House Calls

Block Number: 58

“House Calls”

by Ginger Todd

On Friday afternoon, October 10, 2010, block No. 58 on the McDowell Quilt Trail was installed by Mike Lucas on the northern wall of the home of Dr. F.J. Ragaz. His wife, Bebe, their three daughters, other family members and friends attended the celebratory occasion: a surprise wedding anniversary gift to Dr. Ragaz! Jill Lucas, Chairwoman of the Quilt Trail Committee, presented a Certificate of Authenticity to him. It is the second addition to the residence, a former block, “Bebe’s Skyhawk” (#46), having been installed in July.

The medical bag Dr. Ragaz first used, which is still in existence, inspired the design. Eight bags are portrayed in black and brown around a white hexagon. Mike Lucas, using actual photos of the bag and computer aides, designed the block using a background of a hexagon in white with a Caduceus centered therein. A Caduceus, of Greek origin, is often used as a symbol of medical practice, especially in North America. It consists of a short staff entwined by two serpents in the form of a double spiral often surmounted by wings. The rod and wings are depicted in dark blue, the entwined snakes in yellow, overlaid on a light blue cross shape. The staff has been interpreted by some to represent a walking stick, often associated with wandering physicians of early times. The significance of the serpents has been interpreted both as a sign of renewal from the shedding of skin and as a symbol of the duel nature of the work of a physician, who deals with life and death, sickness and health.

Dr. Ragaz was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has been practicing as a general practitioner in McDowell County since July 1, 1953, when he opened his first office. He is well known in the community and has made many a house call throughout the years. Having grown up speaking fluent German, while in the U.S. Army during World War II he served as an interpreter for German prisoners of war. Upon applying to the Wisconsin Medical School during this time he ran into an unusual hitch in that the University wouldn’t accept him until the Army discharged him, yet the Army wouldn’t discharge him until he was accepted at the Medical School. Finally red tape problems worked out and he was discharged in 1945. He was accepted at the University and subsequently graduated in 1949.

During 1949-50, Dr. Ragaz served as an intern at the Research Hospital of Kansas City, Missouri. He was then employed by the University of Wisconsin Atomic Energy Center to do research on the effects of low dose radiation on the liver, a study resulting from WW II bombings. He authored a paper on his findings, which was published and widely acclaimed.

In April 1952, Dr. Ragaz was ordered to Kempo, Korea where he served as a flight surgeon in the 347th Medical Unit, his duties often consisting of going out to retrieve personnel shot down from aircraft and bringing them back to the medical base. During this stint, he set up a program to train Korean doctors on various medical methods used so they would be educated on how to take over the duties after the Americans left. He worked with them instructing the procedures and technologies being utilized, and received the Bronze Star for this endeavor.

In early 1953 he received his discharge papers and made the decision, along with his wife BeBe, to make their home in North Carolina. He appealed to the North Carolina Medical Commission and received his license in May, opening his office the very next month, where he has served McDowell citizens since, often 24/7 in the early days. He plans to continue his practice as long as he is able to adequately do so.

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