By Andrew Lersten
Herald-Palladium South Haven Bureau
Doctor hangs up
stethoscope after 59 years
Stagg, 87, said he stopped counting how many babies he delivered a long time ago but estimates it may have been as many as 4,000. He said he used to deliver as many as 180 babies a year. To put that number into perspective, the population of the city of Hartford is about 2,500.
Stagg’s official last day of work was Aug. 31, officials at Community Hospital in Watervliet reported. Stagg was an employee of the hospital and worked out of the Hartford Medical Center.
Stagg started serving the Hartford area in 1948, at a time when house calls were the norm and things like heart bypass surgeries were unknown. As a family practitioner Stagg was the ultimate generalist, treating everything from cuts and colds to taking out appendices and delivering babies. “I used to do more house calls than office visits,” he recalled this past week. “I had fun. The thing I miss the most is being with the patients and talking to them.” Stagg worked 80 hours a week and was still doing 24 hour shifts into his 80s. He noted he has delivered five generations of babies to the same family.
A community celebration of Stagg’s career is being held from 2 to 4 p.m. today on the grounds of Community Hospital. All of his former patients are invited, hospital officials said.
“Every good thing must end,” Hartford City Manager Yemi Akinwale said. “We’re going to miss him. He is a one in a million. There is a great deal of appreciation for what he has done.”
In 1994 the city of Hartford awarded Stagg its first Citizen of the Year Award, and the same year the Michigan Medical Society gave him its Plessner Memorial Award for being an exemplary family physician. Stagg also served as Van Buren County’s medical director for several years and as chief of staff for Community Hospital. The hospital in 1998 opened the A.L. Stagg Birthing Center in his honor.
Stagg attended the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, Calif., and served his medical internship at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war he completed his post-graduate work in general surgery and cardiology at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. He has eight children and 12 grandchildren. He and his wife, Lorna, live in Paw Paw.
Dr. Rumana Siddiqui recently took Stagg’s place at the Hartford Medical Center. Another physician, Dr. Leon Sherburn, will be joining the center soon. Stagg’s colleague, Dr. Charles Rhodes, retired last year.
By Lynn Attila
Hartford Medical Center name changed to honor Dr. Stagg
Hartford Medical Center is soon to change its name to the Stagg Medical Center. This change was announced at a special “open house” to honor the retirement of Dr. Adelbert (“Dr. Del”) Letts Stagg, M.D., after 59 years of service to the community.
The “open house” was held Sunday, September 16, on the Community Hospital Watervliet grounds. Nearly 1,000 people attended to honor this special humanitarian.
Dr. Stagg said the renaming of the clinic was one of his highest honors, “but I don’t feel I deserved it. I just did my best all my life.”
This humble man said, “I can’t thank those who put this thing on enough. There was a lot of work that went into it. It was more than I deserve.”
Stagg reported that a couple of months ago he had an accident where he broke his pelvis and it left him a little weak for the time being. “But, as soon as I get my strength back, I’m going to volunteer at the hospital or wherever they need me.” He has some aspirations of “doing a little fishing with some of my buddies, too.”
Dr. Del first hung his shingle out in the Tri-City Area in 1948. He started his practice in Hartford and was granted privileges at Community Hospital Watervliet. He was a true “hometown” doctor, not only putting in long hours at the office and making hospital rounds but also making house calls. This commitment to humanity is what he practiced every day up to his retirement and after more than half a century of service.
House calls were the norm for the good doctor. His love of his patients and personal philosophy of “the patient comes first” has endeared him to the people of the Tri-City Area.
Dr. Stagg was known to put in 24-hour shifts in the emergency department at the hospital. These were always the busiest times, as everyone wanted to see Dr. Stagg, his colleagues report.
Some of his many achievements include being selected by the Michigan State Medical Society Board of Directors to receive the prestigious Fredrick and Besse Moulton Plessner Memorial Award. This award honors a family physician that exemplifies the ideals of service to his fellow citizens.
In 1977, he was honored with “Dr. Stagg Day” at the Don Kerbis Tennis Ranch in Watervliet. Dr. Del was celebrated with the dedication of a tennis court, tennis tournament, special dinner, and reception in his name.
In 1994, he was honored at a dinner in Hartford and proclaimed “Citizen of the Year.” This was the first-ever event planned to honor people who unselfishly give so much to the community.
Stagg served for many years as Deputy Medical Examiner for the Van Buren County Medical Society and three times as Community Hospital Chief of Staff.
One of his most memorable honors came in 1998 when Community Hospital Watervliet reopened its obstetrical services and named the wing the “A.L. Stagg Birthing Center.”
At the “open house,” Dr. Stagg was honored with several commemorative plaques and letters, including letters of commendation from President and Mrs. George W. Bush and Governor Jennifer Granholm.
Stagg has delivered more than 4,000 babies in the Tri-City Area during his tenure. He has delivered fifth-generation babies to date. Dr. Stagg chuckled and said, “Delivering babies was just the happiest of times… the highlight of life is a new baby coming into the world.”
Stagg said the most fulfilling thing “was seeing people get well and having them appreciate your efforts. The most discouraging thing though, is when you can’t help someone. That always breaks my heart.”
Dr. Stagg and his wife, Lorna, live in Paw Paw. He has six children: Adelbert (“Del”) Jr., Anderson (“Andy”), Robert (“Bob”), Kirk, Sara (“Sally”), and Jennifer (“Jen”); two stepchildren, Leslie Scogin and Jason Pratt; and 12 grandchildren.