By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer
ST. JAMES — Roger Parsons was the very personification of “small-town doctor.”
“He was a pillar of our community,” St. James Mayor Gary Sturm said of the man who, ironically and fittingly enough, died Monday at 85 on the street that bears his name.
Also fittingly enough, Parsons was simply known as “Doc” to one and all, a community physician who came to St. James fresh out of medical school in the ’50s and stayed the next 60 years.
House calls? Of course.
Service to his profession? In 1999 he and partner-physician Keith Moulton were the first selectees for the state’s Rural Health Team Award.
Service to community? Parsons served 20 years in city government, first as an alderman, then as mayor.
“He was my doctor for more than 50 years,” Sturm said. “He was my parents’ doctor and he’s been my children’s doctor.”
Parsons, born in North Dakota and raised in Redwood Falls, was instrumental in the construction of St. James’ first hospital that opened in 1958.
His death from a cerebral hemorrhage occurred in the city’s current hospital on Moulton and Parsons Drive.
Parsons and Moulton had a 56-year partnership in their medical practice and both were familiar sights on the bicycles they rode around town.
Sturm said Parsons was riding his bike until about three months ago. The doctor’s former office receptionist Beth Stradtman said Parsons pedaled that bike come hell or high curbs.
“He rode it even if he had a fall. He’d just get back on and keep going.”
She said he’d pedal home from the supermarket with plastic grocery bags suspended from his arms.
“And sometimes when he’d get called out to the hospital he’d hop on his bike and go.”
She said his daily office regimen included reading the newspaper front to back and working on its crossword puzzle between patients.
On a funeral home website, well-wishers wrote remembrances of Parsons that included enjoying his homemade jam during visits to his lake place and marveling at the “outgoing” shirts he wore.
A woman recalled that as a girl she was visiting in Parsons’ neighborhood when she had a nighttime asthma attack.
“I walked over and the doctor gave me a shot to help me breathe. A small town is truly a family.”