A look at the history of the Parsons Clinic

On June 29, 2012, the Parsons Clinic will be closing its doors. This will be the end of a 109-year-old chapter in our community’s medical history.

The origins of the Parsons Clinic go back to July 8, 1903.

That was the day that Dr. Richard Parsons arrived in Red Deer. Originally a farm boy from Weston, Ontario and a graduate of Trinity Medical College in Toronto, Dr. Richard Parsons had decided to move west to Red Deer because it looked like a good place for a rural general practice. The fact that construction had begun on the Red Deer Memorial Hospital was an added attraction.

Dr. Parsons soon became known as an innovator and excellent surgeon. He performed one of the first gall bladder operations in Alberta after staying up all-night and reading about the procedure. He also successfully tried specialized diets as an innovative way of treating typhoid fever.

On Oct. 11, 1905, he married Marcia Ella Bull, a graduate nurse from the University of Toronto. They moved into a brick house on the corner of Mann (49th) St. and Nanton (48th) Avenue. The Parsons were to have four children: MacGregor, William, Ella and Margaret.

In 1911, Dr. Parsons took on his first partner, Dr. W.J. McKenzie, a recent graduate from the U of T.

They practiced together from 1911 to 1915 and again from 1919 to 1926.

In 1912, Dr. Parsons moved the medical offices to a two-storey addition onto his home. The new office suite included a laboratory and room for one of Alberta’s first x-ray machines.

In 1915, Dr. Parsons enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. While overseas, he got his Royal College of Surgeons accreditation. He then served in the first Canadian General Hospital in France and England. Meanwhile Dr. E.W. Delong handled his practice back in Red Deer until 1918.

In November 1918, tragedy struck when Mrs. Ella Parsons passed away during the Spanish ‘Flu Epidemic. For two years, Dr. Parsons was a single parent to his four small children. Then, in 1920, he married Annie Nelson Forbes, the matron at the Red Deer Hospital.

In the 1930s, Richard’s two sons joined him in his medical practice. The practice became known as Drs. Parsons and Parsons. However, during the Second World War, Dr. Bill Parsons enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps.

On Aug. 25, 1944, Dr. Richard Parsons had a fatal heart attack while at a Medical Council meeting in Calgary.

This left Dr. MacGregor Parsons as one of only two doctors left in the community. The other was Dr. Charles Bunn, who was largely occupied with the care of the soldiers at the A-20 Army Camp in Red Deer.

Consequently, Dr. George Hancock was discharged from the Army Medical Corps and moved to Red Deer where he joined MacGregor Parsons. In 1945, Dr. John Weddell joined Drs. Parsons and Hancock.

In 1946, Dr. Bill Parsons was discharged from the Medical Corps and moved back to Red Deer. That same year, Dr. Leonard Patterson joined the practice. Also in 1946, the Clinic’s name was changed from Drs. Parsons and Parsons to the Parsons Clinic.

With the large increase in the size of the practice, in 1947 the Parsons Clinic moved from the Michener Block, on the corner of Gaetz Ave. and 49 St. to a new building on Ross Street, just north of City Hall Park.

New physicians continued to join the Clinic.

By the mid-1960s, they included Dr. Jack Staples, Dr. F.B. Gouws, Dr. J.B. Settle, Dr. C.G. More, Dr. Don Cumming, Dr. D.S. Wallace, Dr. G.C.H. Wilson, Dr. Ken Boake (a cousin of the Drs. Parsons), Dr. I.S. Scott, Dr. I.H. Holmes, Dr. R.K. Merriam, Dr. R.D. Marriott, Dr. V. Mollerup and Dr. F.M. Fairfield. Several others followed in the succeeding decades.

Eventually, a large new clinic building had to be constructed on the east side of the 1947 building.

This remained the home of the Clinic until its closure.

While the Parsons Clinic is now passing into history, its many decades of service to the community have left a wonderful legacy not only for Red Deer, but also for all of Central Alberta.

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