On June 7, 1982, Dr. Noel Robitaille, in conjunction with Dr. Ron Abbott, opened a medical practice in La Porte City. He’s been caring for La Porte City patients ever since. The doctor closes his medical practice this month after 31 years of service to the community to care for his most important patient- his wife, Bernice.
The medical landscape in La Porte City was very different in the early 1980s. The community’s previous physician, Dr. Karl Jauch, had provided medical care for city residents for 22 years before closing the clinic he owned and moving his practice to Waterloo in 1981, leaving the community without a resident physician for nearly two years. Led by a core group of local residents, a Citizen’s Advisory and Community Development Committee was formed, and $20,000 was raised as part of a Medical Clinic Drive. It was an effort that ultimately succeeded in bringing Drs. Abbott and Robitaille to town.
Dr. Robitaille earned his doctor of medicine degree from Laval University in Quebec City, Canada in 1959. After a brief stint as a Medical Office with the Royal Air Force, Robitaille practiced medicine in the Province of Ontario and other locations before deciding to leave Canada’s system of socialized medicine behind, coming to the United States in 1978 to work primarily as an Emergency Room Physician. His medical career, spanning over 50 years, has offered him many unique experiences. His assignment as a coroner while working in Canada, for example, challenged him with cases viewers back in the day could have easily seen dramatized by actor Jack Klugman on the television series Quincy. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Dr. Robitaille has also brought many babies into the world. He even keeps a list on his computer of all the babies he’s delivered over the years. It’s a list that contains 820 names and dates back over fifty years.
Though Dr. Robitaille’s final day seeing patients was August 30, his office at 504 Main Street will remain open until Monday, September 30. This will allow patients ample time to transfer their records to a new doctor. His decision to close the practice, rather than sell it was a deliberate one, acknowledging the waning number of doctors that are now available and/or willing to work outside large, metropolitan areas.
“A lot of them [his patients] want to go see Dr. Renaud and that is fine with me,” he stated.
“They are lucky to have Dr. Renaud here,” he added.
As he prepares for the next chapter in his life, Dr. Robitaille will donate much of his equipment so it can be put to good use by missionary doctors in Africa.
A man with many interests, Dr. Robitaille looks forward to spending some of his free time pursuing a few of them. A seasoned pilot, Robitaille enjoys flying. He also enjoys music and is currently taking lessons to learn how to play the organ.
While the 83 year old physician admits, “I am old enough to quit,” leaving the patients he has served for over three decades was a decision he had to make, putting the care of his beloved wife before all others. His devotion to Bernice is evident throughout their home, from the many photographs taken of her over the years, to the modifications made to the home itself that will aid him in her care. But it’s a story about a cricket, of all things, that illustrates her love for living things and genteel nature.
While living in Cedar Falls, as the story goes, the sound of a chirping cricket in the room began to test his patience. Searching diligently, he located the offending insect, grabbed it, and triumphantly declared, “I got it!” That’s when Bernice got involved. She instructed him to give her the cricket, promptly walked it to the door, opened it and set the cricket free. When asked why she did that, her reply was a simple one:
“She still has a song to sing.”