Dr. Rodney L. Stedge - Dorothy Severn and Mary Lou Palmer
I would be willing to bet that the majority of those Valleyites born in the Valley were delivered by one of two doctors - either Dr. John M. Higgins or Dr. Rodney L. Stedge. Both doctors were affiliated with the Robert Packer Hospital. Dr. Higgins joined the staff in 1921 and a few years later, in 1928, Dr. Stedge also joined the staff.
We have been fortunate to have been in touch with Dr. Stedge’s son, Paul. Through Paul’s letters, and from the family photographs and newspaper clippings he has shared with us, we are able to share this article with you.
From his office, located in his home on Packer Avenue, Dr. Stedge ministered to the sick during afternoon and evening hours. His mornings were occupied with hospital rounds and teaching nursing classes. And, as the old country doctors often did, house calls, deliveries of babies and emergency calls were added to his fast-paced schedule.
Rodney L. Stedge was a graduate of the Sayre High School class of 1911. His son, Paul, said he knew that after graduation his dad had worked at the old Chemung Canal Bank in Elmira, New York in order to earn money to go to college.
Dr. Stedge joined the US Army when World War I broke out. After the war, he attended Lafayette College in Philadelphia, graduating in 1923. His medical education consisted of attending Jefferson Medical College, specializing in the field of obstetrics. He returned to Sayre to complete his internship at the Robert Packer Hospital.
In addition, Dr. Stedge did graduate training in New York City at the Sloane Maternity Hospital and in Cleveland, Ohio at the Maternity Hospital affiliated with the Western Reserve School of Medicine. It should be noted that while in Cleveland, he wrote several articles on the subject of obstetrics for medical publications.
In 1928, Dr. Stedge joined the Robert Packer Hospital staff as assistant in obstetrics. In 1937, he was advanced to chief of obstetrics. He continued to hold his office until 1957 when he chose to go into general practice.
In June of 1928, Rodney Stedge married his first wife, Lillian, in Camden, New Jersey. They had two sons, Paul and Peter.
Paul recalls that his mother Lillian was active in church activities, often singing solos at church, and also belonged to the Acacia Club on the corner of Packer Avenue and South Wilbur Avenue.
Paul has his parents wedding book and finds that among the gifts received were a table lamp from Mr. and Mrs. Leon Shedden, an electric toaster from Dr. and Mrs. Higgins, and a silver relish dish from Dr. and Mrs. Guthrie.
“So, my Dad knew John Higgins and Donald Guthrie for a very long time in his career.” Paul also adds, “And John Higgins knew me longer than anyone else (has). He delivered me.”
Unfortunately, Lillian died in 1958 at the very young age of 59.
Paul remembers that when he was young, they lived on Lincoln Street before moving to their home at 208 West Packer Avenue.
In his letter, Paul recounted, “When the (Robert Packer) hospital burned, I remember they used our house on West Packer Avenue to bring in the patients during the fire.
“It was convenient to have Dad’s office right in the house on West Packer. When I got a sore throat, we just went into the back office and he swabbed by throat with merthiolate, the instant cure.”
In 1953, the Robert Packer Hospital honored Dr. Stedge, Dr. Higgins, and Carl V. S. Patterson by naming departments after them. A bronze plaque dedicating the obstetrical department was placed in the new obstetrics pavilion thereafter known as the Rodney L. Stedge Obstetrical Pavilion.
Later, the Rodney L. Stedge Obstetrical Pavilion’s name was carried over to the construction of the new OB department in 1962. The new department had two new delivery rooms, a recovery room, three labor rooms and facilities for 26 patients.
In 1957, Dr. Stedge went into private practice, with his office in his home on West Packer Avenue.
Paul recalls, “He (Dr. Stedge) had morning rounds at the hospital, taught nursing classes, (and) office hours in the afternoons and evening. Dad used to enjoy sitting on the front porch and listening to the band concerts right across the street in the park. That is, if he would not have to dash off for house calls and deliveries or emergencies that were so frequent. He wasn’t home much at all, but that was the life of an old time doctor. Occasionally Mom and Dad got one weekend in the fall to enjoy the leaves and beauty of the season driving through the Adirondacks. They thought that was great.”
Paul also remembered that Dr. and Mrs. Stedge enjoyed playing bridge with a small group of friends who included Ruth and Sanford Boice, Sam and Katherine Kresge and the Albros.
Dr. Stedge was also active in many organizations. His obituary lists membership in the Masons as well as a member of the board of trustees of the Robert Packer Hospital, the board of the Salvation Army, a life member and former president of the Sayre Rotary Club, Sayre American Legion, past member of the Sayre School Board, American Medical Association, the Pennsylvania Medical Association, and the Bradford County Medical Association. He was also an elder and deacon of the Sayre Presbyterian Church.
At the time of his death on October 13, 1973, Dr. Stedge was survived by his second wife, Florence, his sons Paul and Peter, his step-children, Joan Smith and Carolyn Grenell, and several grandchildren.
His dedication to his profession can be summarized by the following quote from his son Paul.
“He told me many, many years ago that he probably delivered well over 20,000 babies. Dad never wanted to slow down. No matter how he felt, he put his patients and work first. Dedication to his profession was his fulfillment.”