Community leaders, colleagues, former staff, friends and family gathered at the Key Peninsula Civic Center April 23 in gratitude for the humble, kind-hearted country doctor who practiced medicine as the only physician west of the Purdy Bridge for over 40 years.
The idea for a bronze plaque bearing the likeness of Dr. William Roes was sparked by his 95-year-old patient, Hugh McMillan. He tapped another longtime patient, Norm McLoughlin, to lead the effort. A generous community turned the notion into reality.
The plaque will be installed at Community Health Care - Key Center Medical, constructed by Roes in 1993.
Roes sold his practice and the building to Community Health Care in 2021 in part to ensure his patients and the wider KP community could continue to receive quality medical care without traveling long distances.
Not yet fully retired, Roes continues to make house calls for his most elderly patients. A modest man known to avoid the limelight, several of his former staff joked that he keeps working just to avoid a retirement party.
The community threw a party for him anyway.
Generations of Claudia Loy’s family were treated by Dr. Roes all the way back to her grandmother, Minnie Hulda Ricketts. Loy was easily recruited by Joyce Tovey; both wanted something special to celebrate their doctor and friend.
Along with McLoughlin and his wife Lisa — whose daughter was delivered by Roes — Loy brought all the party elements together thanks to perennial team player Carla Cameron, who managed the doctor’s office the last 25 years.
Master of ceremonies Chuck West recalled the decades-long close, professional relationship the KP Fire Department enjoyed with Roes, as well as a history of water fights between the two staffs.
West invited the audience, nearly 100 people, to step up to the mic and share their stories.
Sara Thompson, president of The Mustard Seed Project board of directors, said she crossed paths with Roes many times. Her mother, Virginia Thompson, served on the board that established the first health clinic in Key Center. Roes also served as the first president of TMSP and continues to support its work.
“As a retired doctor, I can tell you they don’t make doctors like Bill anymore,” Thompson said. “That’s why no single human being could take his place — instead it took an entire organization.”
Several testified to his tenderness and compassion. Others spoke of his sense of humor, love of practical jokes, and enjoyment of the absurd.
Dr. John Olsson, who started Key Center Family Dentistry, said years ago Roes pitched the idea of forming a marching band to play in local parades. They recruited their own children and those of their respective staffs, and taught them the night before how to march in a parade and play three songs on their kazoos.
That effort evolved into the Down Home Band, which welcomes everyone to pull out their high school band uniforms and dust off their old instruments to play along. They gave up the marching part. The band performed on this occasion to honor their bandleader in style.
Roes told his audience it was the fascinating lives and character of his patients that made practicing medicine here an enjoyment.
Most of all, he credited the patience of his wife Ruth, who made it possible for him to work and participate as much as he does in the KP community.
“Ruth stayed home in Tacoma to do the most important work of all by raising our two beautiful daughters, Mary and Chrissy,” he said.
Cameron, who worked alongside Dr. Roes for 36 years, said the practice became like a big family for her.
“You develop a rapport, you get to know those patients as people, you really care about them. It was awesome,” she said. “Medicine has changed so much. Things will never be the same. We sure had a wonderful time.”
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