‘Willing to work’ Serving Silverton 65 years, Dr. Davies dies

December 2021 Posted in Uncategorized

Dr. Olwyn Davies

By Brenna Wiegand

Turns out Dr. Davies never had to set a retirement date, something he was not looking forward to.

When Our Town sat down with Dr. Olwyn K. Davies in July, the 92-year-old physician was still seeing patients at his office in Silverton, where he was surrounded by massive stacks of files, each belonging to a beloved patient he was hoping to transfer into the hands of a worthy substitute.

Davies was profoundly aware of their role in helping him achieve something amazing.

“My friends up in the big buildings like OHSU have been trying to find another physician West of the Mississippi who has ever practiced in the same town for 65 years and they haven’t been able to do so,” Davies said then.

“I have a wonderful job; that’s one reason it’s so hard to turn around and walk away from it,” Davies said. “I thank people every day for letting me be part of their health care all these years and I love getting the opportunity to tell them I couldn’t have done it without their help.”

Davies was born in May of 1929, the same year the stock market crashed.

“My mother left when I was five and I never saw her again,” Davies said. “It was not easy going. My dad moved us in with my grandparents during the Depression and they were on welfare.”

Davies attended several Salem schools, getting expelled four or five times along the way.

“I’ve been on my own since I was 14; my dad gave me nothing,” Davies said. “When I turned 14, he said I could have a bed to sleep in as long as I worked in his grocery store 60 hours a month. He didn’t pay for any of my doctor bills or dentist bills or clothes.”

A few years later, Davies moved into the back of a veterinary hospital in North Salem where he worked in exchange for room and board and could put his earnings toward school.

“I always had at least three jobs,” Davies said. “I worked as a janitor at an ear, nose and throat clinic for 3 ½ years; during that time, the clinic was hiring a lot of us Willamette University medical students.”

Despite working more than 45 hours a week, Davies graduated from Willamette University with an overall GPA of 3.75.

“When I went up to University of Oregon Medical School (now Oregon Health Sciences University) they told us they didn’t want us working,” Davies said. “Well, I didn’t have any money and I immediately got a job at St. John’s Funeral Home, and I worked for them for the next 3 ½ years. On my days off I was doing physical examinations for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

“I had a lot of friends saying they couldn’t find jobs, but I had learned early,” Davies said. “I’d say, ‘I’ll bet you’re looking for a position, not a job. There are plenty of jobs out there; you just need to be willing to work.’”

After working in army hospitals during the Korean War, Davies took a job in Silverton and has been counting his blessings ever since.

“I have been so lucky that I landed in Silverton,” Davies said. “I have many patients who have never had another doctor.”

With such a vast career Davies has amassed countless stories.

“When I came to Silverton there were five other doctors in town – Grodrian, Dodds, McNeilly, Van Cleave and Kleinsorge — and I knew them all personally,” Davies said. “Dr. Kleinsorge would tell us about making house calls in a horse and buggy.

“Once I asked him why he would have the family boiling water when someone
was in labor, and he said it was to get them out of his hair. 

“Of course, we also ran the ER and if one of our patients showed up at the hospital at any hour of the night we went and took care of them; it’s just what we did in those days,” he said. “You never made extra money, but it gave you more energy and drive to keep doing what you’re doing.”

Davies averaged six house calls a night during his first 10 years in practice. He always printed his patient records by hand and there are stacks of fat files to prove it.

“When the auditors come in, I tell them that if I did it, it’s in there; if I didn’t do it, it isn’t in there.” 

In 2004 Silverton High School presented Davies with an honorary diploma and, in 2007 the town held a celebration in honor of his 50 years of service to Silverton.

“They had a big banner flying at the intersection downtown for a week,” Davies said. “It was quite an honor.

“I feel very strongly that I have been blessed to be here and I could tell you stories all day long.”

Davies married Sheryl Klein in 2015 and from then on, she was his office manager and medical assistant. Their relationship, and the loss Sheryl suffered after his unexpected illness and death on Oct. 29 may be summed up in the doctor’s last words of the interview last July.

“Sheryl has been critically ill at times, and I’ve had two strokes and a lot of things have happened, but we are now to the place where we feel so happy,” Davies said. “We go home together and sit and watch the grass grow and it’s wonderful because there are two of us, and for us, that’s what’s important.”

At the time, he said that retirement was probably something he and Sheryl should discuss.

In lieu of a service or flowers, Dr. Davies requested that donations be made to the Silverton Hospital Auxiliary Scholarship Fund.

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