Dr. E. F. Castaldo is a man who has a lot to tell.
And all of what he has to tell is interesting – anecdotes of experiences during his 37 years as a doctor in these parts and anecdotes of his many travels.
He is someone you could sit back and listen to for hours and hours and never get bored.
“I don’t like brag,” he said, sitting in a chair in his living room, and sunlight streaming in through a large picture window behind him. Scattered throughout the house were mementos of his many travels. On the coffee table, which was covered with all manner of magazines and books, was a copy of “The History of Israel.” He has, of course, bee there, too.
He did not brag, not once. He merely told of the things he has seen and done. As he spoke, he occasionally removed his glasses, rubbing them up and down his pants leg in a reminiscing gesture.
Dr. Castaldo said he graduated from Loyola College in Chicago 52 years ago.
He practiced medicine in Chicago from 1934 until 1935. Then, he said, a friend
convinced him to go to northern Wisconsin. He had joined the army by that time
and, after receiving his commission was sent to Wausau and then to Blackwell,
where he was the sub-unit surgeon. The hospital in Laona was used as a base
hospital for the different (CCC) camps which he served – Dunbar, Long Lake,
Phelps and Elcho.
Then in 1941, he was called into the service. He ended up working hospitals in
both Africa and Italy. In Italy he was the executive of a 3,000 bed hospital.
He came home in 1946, and he and a friend, Dr. Carroll, took over the Ovitz Hospital
“Dr. Carroll and I did everything – all the surgery. Now technology is so high, no one
can go out and do everything like we used to do in those days.”
“When Carroll and I came up here, a doctor was a doctor and he did everything.
Now there are more and more doctors. About ten years ago I started referring more
and more people to specialists.”
“I think it’s wonderful. It goes for better patient care and better diagnosis,” he said.
From 1953-1968 he ran the 20 bed hospital himself, often working 18-20 hours a day. “I stayed here almost 30 years before I took my first vacation,” he said.
He is, of course, full of anecdotes, but he was reluctant to share any of them. In a small community like this, he said, people could easily recognize of whom he was speaking and become offended or upset.
“I could write a book,” he said. “A lot of strange things have happened. I can think of a lot of things to make you laugh.”
He did one story, but it concerned his friend, Dr. Carroll. Apparently, a man had fallen and injured his leg seriously enough to require stitches. As Dr. Carroll was stitching up his leg, the man inquired what the cost of each stitch was. Dr. Carroll named a rather high price and the man looked aghast. “Make them further apart then,’ he said, in all seriousness.
“That actually happened,” said Dr. Castaldo. He also remembered when he first arrived here he thought Dr. Ovitz, the area doctor before he and Dr. Carroll, worked under such hardships. Now, he said, people look back to when he started and think he worked under hardships, but was much worse for Dr. Ovitz. Dr. Castaldo remembers how the doctor would often have to use a horse to get to some areas in the forest to deliver babies, sometimes abandoning the horse to snowshoe in the rest of the way.
As for his extensive travels, it would almost be easier to list the places he hasn’t been than to list the places he has been. He has set foot in China, Hong Kong (twice), Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South America, Egypt, Israel, Sweden, France, Switzerland, and the Northwest Territories in Canada. Many of the places he visited during the war. He also has traveled all over the United States.
He may have retired in March, but he is not leading an idle life. He keeps up on advances in his field through his many medical magazines, and he and his wife, Grace, are also taking French language classes at Nicolet College.
A retirement dinner and get together in honor of Dr. Castaldo is being planned for May 7 at the C. L. Robinson Elementary Gymnasium in Laona. Reservations should be made before May 1. Forms are available at the Laona State Bank.
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