Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Small-town doctor delivered some 2,000 babies




NORTH BALTIMORE, Ohio — Dr. William Henry Roberts, a small-town doctor who delivered some 2,000 babies and made countless house calls during a solo practice of nearly four decades, died Thursday at his home in North Baltimore.

Dr. Roberts, 93, who had been in declining health since February, died of kidney failure, his son, William H. Roberts said.

Dr. Roberts was a Navy veteran who earned a pharmacy degree from Ohio State University in 1942.

After the war, he returned to OSU, picked up his master’s in pharmacy, and then studied medicine at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, graduating in 1951.

While practicing in North Baltimore, he was chief of staff for Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay, now Blanchard Valley Regional Health Center, and for Wood County Hospital, where he also served as medical director of Bridge Hospice.

His other duties included medical adviser to the North Baltimore Volunteer Fire Department.

He was born in North Baltimore on Aug. 3, 1920, to Charles and Nellie Roberts. His father was the town’s pharmacist, whom he helped while in high school.

His son, William, said Dr. Roberts decided against pursing a pharmacy career because doctors were closer to people.

“At the time a pharmacist was more of a chemist. It was the doctor that interacted with people,” Mr. Roberts said.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and served as an officer aboard the destroyers USS Edgar G. Chase and the USS Trumpeter, remaining in the active reserves until 1947.

He interned as a doctor in Connecticut for two years before returning to North Baltimore in 1953. He bought a practice from a retiring doctor, becoming one of three physicians in the Wood County community.

As a solo practitioner, he delivered babies, stitched cuts, took and read X-rays, and mended broken bones.

Improved transportation and rural ambulance services phased out the doctor’s office as a town’s crisis center, he said in a 1984 interview.

House calls and rounds to hospitals in Findlay and Bowling Green were part of the routine.

As a young doctor, he enjoyed the 60-mile daily trips to the hospitals driving his MG sports car, his son said.

“He liked the MG. It was a fun car,” his son said.

The fun ended when the unreliable British sports car died while on a 2 a.m. hospital run, stranding him “on his way to Blanchard Valley to deliver a baby,” his son said. “It threw a rod, and that’s all she wrote.”

When he was in his 70s, his wife bought him another MG to rekindle some of those memories, with a modern-era caveat.

“One of the most important accessories for an MG is a cell phone,” his son reminded him.

In 1984, when he was 63, North Baltimore residents honored him with Dr. Roberts Day, a communitywide celebration that included a parade.

One of those on hand was 6-year-old Angie Lindquist.

Young Angie was a “blizzard baby,” who was delivered on Jan. 27, 1978. Dr. Roberts rode a snowmobile across town during the blizzard to the home of Karen and Kevin Lindquist, delivering Angie in the family’s living room. It was the last baby of some 2,000 he delivered, he said.

He told The Blade he never considered practicing anywhere else when he left medical school.

“I always wanted to be a doctor. Didn’t ever want to be anything else.”

He liked small-town life and people who lived there. When a multinational oil company offered a lucrative position in the 1960s in Saudi Arabia, he turned it down.

“They were talking a lot of money,” his son recalled.

“That was not why he was practicing medicine.” Mr. Roberts said. “He wanted to practice medicine to take care of people … people who couldn’t pay or people who could pay, but wouldn’t.”

He remained active in medicine until 1990.

He was a member of St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, American Legion Post 539, and the North Baltimore Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons. He was active in Masons for more than 70 years.

He sang in the church choir.

He played cornet in the community theater musicals. As a student at OSU, he played alto horn in the Buckeyes’ marching band.

He married Ruth Jane Biehler on Dec. 19, 1943; she died in 1983. He married Ingrid Cornelius on July 6, 1985; she died on Oct. 15, 2011.

He is survived by his son, William H. Roberts, and two granddaughters. A daughter, Rachael, died in 2006.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, with a Masonic service at 7:30 p.m. at Smith-Crates Funeral Home, North Baltimore. The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Baltimore.

Memorials are suggested to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church.

Contact: Jim Sielicki at jsielicki@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.

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