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Friday, May 6, 2016

SL remembers doctor, environmentalist

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

From delivering a baby in a driving blizzard to stopping pollution with his bare hands, 60 storied years in city

Dr. T.E. Shea is being remembered this week as a prominent and caring physician, a storied friend of his community, and a pioneering environmentalist.

Shea, age 95, passed away at his Storm Lake home on Thursday.

Memorial services were held Monday at Lakeside Presbyterian Church in Storm Lake, with Reverend Duane Queen officiating. Shea was laid to rest with full military rites by Alta V.F.W. Post 6172.

Thomas Edwin Shea was born September 24, 1910 in Meridan. Following graduation from Cherokee High School, Ed moved to Chicago, where he worked and took college classes, eventually receiving a Master's Degree in Psychology from the University of Chicago. From Chicago he moved back to Iowa, and with the burning desire to become a physician, he was admitted to the University of Iowa School of Medicine in Iowa City.

One summer, an old acquaintance by the name of Alice Thutt was taking classes in Iowa City, too, and they were re-introduced by a friend. In their early teen years in Cherokee, they had attended the same school and this is where the "romance" began. When Alice was 13, her family moved away. Following Ed's graduation from medical school in 1941, he and Alice were married. The couple then moved to LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where Ed completed his medical internship. Later, he joined the United State Army Medical Corps, and in 1943, he was sent overseas to serve in the Pacific Theater. In 1945 he received an honorable discharge from the Army due to polio, which was diagnosed while he was in the Philippines. He was ultimately sent state-side to Bushnell General Hospital in Utah, where he recuperated and reunited with Alice.

After his condition improved, the couple returned to Iowa. In 1946, Ed began practicing medicine in Fort Dodge, but decided he wanted to have a practice of his own. He and Alice chose to move to Storm Lake, where he lived the next 60 years.

For 58 years, he lived with Alice by his side, until she passed away in 2004. He and Alice raised three daughters in Storm Lake: Pat, who was born while Ed was in the Philippines, and Susan and Ann, who were born after they moved to Storm Lake.

"Doc", as many people called him, was a very respected and prominent physician in the community where he was a General Practitioner and Anesthesiologist until he retired in 1988.

He was truly the "old time," hometown doctor who continued to make house calls night and day. A few years prior to his retirement, he even delivered a baby in a blinding snowstorm between Storm Lake and Newell. He would deliver medication and check on sick babies as well as the elderly, proving tender loving care to all of his patients. His "TLC" was often observed by his daughters who would accompany him on some of his visits. This exposure to medical practice helped determine their future careers.

She was named as the Pilot-Tribune's Citizen of the Year in 1992, and was well known as a leading conservationist, philanthropist, educator and naturalist. He belonged to such organizations as Isaac Walton League, Kiwanis Club, the Iowa Natural Heritage Association, the Iowa State University environmental Leopold Project, and Lake Preservation Association, of which he was a founding member and the first secretary.

Shea was plain spoken in urging people to make their world a better place. "A lot of times, people do a lot of talking and not a lot of action," he once said. "We have a wonderful, green earth to protect... and I feel pretty strongly that the more active you are, the healthier you are going to be."

"Doc was the inspiration for lots of the conservation activities and organizations in Storm Lake and Buena Vista County, and got the LPA going back in the early '90s. In part it is his persistent work that has helped to bring Storm Lake to where it is today in terms of maintaining high-quality natural resources," said Jeff Kestel, a fellow local environmentalist.

"My most vivid memory of Dr. Shea was the night of a blood spill from the IBP plant into the lake. Although he was already elderly and had some difficulty moving, when we arrived at the scene, there was Dr. Shea, straddling the flow of pollutants into the lake, scraping up a sand dam with his bare hands to hold it until help arrived," said Pilot-Tribune editor Dana Larsen. "It was also never really spring in Storm Lake until Dr. Shea was tending the tulips."

Ed taught the values of hard work, keeping an open mind, and having compassion for those who are less fortunate.

One Storm Lake woman recalls that after hearing that her daughter was going to college, and knowing the family was on a tight budget, Shea called to ask if he could help with some money toward tuition. "He was just a wonderful human being," she said.

Shea and his daughters had gathered recently to make a legacy pledge to the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center.

Survivors include his three daughters and their spouses: Patricia and Joe McPherson of Omaha, Nebraska, Susan and John Stewart of Billings, Montana; and Ann and Pete Stahl of Fort Worth, Texas, along with grandchildren, great grandchildren and Margaret Townsend, a niece residing in Storm Lake with her husband, John, who were "Doc" and Alice's caregivers for several years. Those who wish to send on-line condolences to the family may do so via the Fratzke & Jensen Funeral Home website: www.fratzkejensen.com

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