Sunday, April 12, 2009

He's 'The Doc': At 82, Dr. Weinblatt is still patient with patients

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

'Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee. Hey, diddly-dee, a doctor's life for me!'
Walk into his office on the corner of Third and French, and you'll hear Dr. Jack Weinblatt singing this tune. It's his theme song.
'It worked in 'Pinocchio,' and it works for me,' he said. 'I'm Dr. Jack.'
He's 82 years old - and still doctoring. He serves as medical director for six area nursing homes, and he works at his family practice three days a week.
'I'd be an idiot to quit. I wouldn't be Dr. Jack if I quit,' he said. 'You can't fish all day. I don't like yard work, and you can't sit and watch trains all day. I love being Dr. Jack. It's what I do. I like helping people.' Since the launch of his practice in 1952, Weinblatt has served three generations of Temple families.
'I've been Physician to the City of Temple for 555 months,' he said. 'I've delivered more than 12,000 babies. But I don't do that anymore. I quit when I was 69.'
In the 1960s, he was the physician for the Santa Fe Depot. He treated train conductors and engineers.
And from the 50s through the 70s, it wasn't uncommon for him to make housecalls. Weinblatt said he loved those days when 'a doctor's visit was an event, something to be looked forward to.'
Dozens of folks around the community are familiar with his work.
'When I got here in 1966, the first thing everyone told me was that whenever you're sick, go see Dr. Jack,' said Drayton McLane of Temple, president and CEO of the McLane Group and owner of the Houston Astros. 'Myself and my family have done so for many years, and so did lots of our employees.'
McLane said Weinblatt has become a dear friend.
'He's one of the most interesting people I've ever known, being 80 some odd years old but practicing medicine,' McLane said. 'He's become an institution of Temple with all that he's done. The town's a better place because of him. He could be mayor if he wanted.'
That's a sentiment shared by David Kelley, deputy chief of operations at the Temple Fire Department.
'We don't have many people's pictures hanging on the fire department wall, but there is one of Dr. Jack. That's what we think of Doc,' Kelley said.
Weinblatt's the Honorary Chief of the Temple Fire Department. The honor came to him after serving as department physician and emergency medic for more than 30 years.
'I've been here more than 30 years, and I can't remember a day when Doc wasn't involved,' Kelley said. 'He's doctored all the fire chiefs, firefighters and their families. It doesn't matter what time we were sick. Anytime day or night, he'll see us and get us taken care of.'
The Doc's very likely to show up at emergency scenes too.
Says David Kelley, deputy chief of operations at the Temple Fire Department
'There was a fire at an auto parts store, and aerosol cans were exploding, and the doc was helping us pull the hose off the trucks,' Kelley said. 'He was one of us. He didn't come to watch, he came to work.'
Weinblatt is all smiles when he talks about his work with the fire department.
'I love it,' he said. 'I go to do all I can to help. But they just don't understand I'd pay them to let me go. It's fun, and I like being a part of the group.'
Kelley says the feeling's mutual.
'The Doc is very much a part of the fire department family,' Kelley said. 'We know we can turn to him for whatever help we need.'

The Doc's pockets
There's several hallmarks unique to Dr. Jack. One of them is his pockets.
'Oh, I've gotta have my pockets,' Weinblatt said. 'I love them.'
His routine daily wardrobe of 30 years gives him eight pockets. He wears a button-up shirt with four pockets on the front and a pair of slacks that has two on the front and two on the pack.
In them, he carries a variety of knick-knacks: an assortment of notes, his cell phone, two or three pens, some toothpicks, paper clips and a knife.
'The knife is from my pal John Aycock,' Weinblatt said. 'He's a Texas Ranger, and I liked his pocket knife, so he gave it to me.'
He also carries thank-you cards from his patients.
'They're nice to read,' Weinblatt said. 'I like to carry them around sometimes.'
They may be useful for the Doc, but his pockets have gotten him into trouble. Fishing buddy Richard Clark said he lost his pager because of them.
'We were going fishing, me, Jack and his son. And Jack was late,' Clark said. 'Here he comes running up, all out of breath and apologizing for making us wait. He couldn't find his pager. That was the delay. 'I kept on hearing it ring,' he says, 'But I couldn't find it. It didn't matter where I looked.''
Clark said Weinblatt even tried to page himself in effort to find it.
'But it didn't work,' Clark said. 'So I laughed to myself and asked him whether he looked in everyone of his pockets, and sure enough, it was there.'
The old story brings a good laugh for the two friends.

Doc the fisherman
'Jack's just as serious about his fishing as he is about his doctoring,' Clark said.
In fact, Weinblatt holds the record in bass fishing on Lake Belton - the only body of water to wet his hook. He got it for catching a 15 pound hybrid white bass.
McLane knows exactly how serious of a fisherman Weinblatt is.
'I called him one day because I had the flu,' McLane said. 'He asked me for my symptoms, and I started telling him. But then he said, 'Wait a minute, I'll be right back.' So I waited a few minutes, and he came back and he asked for my symptoms again.'
But McLane didn't immediately answer. He was curious about what the Doc had been doing.
'So I asked him what was going on. He told me he was out on the lake and that he had to pull in a fish,' McLane said. 'I remember exactly what he said, 'I couldn't let him get away.' So at that moment, I knew right then and there that that fish was more important than me.'
And McLane understood.
'If there's a fish, there's a fish,' McLane said. 'The Doc's a good ole' guy and a great friend, fishing or not.'

Happy doctor
Besides always having a can of Dr Pepper in his hand, a trademark sign of Dr. Jack is a smile and a love for laughter.
'Doc is a prankster,' Kelley said. 'Every Temple fireman has fallen for at least one of his pranks, the most common being where he'd tell you that light goes in one side of your ear and comes out the other.'
Weinblatt's also famous for entertaining the residents of the nursing homes he manages.
'My mother-in-law stayed in one of his nursing homes, and she loved Jack, so did the lady down the hall,' McLane said. 'Jack has a hug and a smile for everyone, loves to visit with everyone.'
The words of Patsy Luna, Weinblatt's longtime secretary of 35 years, say it best:
'When making rounds at nursing centers, not many physicians sing and dance for their patients, but Dr. Weinblatt does, and he feels rewarded when he gets the smile or laugh he is looking for.'
The Doc's aim, afterall, is to make people feel better, and a laugh, he says, works as good as if not better than medicine.

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