Did you have one of the nicest doctors in town?
The extensive work of the renowned family physician Richard A. Peters, M.D, stretched over a period of 37 years and nearly four generations in Warren County.
Dr. Peters, who actively participated in more than 15 county civic and health organizations, provided quality care to local residents throughout his lifetime. Both his private and professional practices, which ranged from work with the Warren County School District to practicing in the Kinzua Valley Health Care Facility, enabled him to travel and encounter people from all walks of life.
One of the many exhibits at the Wilder Museum in Irvine, “Dr. Peter’s Office,” gives Warren County locals an in-depth look into one of his many workplaces. “We made house calls galore,” Peters said in a 1998 interview. During an influenza epidemic in the 1980s, Peters even closed his office and just made house calls – 128 total. Throughout his career, Dr. Peters was best known for his compassion and willingness to make house calls even long after other physicians had stopped the practice.
Inside the exhibit at the museum, visitors will find many of the tools that Dr. Peters used and other artifacts including rare thermometers, remedy bottles, and even metal forceps. Moreover, other unique items that the doctor used include optometry kits, stethoscopes, dental tools, and more.
Peters, a doctor with both a gentle and affable nature, began his notable medical career by accident when he was drafted by U.S. Army in 1943. Almost immediately, his training as a doctor began in the Army’s Medical Corps during WWII. Later on in his life, Robert fell in love with Margaret Warner, an emergency room nurse and eventually his life-long partner. The two armed themselves with a list from the Medical Society of towns that needed doctors, and they spent months searching for a location of his practice. On the weekends, they drove more than 3.000 miles visiting towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio that were in need of a physician.
Once arriving in the area, locals of the Warren County area were astounded to have a doctor such as Peters. There were constant calls from patients; sometimes he would even receive them in the middle of the night. “If it sounded urgent, I’d get up and go see them,” said Peters. On one occasion, Mrs. Peters explained that her husband had even gotten up in the middle of the night without hesitation to deliver a baby.
The doctor became tired and worn out at times, but he never became too tired to help his patients. At one point, a woman showed up at his door to inform him that her cat was nearly severed by a lawn mower operated by her son. Dr. Peters was no veterinarian, but he did the best he could by calling the local vet, who treated the cat immediately
Although it was difficult at times, Peters even found time to go to the funeral home after a patient had died, both a kind and comforting act. Families of the deceased were comforted to know that the doctor truly cared about those he treated.
When the acclaimed doctor retired in 1992, he explained that he had developed a special joy for taking care of patients in both sickness and health. “He never retired, really,” his wife stated. It wasn’t until 1997 when a back injury forced a full retirement of his practice. Faces and voices of dozens of people would greet him whenever he went out. His worth ethic, attitude, and devotion to his patients showed throughout his entire lifetime.
Sadly, Dr. Richard Alan Peters passed away on May 23, 2005, in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Presbyterian Hospital, where his medical career began. The Warren County Historical Society encourages Warren County residents to visit his exhibit at the Wilder Museum of Warren County, 51 Erie Ave., Irvine, which is open Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. until Oct. 4. For more information, call 723-1795, visit warrenhistory.org, or like the society on Facebook.