MANKATO — When Paul Gislason completed his orthopedic residency requirements at a Minneapolis hospital, he looked to Mankato in 1957 and saw a need.
There were no orthopedic surgeons in the community, and he was determined to be the first.
That year he founded the Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic in Mankato, which grew to be the largest orthopedic specialty practice in the Midwest.
But at the outset his practice was located in humble digs, said Wynn Kearney Jr., a former Mankato physician who Gislason recruited for the clinic in 1972.
His downtown office was on the second floor of a former grocery store, a climb less than ideal for those with orthopedic ailments, Kearney said.
Gislason, who died Monday at age 87, took a chance when he opened the specialized-care clinic because in the late 1950s general practice doctors handled most bone-fracture cases.
Physician Donald Meredith, a college friend who joined Gislason in 1959, said building the clinic practice was slow going until a pipeline of sorts was established.
Meredith said success came when area doctors would refer patients to University of Minnesota medical staff familiar with the two physicians. That staff in turn would recommend that the patients go to the Mankato clinic for care.
The Mankato clinic was the only state facility of its type outside Rochester and the Twin Cities. It now has 16 surgeons, physicians assistants and physical therapists, more than 80 support staff, and offices in Faribault, Hutchinson and Northfield.
“Gis was always a very responsible, meticulous surgeon and person,” said retired clinic physician Gene Swanson.
Said Kearney, “He was always interested in providing cutting-edge care to patients.”
Kearney said Gislason was a “man’s man” who played hockey at the University of North Dakota and served aboard a Navy tank-landing ship in World War II.
He also pursued a work hard/play hard lifestyle — he carded seven holes-in-one and frequently skied the Rocky Mountains — which led to multiple residences that kept him and wife Marian on the move.
“He and Marian moved more often than most of us change our clothes,” Swanson said.
Gislason, who died of complications related to Parkinson’s disease, had lived the past four years with his wife in a senior-care community in the Twin Cities suburb of North Oaks where his services are Friday..