February 16, 1925 – November 13, 2020

 

Dr. Richard (Doc) Salk passed from this life on Friday, November 13th, 2020 at the age of 95 after a short battle with COVID-19.

He was born in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota on February 16th, 1925 to Edward and Mary (Roos) Salk. On September 8th, 1947, he married his high school sweetheart, Jean Zachman.

He was a brilliant man, completing high school in Sauk Rapids early. He immediately attended summer classes at St. John’s University, at the age of 17, before enlisting in the US Navy during WW2. The Navy assigned him to finish his undergraduate degree at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio before he moved on to the University of Minnesota Medical School. He graduated as a fully licensed medical doctor at the tender age of 23. After receiving his Residency Training at Ancker Hospital in St. Paul, he began his first private Medical practice in Herman, Minnesota as a young Physician & Surgeon. During the Korean War, he served in the US Air Force in Cheyenne, Wyoming, before finally settling his family in Albany, in 1954, at which time he joined in the medical practice of Dr. Florian Baumgartner, another prominent healthcare figure in Albany’s history.

He had a higher level of regard for his patients than most anything else in his life. It was common for him to see patients 7 days a week. He would see his patients in the Nursing Home and Hospital in the morning, then see patients all day at the Medical Center. Then, in the evening, he would return to see his patients at the Nursing Home and Hospital. On Sundays, he would see patients after 11:00 mass until the waiting room was empty. He also made house calls regularly for patients whose health confined them to their home, as well as seeing patients at his office in the family home. He delivered over 3,000 babies in his career, and by his own account, there was not an ugly one in the bunch!

He was also very active in the community, working with other community leaders on projects such as the Mother of Mercy Nursing Home, and the construction of the Albany Medical Center and Albany Community Hospital. He served for decades on the Board of Directors for these facilities, and also on the Albany School Board and Seven Dolors Parish Council, as well as being a member of the Albany Fire Department. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, the American Legion, and the Albany Lions Club, and also directed the Men’s Choir at Church. He was a proud pillar in the Albany community.

He always loved and respected the families that he served. He loved to have a drink or two after work with other folks in town. He could tell jokes for hours, and wherever he went, he was greeted with, “Doc, I heard a great joke. Do you have a minute?”

Even with the chaotic schedule he kept, he found time to raise a family of 12 children, with the help of his wife, Jean. Although he wasn’t home too much, he was always supportive, offering great advice and wisdom. He was a quiet leader in the home, never raising his voice. His discipline was always calm, fair and measured. He instilled in his children a sense of compassion for all others, regardless of their lot in life, and he taught the Golden Rule by example through his daily actions. And, it was impossible to miss the example of an unparalleled work ethic and dedication to helping others, and always in a way that would preserve human dignity. In recent weeks and months, many of Doc’s patients have shared previously untold stories of his quiet charity to others who were less fortunate. He always considered charity to be one of the most noble human qualities, and he preferred to perform these acts very quietly.

He was respected by his peers, with one close Associate saying that he had never known another doctor as knowledgeable and compassionate as Doc, always fighting for those less fortunate. Doc had a God given passion for the Science of Medicine, and for helping others. Hence, he claimed he never worked a day in his life.

He retired in 1998, after 51 years practicing his trade. At his retirement party, he said he did not want to be remembered as a doctor, but rather, he wanted to be remembered as a really good friend.

Today, we celebrate the life of a great father and skilled doctor. But most importantly, we celebrate the life of a really good friend.

It is impossible to compose this tribute without acknowledging the superb care Doc received at the Mother of Mercy Nursing Home. Ironically, many of his caregivers were delivered by Doc, and received medical care from him throughout the years. The care at Mother of Mercy was always fantastic, but especially in his final days and hours, when he was treated with impeccable compassion, dignity and love. This care was commensurate, in every way, with the care Doc provided to his patients through the years. Additionally, thanks to Dr. Nate Brever for the excellent care that he provided.

Dr. Salk is survived by 11 of his 12 children, James (Mary) Salk, Cheryl Ellingson, Corrine (Rob) Jacobs, Roberta (Jim) Talley, Janet Salk (Tom Baumgartner), Mary K (Joe) Scott, Michael (Lisa) Salk, William Salk, Lisa (Russ) Ripka, Greg (Brenda) Salk, Susan (Keith) Severson, as well as 26 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Jean, his parents, his brother Ed (Bud), and son Steven.

A public visitation, funeral mass, and internment will be planned at a future date, after the pandemic eases.