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The Daily Me

“Doc” Whalen
By Fred Wintle September 4, 2002
If you were born in Dexter or any one of the surrounding towns during the Depression Era chances are Doctor Henry Edward Whalen M.D. brought you into the world. Doc Whalen preceded Doctor Hans Sherman as local small town New England doctor. Both practiced medicine out of the little white block shaped building on the East side Wall Street next door to the Dexter Post Office. The building with its familiar small thick glass blocked windowed waiting room houses SAD 48 Administration Office today. That small waiting room saw a lot of local emergencies through the years. But before Dr. Sherman the business belonged to Doc Whalen.

Doc Whalen’s entry door had a small sign announcing his fee for child delivery. It read “maternity cases $35.00.” Many of those babies who are now well into their retirement years very likely were delivered for free because of the era during which they arrived.

Doc Whalen was a well-respected local citizen known for his colorful language and his willingness to make needed house calls throughout the area. After-hours would find him seated in a rocking chair in the show room across the street from his office at Tommie Tetu’s Gulf Station (Big Apple Texaco now) chewing the fat along with an ever-present cigar with the local boys. Rumor has it that Doc was responsible for getting Tommie hooked on cigars too because Tommie also was known for constantly smoked cigars.

While not a real club in the traditional sense, the group that gathered was known as the “International Club”. Members of the club needed only a sense of humor and a willingness to participate to belong.

While it was before my time, I’ve seen photos of the gas station that sported a large sign that read “Lubitorium”. It actually was an enclosed bay with a pit for changing oil. The garage had two drive up gas pumps with their round faced glass tops advertising Gulf Oil in bold black letters on an orange back-ground. The gas station wasn’t just about petroleum products though, weightier things happened inside. Solving world proportion problems occurred in rocking chairs in the adjoining storefront by the aforementioned “Club International.” Chief among his peers was Doc Whalen. A sense of his character was found at the end of his life and was captured by his friend Reverend Gordon Reardon.

Reardon’s written tribute read at the Doctor’s wake included the sentiment that “Doc Whalen was a good Catholic, a good father, a good physician, a good citizen, and a good friend…” I’d be happy to have that as my epithet.
Fred

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