be an inspiration to me both medically and in my Christian walk. He has been a blessing to so many people. Medical care in Girard has been largely shaped by his presence. I wish him the very best in his continued retirement.”
It’s no surprise, then, that the people—meeting them, helping them and making an impact on them—is what drove Dr. Hall to become one of Girard’s most beloved figures.
“I really liked the people,” he said simply. “That was what I missed the most when I retired.”