By BECKY MALEWITZ
Dr. Frank Eichhorn says that Garden City has been good to him. But in truth, he has been good to Garden City.
The 88-year-old retired doctor and former Finney County coroner has deep roots in southwest Kansas dating back to just after the Civil War, when his great-grandfather claimed 160 acres of land north of Garden City as a bonus for his service.
Today, from the driveway of he and his wife Ellen's home, it's easy to spot St. Catherine Hospital, where the couple met more than 45 years ago when Ellen was working as a nurse and Frank a doctor.
"When I first met him, I thought 'Oh my goodness, he was a young doctor and he was smart,' Ellen said, recalling her first impression of her future husband. "He had a brilliant mind, and I liked that whatever he would say, it would really make me feel good. I would have my patients to take care of, and he would come and see my patients — well, it was his patients, I was just taking care of them. So, I just got to visiting with him, and one time he asked me to ride out to the farm with him. That's where it started — we drove out to the farm."
Five years after getting married, Frank and Ellen adopted the first of their three adopted children, who have since grown up and given them 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Eichhorn graduated from Garden City Community College in 1956. He went on to study medicine at the University of Kansas Medical School and found himself back in Garden City working at St. Catherine in 1960.
"To be quite frank with you, there was money in it," he said, laughing, when asked why he wanted to become a doctor. "If you wanted to live out here, that was one of the professions that was the most secure. If you became a doctor, you were top of the line. You were the ones that had the money and the respect of society because you were useful to society."
During his medical career, Dr. Eichhorn proved his usefulness to Garden City by delivering more than 3,500 babies. Because of that, he has been a familiar face to some residents since they were too young to remember.
"They see you as a kid, and they see you as an adult, and they've gone to school, college and come back — they know me," Dr. Eichhorn said about former patients who recognize him after all of these years. "It's been so many years, so long that you get forgetful after a while, but you know you've been here forever and people know you. You're always happy to have somebody recognize you."
Ellen says she has become used to people recognizing her and her husband in public.
"We can go out to eat, we can do a lot of things, and people will say 'Hello, Dr. Eichhorn. I haven't seen you in awhile,'" she said. "I can go to iHop and places like that, and people will come by our table and talk to him, so that's kind of nice."
Today, Dr. Eichhorn and his wife live on Pine Street on land that he and his family have owned for more than 100 years.
"Well, my husband has Alzheimer's, so I'm the caregiver and I'm taking care of him, but I'm still able to go out and do all the things I want to do," Ellen said. "Some days, he feels better than other days, but we're just traveling that road now."
The road the couple is traveling may have some bumps along the way, but the Eichhorns know that Garden City and their many friends will be there for them.
"We've been here so long, we know the people, they know us." Dr. Eichhorn said. "We're quite happy and comfortable the way it is. Garden City has always treated us well."