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'Doc' Hesek

Local doctor’s legacy on display in Johnstown

June 14, 2009
By SHAWN M. TOMLINSON, The Leader-Herald

William "Doc" Hesek was an old-time, old-fashioned, cigar-smoking country doctor who "never sent a bill and never refused a call."

He served the community and the local sports teams for many years. His practice was started with used equipment and his office is part of a new exhibit at the Johnstown Historical Society Museum.

"His daughter, Barbara Taylor, donated his equipment to the museum," said Noel Levee, Johnstown city historian and curator of the Johnstown Historical Society Museum. "We've had it for a while, but we wanted to set up a little doctor's room."

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Shawn M. Tomlinson
Johnstown City Historian Noel Levee shows the new exhibit based on the medical
practice of William “Doc” Hesek Thursday at the Johnstown Historical Society Museum, 11 N. William St. Levee said the official opening of the exhibit will take place Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.

The exhibit will have a grand opening reception at the museum Saturday during regular museum hours. The museum is open 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday during the summer.

"Barbara and her sister, Christine, are coming," Levee said. "We wanted it to be around Father's Day."

According to documentation presented in the reproduction of Hesek's office at the museum, he hitchhiked to Syracuse University after graduating from Johnstown High School in 1928. He graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1936, interned in the New York State Mental Hospital in Utica and did his surgical residency in Chicago before returning to Johnstown. His medical residency took place at Endicott Hospital in Binghamton and Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville.

Hesek bought a house at 228 N. Perry St. and opened his practice in 1937. He saw approximately 60 patients a day, answered his own phone, distributed his own medications and made house calls for the next 38 years.

"He was just unique," Levee said. "He delivered more babies than the baby doctors."

Levee said Hesek bought his stethoscope and other medical instruments used from doctors who had retired.

Even his exam table and other medical furniture came from the 1920s and 1930s art deco style.

Among his many instrument acquisitions is a World War I field medical kit on display at the museum along with other instruments still in packages unopened at the time of Hesek's retirement in 1976.

Along with his private patients, Hesek donated his time to local semipro sports teams including the Glove Cities Colonials football team at their height in the 1970s.

"Johnstown football was everything," Levee said.

Along with being a traditional doctor, Hesek performed minor surgeries in his office.

"One story his daughter told me was that one patient would call for Doc to visit her at home," Levee said. "He'd say 'leave the light on.' And she'd say 'I'll put coffee on.' This went on for years. Barbara told me the funny thing was her father didn't drink coffee."

For more information, call the museum at 762-7076 or visit the Web site www.cityofjohnstown-ny.com/historical_society1.htm.

Shawn M. Tomlinson is the Sunday editor of The Sunday Leader-Herald. He can be reached at features@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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