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Raymond F. Medler, 'Country Doctor,' Was 90

Wed, 11/04/2020 - 18:38

For almost four decades practicing medicine on the South Fork, Dr. Raymond Francis Medler made some 4,000 house calls. He was known to accept payment in the form of a striped bass or a basket of just-harvested vegetables, and to have made hospital rounds with a flask and two tiny glasses in his pocket -- the last of the region's old-style country doctors.

Dr. Medler died at home on Oct. 26 after a long illness, with Rosita Stagg Medler, his wife of 60 years, at his side. He was 90 years old.

He was born on Feb. 15, 1930, to Raymond J. Medler and Mae Wilson Medler, one of three children. They grew up in Richmond Hill, Queens, where their father had a dental practice. The younger Raymond was 7 when he contracted a nearly fatal infection that began with a cut on his finger, progressed up his arm, and settled in his ear. Before the widespread use of antibiotics, the standard treatment was lancing and draining, which saved his life but cost him the hearing in his left ear. His long hospital stay left him with the resolve to become a doctor, his family said.

He graduated in 1948 from Xavier High School, a private Jesuit-run  academy in  Manhattan, having won a national mathematics competition in his junior year. In 1952, after graduating with high honors from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., he was offered scholarships to Ph.D. programs in math at both M.I.T. and Princeton, but declined both, opting instead to enter medical school at New York University, Bellevue.

Dr. Medler served his internship and residency at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, specializing in internal medicine. Toward the end of his time as a resident there, he was named its chief of cardiopulmonary diseases.

On his first day as an intern, he introduced himself to Rosita Stagg, then a student nurse. "I didn't think much about him then," she recalled last week. Over a year later, they ran into each other again, with more favorable results. By then, he was a resident; she, a surgical nurse. They were married on July 9, 1960, at St. Joseph's Church in Hewlett, and set up home in nearby Rockville Centre, where their two eldest children were born.

From 1959 through 1960, Dr. Medler was an instructor at the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn and chief medical resident at the adjacent Kings County Hospital. From then through 1963, he was a flight surgeon for Pan American Airways, conducting medical exams of pilots and crew members and flying around the world as an on-board physician.

In December 1962, Mrs. Medler recalled, Dr. Medler was called to Roosevelt Island for an unusual assignment: to help treat Cuban exiles, fighters who had  been captured during the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. The men had spent 20 months in Cuban prisons before being ransomed by the American government, and many of them came here traumatized, malnourished, and suffering from tuberculosis and other serious conditions.

Back in 1941, Dr. Medler's father had bought a summer cottage in the North Sea Beach Colony, in Southampton, a block from the bay, and young Raymond spent weekends there, spring through autumn, nearly his entire life. After his parents died, the cottage remained the summer headquarters for the extended family, including his brother's children. Dr. Medler went there to relax and have fun fishing, clamming, surfcasting, gardening, barbecuing, playing with the dogs, and sipping Manhattans during cocktail hour with the neighbors.

He became a year-round resident of the South Fork in 1963, when he joined the medical practice of Thomas Spencer and moved the family to Meeting House Lane in Southampton. The practice proved too small to support two doctors, however, and within a year he became a partner in the East Hampton Medical Group. The Medlers lived first in a rented house on Spring Close Highway and later on Meadow Way in East Hampton Village, where their two younger sons were born.

They also raised generations of golden retrievers. Dr. Medler often made home visits with a golden or two at his heels, or, while he made hospital rounds, waiting in the car. They went, uninvited, to church on Sunday and to the annual L.V.I.S. fair, and came home with neighbors' golfing shoes, beach blankets, a pot roast, and even a pie.

The medical group had offices at 94 Pantigo Road, now the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home. Over the years, physicians came and went, and all the original partners retired. By the late '80s, Dr. Medler was a solo practitioner there, with his wife as his head nurse and Ken Dodge as his physician assistant.

"He was a quiet person. I don't think I ever heard him raise his voice," said Mr. Dodge, now retired himself after 28 years with Dr. Medler. "Definitely an old-time doctor, he gave his patients the time. He listened to them. They knew him. He was a member of the community. You don't see a lot of that anymore. I was proud to work for him."

Dr. Medler served as president of the Long Island chapter of the American Heart Association and was a member of the Suffolk County Medical Society and the East Hampton Lions Club. He was on the board of directors of Southampton Hospital from 1978 through 1986, and was instrumental in the creation of its operating-room intensive care unit and a cardiac care unit, according to hospital administrators. After retiring in 2001, he joined the board of the East Hampton Neighborhood House.

Dr. and Mrs. Medler could boast of having cared for two or three generations of the same families. "He did it all," Rosita Medler said -- set bones, stitched cuts, diagnosed conditions from minor to acute or chronic, removed fish hooks from assorted body parts, spent Thursday afternoons interpreting cardiograms performed at the hospital, and never stopped making all those house calls, because they allowed him to develop so many long-lasting relationships with his patients.

"I remember many times Dr. Medler was on the ambulance and rode with his patients there because they needed him," said Barbara Borsack, who, with Mrs. Medler, has been a volunteer with the East Hampton Ambulance Association for 30 years. Dr. Medler was the physician to the volunteers until he retired, she said.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Medler leaves a daughter, Rosita Medler Bellington of Island Park, and her husband, John; and three sons, Raymond Joseph Medler of Queens, Aquin Kelly Medler of East Hampton and his partner, Julia C. Mead, and Peter Justin Medler and his wife, Julie Burke Medler of East Hampton, and their two children, Hunter and Hanna Medler. His sister Mary Jane died in 2013, and his brother, Donald, in 2011. He is also survived by his brother-in-law, Ernest Aquin Stagg of Cedarhurst.

Dr. Medler was cremated. His ashes will be buried at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church's cemetery on Cedar Street, East Hampton, following a private family service. The family has suggested memorial donations to East End Hospice, online at eeh.org.


This obituary has been updated since it was first published.


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