RICHLAND -- When Carolyn Poirier was a girl in the Tri-Cities in the '50s and '60s, she didn't know how involved her doctor father was in advancing local health care.
Dr. Richard Pettee was just "Dad" to her.
But Pettee -- in between hunting and fishing trips, and taking his three children for ice cream -- was covering the emergency rooms of all three local hospitals as one of the only orthopedic surgeons in Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon.
He also was starting the area's first Shriner's orthopedic clinic for disabled children, and providing the first specialty fracture care in the region.
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"I'm really proud of my dad," said Poirier, who now lives in Spokane. "I didn't realize what an impact he had on the community when I was growing up."
For his longtime work for health care for Tri-Citians, officials at Kadlec Regional Medical Center on Monday dedicated their surgical waiting room in his honor, and with his name in big silver script letters on the wall.
"We were surprised what you did," his wife, Kathryn Pettee, said at the dedication in Richland. "We just thought there'd be a plaque."
Dr. Pettee attended the dedication flanked by his wife and three adult children, but advanced Parkinson's disease kept him from saying much, other than "Thank you."
Pettee practiced in the Tri-Cities for more than 35 years before retiring in 1992. He came to the area from Seattle in 1956 and originally was from the Midwest. He earned his degree at the University of Nebraska.
Before becoming a doctor, Pettee was a tail gunner during World War II, surviving 57 bomber missions.
Larry Christensen, executive director of the Kadlec Foundation, said it was the doctors who know or were influenced by Pettee who proposed to dedicate the waiting room in his name.
They took the idea to the Kadlec Health System board, who approved after hearing glowing comments about Pettee and his contributions to local medicine.
"All of the physicians on the board spoke very fondly of Dr. Pettee," Christensen said.
In addition to his medical contributions, Pettee also contributed financially to Kadlec's original four-story hospital in Richland -- that replaced the set of military barracks set up by the federal government in the 1940s -- and to the new pediatric floor that opened in 2009.
"We're proud that you made the Tri-Cities your home," Christensen told him.
-- Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; email@example.com