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Winney honored by Lisbon following retirement from town clinic

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LISBON - After 36 years, Alan J. “Doc” Winney has hung up his stethoscope and retired from the Lisbon Medical Group, where he and his wife Marion operated the town’s health care clinic.

While the couple has been retired for the past several months, this past weekend the town of Lisbon threw a retirement party for Mr. Winney.

“After 36 years it was the thing to do. He’s touched a lot of people in a lot of ways and it isn’t just from being a P.A.,” Town Supervisor James W. Armstrong said. “He’s like an establishment. We tried to talk him into staying a little bit longer, but he said it was time.”

Mr. Armstrong presented Mr. Winney with a plaque on behalf of the community that read, “Alan J. Winney, Physician Assistant. With appreciation for your dedicated service to the people of the town of Lisbon, August 10, 1977 - May 14, 2013.”

Following the plaque presentation, Mr. Winney thanked several people for the help over the years, as well as a special guest who traveled for nearly eight hours to attend the party.

“I thanked my stepdaughters Lorraine, Lisa, and my wife Marion for their steadfast work over the years,” I couldn’t have done what I did without them,” he said, adding he also thanked Mr. Armstrong, who was the town supervisor in the early 1990s when the clinic moved from the basement of town hall to i’s current location, as well as Dr. Frederico A. Loinaz, whose sponsorship and support enabled Mr. Winney to operate the clinic.

The final and most emotional thank you though was reserved for Lt. Guy Pete, who traveled to the party with his wife, Anna, from their home in Red Lion, Pa.

“If it wouldn’t have been for his leadership and heroism, Al Winney wouldn’t be here today,” an emotional Mr. Winney said to those in attendance before ending his speech.

“There was a lot more he wanted to say, but wasn’t able to,” Mrs. Winney said.

Lt. Pete was his platoon commander in Vietnam and said he planned on surprising him with his attendance.

“I was going to surprise him,” he said. “He was supposed to be doing a 12-hour shift in Gouverneur (where he still works at E.J. Noble Hospital) one day, so I called to coordinate the visit with his wife, but then he the answered phone.”

Lt. Pete explained that in the Marines each platoon is assigned two corpsmen from the Navy, with Mr. Winney serving as his platoon’s senior corpsman.

“All corpsmen are called “Doc,” Lt. Pete said. “For the longest time, I didn’t even know his name was Al. To me he’ll always be Doc.”

He then told a story from a previous visit when he and his wife stayed at the Gran View.

“I told the woman at the desk there was something that I wanted to take care, but she said Al had already taken care of it,” he recalled.

After insisting that he wanted to cover the bill, the woman told him, “He’s my doctor.”

“I told her, ‘He was my doctor before he was your doctor,’” but to no avail, she would not budge and let Lt. Pete foot the bill, he said, adding he’s glad that Mr. Winney decided to pursue a career in medicine.

“A lot of corpsmen get out of the military and leave the field, but it was nice to see him stay in the health care profession,” Lt. Pete.

Replacing Mr. Winney at the clinic will be Ernie S. Cougler.

“I’m very excited,” Mr. Cougler said. “This is a big opportunity for me. I’m glad to help the community keep its health care access and I look forward to doing a good job.”

That being said, Mr. Cougler said he realizes replacing Mr. Winney isn’t going to be easy.

“Al’s been here for something like 40 years. I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill.”

St. Lawrence County Legislator Mark H. Akins, who now resides across the street from Mr. Winney, said he can still recall the first time he met the man who would eventually provide care for his children.

“The first time I met Al was at my grandfather’s kitchen table on a Sunday night,” he said. “He was stitching him up after he had an accident in the barn.”

He said the fact that his lieutenant from Vietnam would travel so far to attend the party, shows the kid of guy that Mr. Winney is.

“That shows you the kind of impact he’s had on people,” Mr. Akins said. “He’s an amazing person.”

And while Mr. Winney was no longer making house calls toward the end of his career that Sunday evening wasn’t the only time, he visited a patient at home.

When asked to estimate how many different patients he’s seen over the years, he said the number would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000, including in some instances five generations of the same family.

“That’s only the patients we had on file,” he said. “That doesn’t even count the house calls, phone calls or people I stitched up at my own kitchen table.”

One particular house call that Mr. Winney remembers ended with him taking home a herd of cattle.

“When I first started I made numerous house calls and people liked to barter instead of paying $10. Through one barter I ended up with eight beef calves, which I later found out at the time were worth a nickle apiece,” he said. “All was well with my little herd until one cold December morning when it was about 20 below and a trooper called to tell me my herd was in Flackville.”

While guests were asked not to bring gifts, Mr. Winney and his wife did receive several cards and gifts.

“I want to thank the Legion and everyone who helped put this together,” Mr. Winney said. “Also, thank you to everyone for all of the lovely gifts and cards.”

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