(Host) The people in the small town of Chelsea knew Brewster Martin well. He was their doctor for four decades.
Until just recently, Martin took long daily walks along Main Street.
He was always interested in his neighbors and in local events- and many found their way into the stories he loved to tell.
Martin’s curiosity fed many artistic passions: from the theater to music. But civic involvement remained central to his life.
Brewster Martin died last weekend after a short illness. He was 84.
VPR’s Steve Zind has this remembrance.
(Zind) A Pittsfield, Vermont native, Martin came to Chelsea in the early 1950s when the town had no doctor. He’d just graduated from UVM’s medical school. His classmate Dr. Luke Howe joined him to establish the Chelsea Health Center.
(Howe) "He was a character, but he was very terrific. He always liked to tell jokes and make people laugh."
(Zind) Howe says Martin’s storytelling skills were a key to his bedside manner and helped put patients at ease.
As a country doctor, Martin spent much of his professional life treating patients in their homes. He drove the back roads to make house calls at hill farms in Chelsea and the surrounding towns.
In the 1970s he was joined by a young doctor named Dan Wing who sometimes complained that the patients weren’t following instructions. Wing remembers what Martin told him.
(Wing) "They don’t have to take your advice, they just have to pay you for it."
(Zind) Wing is now a physician at Mount Ascutney Hospital.
Wing says Martin had an intellect, breadth of knowledge and sophistication that might seem to some to be beyond the reach of a person from small town Vermont.
He says storytelling and doctoring only scratched the surface of Martin’s talents. For starters, Martin was a skilled tailor.
(Wing) "He could make his daughter’s clothes for a Montreal opera opening. He was a woodworker and a refinisher and a wallpaperer. So he was good with his hands. When he sewed somebody’s eyebrow back together, that thing was straight!"
(Zind) Martin remained active after he retired in 1993. He gave talks about the life of a country doctor, became involved in medical ethics issues and took a keen interest in environmental conservation.
Wing was with Martin in his last days.
He watched as Martin performed his final duties as a doctor: with himself as patient.
(Wing) "He was able to direct his family by using hand gestures that he wanted the words of his living will carried out. He had written down that if he could not tell stories, play bridge, sing and play the piano, that he did not want any extreme measures made to prolong his life."
(Zind) Brewster Martin is survived by two sons, two daughters. His late wife, Clara, for whom a Randolph mental health agency is named, died in 1990.
For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind.