Transplants to Northumberland
Dr. Ruth Stogre and Dr. Richard Kondejewski are holding the tools of their trade and the tools of their life-time hobby of renovating homes. The pair moved to Cobourg from Texas, falling in love with the area and their 1905 College Street home. They consider this their retirement home but interest and compassion in their patients may keep that for many years yet.
In the most recent of our series of stories about people who have left an urban area for this part of smalltown Ontario on the north shore of Lake Ontario, we talked to a pair of doctors who have moved from Texas.
COBOURG - Dr. Richard Kondejewski (everyone calls him Dr. K) and his wife and medical partner, Dr. Ruth Stogre, were originally drawn here because Stogre's sister moved to Colborne and when they came to visit they discovered the community of Cobourg. From the Woodlawn Inn where they slept that first time, and then rented a car to visit their family, they discovered the 1905 College Street home they are now in the throes of renovating, Stogre recalls.
Even before the pair visited together, Kondejewski had been in Ontario visiting his late mother in the Ottawa area and been approached to do a locum, or fill-in, for Dr. Mark Essak of Cobourg who was going abroad for a while. By January 2011, Kondejewski was actually filling in for this well-known local doctor for three months, handling his patients' needs. This was followed by two other area locums before he took worked at the Community Health Centre in Port Hope for about a month. By the end of the year the pair was so enamoured of the area, they moved here permanently after living in Texas for about three decades in Texas, and began renovations on their new Cobourg home.
Asked about what work they've done on the three-storey, majestic building at the corner of College and University Avenue across from the former Victoria College (now Victoria Retirement Residence), Kondejewski replies with a laugh, "What haven't I done?"
A pair of bathrooms, a laundry room, the installation of almost a dozen ceiling fans and lights and even work on an elevator in the rear of the former quasi-medical building are all part of the ongoing renovation odyssey they both enjoy.
"My dad was in construction. I had five brothers and I was the one with the tools," Stogre says with a smile.
Like her husband, (the pair met when they were in medical school in Ottawa and married in 1971), she loves old houses and has lived in them from when she was a child in the St. Thomas area.
Kondejewski was born in a Polish refugee camp in Germany and immigrated to Canada in 1950 with his parents. Most of his growing up years were in the Ottawa area.
"We come from hard-working families," Stogre says.
This certainly shows in their so-called "semi-retired" lifestyle.
Every day from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. they are at the Chapel Street clinic at the Palisade Gardens where patients include residents of the former hospital complex plus outside residents who have no doctors of their own and have been referred. The latter group makes up most of their patients, Kondejewski says.
Both doctors are proud of helping people sort out their medical issues. They take a keen interest in these individuals and readily recall details with such a passion it reveals deep caring. Family doctors help shepherd people through their medical needs, referring to specialists as needed, and providing a necessary overview of care, Stogre says.
Kondejewski says his wife takes her time with new clients to get background information and then gather more from other medical sources. It is not unusual for a person to arrive with a shopping bag full of documents covering years of medical history, needing to be sorted out, he says.
"We get to meet the most delightful people. A lot have had a lot of adversity in their lives," he adds.
In addition to the clinic, Kondejewski provides medical services to the young people incarcerated at the Brookside Youth Centre on King Street East in Cobourg and is on call "24/7" there, he says.
While the doctors' combined workload is higher here than it was in Texas, Kondejewski says it is a "a lot different" and very satisfying, working with chronic patients. The patients' in-hospital care is left to doctors with hospital privileges as the couple did not take on this additional responsibility.
So will they ever retire? Stogre says a doctor once warned her that when doctors retire the next thing they leave behind is more permanent than their jobs. And since both sides of their family have longevity, and they both truly enjoy helping people, she doesn't believe real retirement is anywhere in the near future, giving them lots of years to explore and enjoy their new home.