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August 19, 2003

When I hear or read about pioneer country doctors, I always mentally picture the one that most of us here in Noble County knew and adored. That would be Dr. Daniel Frederick Coldiron, whose practice encompassed this area long before the advent of modern hospitals like Perry Memorial. He was unique, one of a kind, and his method of serving is rarely found today. If you remember the saintly "Dr. Christian" of radio and movie fame a few decades ago, you can summon up the countenance of Dr. Coldiron. Dr. Christian was portrayed by actor Jean Hersholt, who faintly resembled Dr. Coldiron. Their ethics were pretty much alike.

It seems everyone has a Dr. Coldiron story. Here's mine: My mother was expecting me to be born on a steamy August night several years ago, and Dr. Coldiron was our family physician. The night I arrived, earlier than the official forecast, Mother told Dad she was going into labor and asked him to call Dr. Coldiron. Most attended births were in the mothers' homes in those days. According to Mom's tale, I beat the doctor's arrival by several minutes and it seems I wound, up in something they called a "slop jar." When Dr. Coldiron walked in he quickly took charge of the situation, got me cleaned up and everything else squared away, then returned to his home on Fir Avenue to catch a few winks before beginning his daily routine of house calls. Despite the tumult of excitement at our house, he was his normal unperturbed self. Infant births were nothing new to him.

Throughout his career, he delivered an estimated 4,000 babies, mostly in the homes of mothers. In 1956 he was honored by Noble County farm women with a county-wide celebration at the Perry fairgrounds on the occasion of his 80th birthday. They gave him a new television set, a novelty at the time, and the livestock building at the fairgrounds was packed with hundreds of well-wishers. He also was a guest on an Oklahoma City TV station, hosted by Danny Williams, as a further tribute to his health care through the years.

As noted, he was one of the last family physicians who made regular house calls. With the assistance of the Perry Rotary Club, which was proud to have him as a charter member, he organized annual pre-school immunization clinics for youngsters just entering the first grade. In the 1930's the state took over a similar service. He cared for patients in the Billings, Marland and Red Rock areas before moving his practice to Perry in 1918.

Dr. Coldiron died in 1961 at the age of 85. His office that I remember was a suite of rooms on the second floor of the Masonic building (now owned by Victor Green). Also in that building were several attorneys, another physician, a dentist, the Chamber of Commerce office and assorted others. I can still hear Dr. Coldiron shuffling around his office, whistling or humming a tune known only to him, just taking care of business. He is remembered with great affection by many men and women in this county who were ushered into the world by Dr. Coldiron, although some of us arrived at our homes before he did.

Descendants still live in this community and all of them are well regarded. Their work ethic and cheerful nature remind us each day that we should share ourselves freely with one another. One of Dr. Coldiron's biggest helpers was his wife, Daisy Lemon Coldiron. She also has passed away, but her lifetime of achievements as a published poet, philosopher, doctor's wife and devoted mother earned her recognition and they also merit praise. One of these days we'll discuss those in a little more detail.