Remembering a medical pioneer


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One of Steinbach’s most admired medical professionals was remembered fondly at a funeral service in Winnipeg on Saturday.

Dr. Paul Frank Peters died on June 15 at the age of 95.

Born in Blumenort and raised in Gnadenthal, Peters became a doctor in 1959. Not long after he made the move to Steinbach and his legacy remains.


Dr. Paul Peters, Dr. John Choate and Dr. Karl Krueger were honoured in 1995 for their work in Steinbach and area.
PETER DYCK CARILLON ARCHIVES Dr. Paul Peters, Dr. John Choate and Dr. Karl Krueger were honoured in 1995 for their work in Steinbach and area.

Peters delivered hundreds of babies, performed hundreds of surgeries and saw thousands of patients. He served as Chief of Staff at Bethesda Hospital and was also a board director for the Manitoba Medical Association. He spent 15 years as the preceptor for medical students and helped plan and build a medical clinic in Steinbach.

He won numerous awards including a senior membership in the Canadian Medical Association, a lifetime honorary membership of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, and the Physician Emeritus award from Southern Health.

But his influence in Steinbach extended far outside the clinic or the hospital.

He spent time on various boards, did medical service in Cambodia, Haiti, Paraguay, China, Thailand and Bolivia and worked with new immigrants.

He was involved in his church, served as a Hanover School Division trustee, and along with his wife Dorothy sponsored refugees from Cambodia, Bosnia and Sierra Leone.

His oldest daughter, MaryLou Driedger said the family moved to Steinbach in 1961. She said she realized quite early on that her dad had prominence in the community.

“I was Dr. Peters’ daughter everywhere I went,” she said.

His reputation of a strong work ethic, and boundless energy is something Driedger said they also noticed growing up.

“My dad found it almost impossible to sit down, he was always working,” she said. “We’d get up in the morning and he’d sometimes be there to do morning devotions with us at the breakfast table but then he was off to the hospital to do surgery. He came home at noon, maybe got a 15-minute catnap and then he was off to see patients all afternoon. Then in the evening he went to meetings.”

“The phone would ring at night, sometimes two or three times and he’d get up and go to people’s houses and make house calls,” she added.

Some moments of his generosity in the community remain vivid in his children’s memories. At the funeral Driedger said her brother shared the story of waking up one morning and finding three strange kids in the bathtub.

“Their house burned down during the night, the parents were at the hospital, so Dad brought them here,” she said.

Another example of his compassion came in the form of a letter the family received.

It was written by a woman who recalled a time from when she was eight years old as her mother was dying from cancer in the hospital shortly before Christmas.

The mother had shown Peters a locket in the Sears catalogue that she had hoped to buy for her daughter.

“She died on Dec. 23rd. My dad went and bought the locket, wrapped it up and brought it to the little girl’s house so it was under the tree for her on Christmas morning,” she said.

Having a father who was so involved, both with his patients and the community also meant sharing him with others.

“My dad was wonderful for the community but part of that was we didn’t see him much at home,” she said.

When grandchildren came into the picture that changed, and he was extensively involved in their lives.

Although Driedger said she and her siblings always knew their father made a big impact, she was still surprised by the volume of correspondence they’ve received since his death.

“I guess I didn’t realize the scope of all the people that helped,” she said.

Some of them showed his multi-talented nature.


Dr. Paul Peters, Dr. Lorne Penner, Dr. Albert Propp, Dr. John B. Dick and LPN Marge Funk are pictured in the operating room in 1970.
CARILLON ARCHIVES Dr. Paul Peters, Dr. Lorne Penner, Dr. Albert Propp, Dr. John B. Dick and LPN Marge Funk are pictured in the operating room in 1970.

“My mother hurt her back and your dad came and put her on the stretcher and then helped my father start the tractor that wasn’t working,” one piece of correspondence said.

She said her father would love to see the dialysis unit in Steinbach.

His wife Dorothy developed kidney disease and had to be driven Winnipeg, a task that prompted their move to the city.

“He lobbied so hard for that and donated money and went to every level of government because he was driving my mom from Steinbach to Winnipeg three times a week,” she said. “He was in his 80s.”

For Driedger, as proud as she is of her father’s legacy, it’s the simple memories that create the most joy. Retreats to the family cabin at Moose Lake, where he’d spend hours driving the boat and where there was no telephone, remain sweet recollections.

“He was away from his phone at the lake, so we had a little bit more of our dad’s undivided attention,” she said.

Medical inspiration

Doctors also fondly remember Peters.

Dr. Curtis Krahn started his work in Steinbach in late 1983. He described Peters as “a great leader within the Steinbach medical community”.

Krahn recalls him as a great mentor, someone who cared deeply about his patients, colleagues and community, and a doctor who was very skilled with difficult deliveries.

He recalled apologizing for calling Peters at 6 a.m. with a question only to learn he had already been up since 5:30 a.m. reading medical journals.

Krahn said patients came first for Peters who wasn’t afraid to bypass the bureaucracy when necessary. He recalled having a patient he suspected of having cancer in the womb, but his surgical appointment was still a month and a half away. “Paul said you have to do it right away,” he said. “We did it within a week. He did what was right for patients.”

Krahn described him as tireless, fearless, energetic and willing to share his knowledge.

“I think he was just a great pillar of the community,” he said.

Dr. Karen Bullock Pries moved to Steinbach in 1989 and fondly recalled her time spent with Peters.

“He was an amazing and patient mentor, always ready to lend a hand no matter what time of the night I called him,” she said.

She recalled his work ethic and energy for his patients, colleagues and community.

“He was a role model for me, being someone who had the best interests of his patients at heart and sacrificed personally,” she said. “It was truly inspirational.”

“Everything he did was motivated, I think, by his desire to give of himself to people and to really help,” she added.

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