I rarely write a blog post that is the result of a request. That is mainly because I do not get many requests. I will attempt to satisfy a request today. Contrary to most days, I do not have a special event for today’s main character that took place on today’s date. I chose to do this post because we are in the midst of a pandemic, and folks in the medical profession are real heroes right now. I want to write about a medical hero from East Perry County’s past. I wrote a story about today’s main character before, but it was done in my early days of blogging, and it consisted of two paragraphs. Dr. Theodore Fischer deserves more than two paragraphs. Today, I will do two things. First, I will give Dr. Fischer my normal treatment, including information about his birth, baptism, marriage(s), death, and burial. Second, I am going to share some anecdotal stories that were sent to me from some descendants of Doc Fischer.
Theodore Fischer was born on August 14, 1902, the son of Edward and Eva Katherine (Kuennel) Fischer. According to our German Family Tree, Theodore was the 6th child in a family of 10. He was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church, but he was not baptized by Trinity’s pastor. History reports that Rev. A. Schormann was having health problems during his few years at Trinity. Rev. Hueschen from Grace Lutheran Church was the pastor for Theodore’s baptism. Another thing that I find fascinating is that this baby, according to this document, had just one name along with his surname. He is not shown as having a middle name. His baptism record also does not place an “e” at the end of his first name. So many subsequent documents include the “e”, including his own signature, that I will use Theodore.
Theodore’s father was the proprietor of a general store located on Main Street in Altenburg. Their home was located next to the store. The home and store are shown in the photo below.
We find Theodore in his first census in 1910. He was 7 years old.
It was about the time of this census that this Fischer family photo was taken. Theodore is the boy standing next to the baby.
Another photograph that was taken at that time. It shows Teacher Hemmann’s class. I believe Theodore is second from the left in the front row.
Next, we find Theodore in the 1920 census.
Theodore attended the College High School in Cape Girardeau and then went off to study medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. He graduated in 1927 and is said to have graduated number one in his class. In the year he graduated, he also got married. The photo below is said to have been taken in 1926, not long before his marriage.
Let’s take a look at his first wife’s early history. Eleonor Koestering was born on May 30, 1904, the daughter of Fred and Susanna (Fischer) Koestering. The fact that Eleonor’s mother is also a Fischer is interesting. I have referred in previous posts to some folks being Altenburg Fischer’s and some Frohna Fischer’s. If you go far enough back, they are connected. Eleonor was also the granddaughter of Rev. J.F. Koestering, who once served Trinity, Altenburg. Theodore was an Altenburg Fischer. Susanna was a Frohna Fischer. Eleonor was also baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. Here is a case where her name has an “e” at the end on her baptism record, but other documents do not. Some have an “a” at the end. Her gravestone has no “e” or “a”.
Eleonor can be found in the 1910 census at the age of 5.
Next, we find Eleonor in the 1920 census.
It must have been about the time of the 1920 census that the photo below was taken of her class at the Altenburg Public High School. Eleonor is standing in the front row, second from the left.
Theodore Fischer married Eleonor Koestering on June 19, 1927 at Trinity, Altenburg. I figure he must have gotten married right after he graduated from medical school. Here is the church record for that wedding.
Here is their civil marriage license.
Below is a photo of the wedding party of Theodore and Eleonor.
We find this couple living in Detroit in the 1930 census where Theodore served his internship. They had one child at the time.
Theodore received a letter in August of 1930. It was from his older brother, George, who was in his wedding. The Caroline mentioned in it is our own dear museum docent, Caroline Littge. We have a copy of this letter at our museum. I find it fascinating.
George was attempting to talk Theodore into coming back home to be a doctor in Altenburg. We know that Theodore did move back and served the East Perry County community for the rest of his career.
According to our German Family Tree, Theodore and Eleonor had 4 children. We find this family in the 1940 census which shows 3 children.
One more child was born after that census, but I will not tell you what year she was born because she is one of those who requested this post, and I never want to give a living woman’s age without permission.
In 1942, Theodore had this World War II draft card completed.
Eleonor Fischer died in 1956 at the age of 52. Her death certificate says she died of breast cancer.
I have written in a previous post that Dr. Fischer had to sign the death certificates of some members of his own Fischer family. He did not have to sign his wife’s death certificate. I suppose that is because she died in the Perry County Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Fischer was once a member of the Synod’s Board of Missions which often met in St. Louis. A family story says that he got more acquainted with Eleonor’s cousin, Anita (Koestering) Klostermann, while attending those meetings. Anita Koestering was born on December 1, 1916, the daughter of Rev. Emmanuel and Katharina (Tuegel) Koestering. She was born in Illinois where her father was the pastor in New Minden. We have a photo of Anita’s parents.
We also have this picture showing Anita being held by her mother.
Anita had married Elmer Klostermann in 1955. Elmer himself was a son of a medical doctor. However, Elmer died in 1958, leaving Anita a widow with, I believe, one child.
Theodore married Anita Klostermann on June 9, 1960. At that time, Anita had been teaching in a public school in Harvey, Illinois. Theodore brought his new wife and stepchild back to Altenburg. Doc Fischer died in 1986 at the age of 84. He and his first wife, Eleonor are buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.
I am going to place a small gallery of photos here that apply to this story.
Now, I’d like to share some items I received from Kathy Miesner, Doc Fischer’s stepdaughter, and Pat Allen, his daughter. Take a look at this photo. Theodore is shown with his second wife, Anita. The teenager on the left is Pat, and the youngster in front is Kathy.
Next, take a look at this more recent photo. Both Pat and Kathy have Theodore’s in their family.
Pat and Kathy shared some stories with me that I’d like to share with you. First, here are some memories from Kathy:
Daddy told the story about being a young physician at one of his first home births. The year, around 1938, and he was newly practicing in the Altenburg area, and prenatal care was not a common practice. The young farmer and his wife knew they’d call on Dr. Fischer to come deliver their baby and had diligently saved egg money for the fee, reportedly $25 / baby. The doctor got the call………..and a few hours later, imagine the young farmer’s surprise when Dr Fischer delivered twins!! What was he going to do – as he’d only saved $25 for one baby. Dr. Fischer told him, “Next time your wife is pregnant, come to my office for prenatal care and I’ll be happy to come deliver the next baby. But, if you don’t come for prenatal care, I’ll charge you this additional $25 when I come next time.
In later years, his maternity patients delivered at Perry County Community Hospital. I remember many a day when mom, daddy and I would make a rather hurried trip to Perryville. We’d drop daddy at the hospital; mom and I would run a few errands (usually including Rozier’s Grocery purchases), we’d park in the hospital parking lot facing the maternity ward windows. Eventually daddy would come up to the window, smiling and gesturing with a swaddles bundle, then disappear again. A few minutes later we’d drive back to Altenburg, delivery accomplished.
Remember all those July 4th picnics? My friends and I loved hanging around at the picnic………..but I can say that almost every July 4th picnic night the phone would ring after 10pm. Someone had been injured playing inappropriately with fireworks.
But, on a happier note, when my girlfriends and I were nagging about getting our ears pierced, daddy purchased a special ‘gun-looking’ instrument to perform the task. Within a week I suspect at least 4 of us had received medically approved ear piercings from Dr. Fischer.
Next, some memories from Pat:
Not all the stories about his practice had pleasant outcomes. I remember Poppa telling me that when he arrived in the community in 1933 little was known about preventive medicine. He told me that the first fatality he experienced in the community was at a farm. He was called to see a farmer who had severely cut his leg in an accident. When he arrived, he found the man sitting in the kitchen with his leg in a bucket so that he would not make a mess of the kitchen floor. He bled to death. If he had only elevated his leg and put compression on it until Poppa came, he might have survived.
Poppa also told the story that in his first year in practice in Altenburg he saw 25 cases of diphtheria. This caused him to establish inoculation clinics. In the third year of practice there were no more diphtheria cases. (One of his sister perished due to diphtheria while she was a student in Cape Girardeau.)
I remember the inoculation clinics well. Each school in the area would be assigned a day to bring their students for vaccinations. A big yellow bus would pull up and the students would climb out and form a line to go into Poppas office. One by one they would go in to get their immunizations. As many of you will recall, his medical office was attached to our residence. I was about 4 years old and felt it was my duty to entertain the school children with songs and stories until my mother caught me and took me inside.
As a child I recall that when my father was not working in the office or delivering a baby he was attending some meeting of the school board, town board, road district, library board or some other community group in which he was involved. The one project that I remember most was the one to establish a safe central water system and do away with cisterns. He probably worked on this project for more than 20 years. (A water tower formerly utilized by the railroads was relocated to Altenburg.) Finally, in 1959, a well for Altenburg was dug at the corner of Main and church street. Poppa was so happy. A big celebration was scheduled to dedicate the tower and I was selected to christen the tower with a bottle of wine. I was about 13 years old and felt very special. I took the bottle of wine and swung it at the tower. It did not break. On the third try and with a little help it finally broke and the system was officially working.
I would like to thank Kathy and Pat for not only sending me items I could use in this story, but also for inspiring me to write this post. Please do everything you can to support those who are in the medical field right now. Keep them in your prayers. They, like Doc Fischer, are doing monumental work.
Quick note: I was sent a few photos that have been added to yesterday’s blog about the Reisenbichler’s. That post has been updated with those photos.