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Dr. Woodrow - Orillia’s Flying Doctor is Retiring

One doctor’s cure for fatigue caused by many years of dedicated work is a long, relaxing retirement and that’s the medicine Dr. Walter Woodrow of Orillia has prescribed for himself.
After 3 years in the medical profession as an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. Woodrow, Orillia’s “Flying Doctor”, will retire at the end of August.
“I’m going to miss my patients and practice”, confessed a spry 79-year-oldWoodrow, “but there comes a time when one has to slow down.”
Dr. Woodrow ad his wife, Marjorie, will move to a smaller home at 110 Collegiate Dr. Their spacious 54 Coldwater St. E. home will become the Doolittle Funeral Home Sept. 1.
Dr. Woodrow first set up his practice here in 1932 at the same home, which has become somewhat an Orillia landmark.
“I remember I jumped at the chance to open my own practice here,” the doctor said in an interview. “The surrounding countryside is so conducive to my favourite pastimes- fishing and flying.”
A friend telephoned him at his office in the Toronto Medical Arts Building to tell him that Dr. Ainsley Ardagh, at the time Orillia’s only eye, ear and nose specialist, was planning to retire.
Dr. Ardagh also operated his practice at the Coldwater Street home. He built the large six-bedroom home in 1905 for his wife from Kentucky. The sweeping semi-circular verandah is reminiscent of grand Southern mansions. Dr. Ardagh moved here from England and in keeping with homeland tradition there is a fireplace in almost every room. The home also has servant’s quarters.
“I rented the home for three years and in 1935 purchased it from Mrs. Ardagh,” Dr. Woodrow said.
Born in in Coldwater on Oct. 4, 1899, Dr Woodrow is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Woodrow, He completed his secondary school education in Coldwater and then moved to Toronto where he studied medicine at the University of Toronto. After graduating in 1923, he moved to Detroit where he was an intern at Providence Hospital.
In 1929, he returned to Toronto to work.
“The move to Orillia was just what I wanted,” the doctor remarked. He soon had a hangar built on Lake Couchiching, less than a five-minute walk from his home, for his float-equipped Cub J-3 aircraft.
Every lunch-hour he would go flying and weekends were often spent travelling by air to remote lakes and rivers where the fishing was good.
But Dr. Woodrow didn’t just use his plane for leisure purposes. By the 1940’s, people were referring to him as The Flying Doctor as he became wide-known for his airplane rescue work.
One heroic rescue, almost 26 years to this day, saved the lives of two Toronto youths and received front page coverage in the Toronto Telegram.
Four boys were left adrift in Lake Simcoe on a cushion, following a two-boat crash on a dark, misty night. Dr. Woodrow spotted two of the boys 19 hours later, floating in the middle of the lake near Beaverton and brought them to safety.
The other two had been rescued 5 hours earlier by two area fishermen.
That was just one of his flying rescues.
Another involved retrieving Mr. and Mrs. J. N. Lancaster of Toronto out of Lake Simcoe after they had been adrift for more than 20 hours.
He used his plane for may years to visit patients within a 100-mile distance of Orillia, as far as Haliburton and Algonquin Park.
Dr. Woodrow sold his plane two years ago because he was too busy to use it. He still plans on doing a lot of fishing once he retires.
“Fishing has always been my favourite sport,” Dr. Woodrow said. He was a member of the Orillia Fish and Game Conservation Club and on many occasions was honoured at meetings for getting “the largest catch”.
One group of fishermen Dr. Woodrow used to fish with in Quebec named a lodge after him. The Woodrow Lodge still stands today.
Also fond of baseball and football, he used to attend almost all local games. As a result, he also became known as the teams’ doctor.
Over the years, he has not seen may changes in his practice, Dr. Woodrow said.
“Just the treatment for mastoids, an infection in the inner ear, has changed,” he said, adding an oral medication for this ailment has now been developed and the tedious bone operation is now a remedy of the past.
He said he’s removed hundreds of cataracts from patients’ eyes over the years and some of these he has preserved in bottles just for proof.
Besides doing a lot of fishing, Dr. Woodrow and his wife are planning to make a trip to Canada’s west coast soon. They also plan to spend a great deal of time just relaxing and enjoying a slower pace.

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