Local podiatrist keeps people steppin’ for 56 years
LOCK HAVEN — After over half a century of practicing, one local doctor, father/husband, and ultimately a family man to all in the community, is hanging it up and retiring.
Dr. Richard Stuempfle has been a deep-rooted member of Lock Haven’s community, both as a revered podiatrist and an organizational contributor.
However, at the end of the day, what shines most about the good doctor is a light of a man who is a friend to all in the town he loves and never wished to leave.
“I never wanted to retire. I was going to work till I dropped over in here!” he said with a smile when being asked about his near-future retirement.
For 56 years, Stuempfle has been the call for any podiatry needs of the area’s residents. But when one comes in for ankle pains or bunions, one leaves with what feels like a new member of a genuine family. He sat down with The Express last week and highlighted all of the great moments and achievements he has made in his office and in the town where he experienced so much life.
Growing up in Williamsport, Stuempfle lived with his mother and grandparents after the passing of his father when he was a teenager. It was during this time where he found the answer to what he wished to contribute his life to. He ended up deciding to follow the path of podiatry after joking with his mother who suffered from foot spurs.
“It all started basically at the dinner table with my mom. She had problems with her foot hurting with spurs. She said to me, ‘why don’t you be a podiatrist?’ I then made a smart remark by saying ‘yeah well who wants to smell feet all day long?'” he laughed. “She said, ‘now be serious!'”
It was after that moment when he researched more about podiatry at his local library that he found a great interest in the field. From then on, he knew he wanted to help anyone with foot-related problems. He earned his Bachelors Degree from Lycoming College and then attended the Temple School of Podiatry where he earned his medical license.
Upon moving back to the area, he married the love of his life and the one who he would call his wife, DiAnn (Hanna) Stuempfle. She would end up becoming most notable in Lock Haven for her contributions in politics by becoming the city’s first woman mayor. Since she was from Lock Haven, he moved with her to the city — a place where he said he didn’t know anyone. During that time, there were two other podiatrists in the city, though neither would last as long as Stuempfle has.
He and DiAnn both moved into the building on East Church Street in 1956 where they lived on the second floor until DiAnn passed away from cancer in 2011. Her husband still lives above his office, now completely covering the whole first floor. It was also where they raised three kids, all of whom have all moved away to focus on their own lives.
All of those decades ago, the two split the bottom half of the building for their specific places of business. Dick would have his podiatry office to the left while his wife ran a beauty shop to the right, prior to her involvement in politics.
“My wife had a beauty shop next door with a wall separating her shop with my practice. I only had one treatment room to start and then eventually expanded when I was able. Times were pretty tough at first,” he explained.
At the time when he opened up for business in the 50s, it was difficult to find patients and getting ad space in the local paper was not any easier. Unlike today with internet conveniences and limitless ad potential, new businesses and medical practices were rather limited to one announcement over a three month period, as he put it.
“It took a long time to build my practice — about three years. When I started, I had to sit and wait for people to come in as I had no patients or money, naturally. There would be many times where I would sit in my chair after lunch and practically doze off. I ended up having to get a little bell to alert me when someone came in,” he laughed. “It was just that quiet around here.”
During this era, in order to get a name out and bring in traction, he said that people would have to get involved in organizations wherever possible.
“I was involved in the Rotary Club for 60 years. Back in those days, you had to get involved with activities/organizations in the town to get anywhere. I worked hard, and worked nights. I would start at 8 in the morning and work till 5, eat supper, come back at 7 p.m. and get done at about 9:30 at night,” he said.
Retiring was not the option he had hoped for, however.
After having severe heart problems, he said he knew it was time to take things slow,
“I wanted to keep working … to never retire. Everyone came up to me and said ‘you will die in here.’ I told them they were RIGHT! I had a problem with my heart one night and ended up needing to have a valve put in. My family physician recommended that I retire. I would still be working if it was not for my heart,” he said.
When patients and those who knew Stuempfle heard about the news, he said they came in droves to give him get well cards. His patients and the connections that he made over his 56 years of being in Lock Haven were everything to him. They would give him the ambition to never give up in doing what he loved most.
“My patients are family to me and I will miss them the most. They will bring things in for me like cookies and all different baked goods. When people found out I was sick and in the hospital, they sent me just stacks of cards and it was really nice of them,” he expressed.
In 56 years of practicing, Stuempfle has been a part of many numerous medical associations, primarily podiatry related. It would be from his lifetime doctoral relations and organization engagements that would bring him accolades in his profession. He has held a strong involvement in the community for over half a century and has amassed awards such a the Temple University Gallery of Success Alumni Award and the Pioneer of Podiatry Award.
Now that retirement is upon him, Stuempfle said that he is unsure what he will plan to do next. Since he never planned on retiring in the first place, it will be a whole new experience for him. However it will ultimately be an experience that he hopes will still let him be in the lives that he helped change for so many years.