WALTON _ After more than 35 years caring for area children, Walton pediatrician Gary Preiser is retiring, with plans to pursue his many interests.
Preiser, 64, began his practice in Walton, when he completed his training at Pittsburgh Children's Hospital. He has been employed by Delaware Valley Hospital throughout his entire career.
"I was brought to Walton by a headhunter and offered a one-year contract," Preiser said Friday. "On Sept. 9, 1973, I saw my first patient. I was paid $9 to wrap a sprained ankle."
Preiser worked his last day Tuesday and will officially retire as of Jan. 1.
Preiser said he grew up in Middletown and his wife, Lynda, grew up in a small town near Pittsburgh, so moving to Walton didn't seem too different from home.
"My cohorts, peers and friends all had children together, and the friendships have lasted the duration," Preiser said. "I have even taken care of my friends' children, which was a little tricky at times."
Preiser said he was able to use all the fine points of his pediatric training at DVH because the hospital had an obstetrical unit.
"I have had a fascinating medical practice," he said. "We have had some unusual things happen at Delaware Valley, including the birth of quadruplets 20 years ago that made national news. The surviving children remained my patients until they were grown."
Preiser said he has dealt with cases of Rye syndrome, meningitis, organ transplants and other rare medical conditions. He has treated the children of the children he saw in his early years, and last week, he saw his first third-generation patient.
"I feel like at some point along the line, I have taken care of a member of every family in Walton," Preiser added.
He has had bad moments, though.
"I am sorry about missed diagnoses and being rude in the middle of the night," he said. "I have learned you can't give out glib advice. I tried to remember that I chose to be a doctor, but they didn't choose to be a sick patient.
"I would like to thank the Walton community for allowing me to take care of their sick children," he added.
Preiser said there were times when his practice was so overwhelming and busy, he considered leaving. He was offered positions at Gannet Hall at Cornell and the Upstate Medical Center, but opted to remain in Walton.
"The fact that they closed OB was part of my decision to retire now," he said. "I sort of tapered off. I stopped taking call for the last two years and I cut back from five days a week to three."
Preiser said he will maintain his license and will continued to be the medical director for Delaware County Public Health and the school doctor at Downsville Central School.
Preiser and his wife now spend two days every other week with their 18-month-old grandson, Luke, in Philadelphia. Luke is the son of their daughter and son-in-law, Josh and Rebecca Preiser-D'Ancona.
"It's a good time to step away, and if life is a three-act play, I am ready for act three," Preiser said. "My first order of business is to build a rocking horse."
Lynda Preiser, 60, works two days a week at SUNY Delhi Health Center as a nurse practitioner and plans to continue working because she enjoys working with the students.
Lynda said she was on the Hope Ship in Brazil when Gary decided to take the position in Walton.
"I tried to find Walton on the maps on the ship and it wasn't there," Lynda laughed. "I was hoping when I got back I would know how to get there."
Lynda said both of the Preisers' daughters, Rebecca and Sarah, were born at DVH. She and her husband have had surgery there, and Sarah spent time in the hospital during her illness.
Sarah Preiser died Dec. 28, 2001.
"I am glad it was here that we chose to live," Lynda said. "We have been lucky and have been able to travel, but it's always nice to come home, except for the long, cold winters."
Lynda and Gary both said they are looking forward to doing things that they enjoy, including ballroom dancing.
"We really enjoy dancing," Lynda said. "We have taken lessons over the years and we are members of the Valley Cotillion Club. Dancing is a wonderful way to get to know people." Gary Preiser is also looking forward to spending time in his canoe and in other outdoor pursuits.
"I was cross-country skiing on Bearspring Mountain yesterday and I can't wait for spring when I can get back in the river," he said. "There are a lot of things I tried to stuff in the cracks of my life that will now become my life."