WHEELING – When Dr Basil Papadimitriou retired at the end of 2019, Wheeling Island was without a doctor for the first time in decades. When he died earlier this month at the age of 91, his longtime nurse Joellen Hirsch said the whole town had lost something.
“He was an old school doctor and a very good doctor,” said Hirsch, a Wheeling Island resident who served with Papadimitriou for almost 40 of the 55 years he practiced medicine on S. Penn Street, in a Victorian house with creaky floors and high ceilings.
Hirsch said Papadimitriou – known as “Dr. Pappy” to many of his patients and educated at a time when family physicians were also emergency care providers and somewhat of an emergency room – did almost everything. He mended broken bones, removed tonsils, stitched up bicycle accidents and made house calls, she said. He even gave birth to a baby occasionally.
“People loved him. He remembered their names, ”Hirsch said, noting that Papadimitriou was known to answer the office phone if staff were busy elsewhere. “They could call the same day and he would see them. ”
Patty Dunlevy of Wheeling, one of Papadimitriou’s three children with his late wife Rita, said she discovered just how vast her father’s medical repertoire was only after posting the news of his death on the page of the Memories of Wheeling Facebook group. Hundreds of former patients responded, sharing the happy stories of generations of their families visiting the practice.
“I saw him as my father. All of these people are telling stories, ”Dunlevy said of his joy and surprise at the things revealed by the comments. “He pierced his ears! I didn’t know any of this.
As old school as Island Medical Service, Inc. was, Hirsch noted that Papadimitriou was on the cutting edge at the same time. “He really enjoyed being a doctor… He always kept up to date with anything new. She noted that she had never seen him without a book.
Dunlevy had an idea on this.
While Papadimitriou read a lot of medical literature, she said he also collected hundreds of books on WWII. Some were written in German or French. Papadimitriou – who emigrated from Greece in the late 1950s after completing his medical studies there and serving three years as a medic in the Greek Navy – knew both languages.
The German entered his childhood – amazingly, Dunlevy noted. This nation’s occupation of Greece during World War II, which occurred during Papadimitriou’s childhood, was so extensive that part of his family home in Corinth was requisitioned to house German officers, Dunlevy said. His son, Dylan Dunlevy, interviewed his grandfather in 2016 about this time as part of a high school project.
“… For three years we had a German officer living in our house, they occupied it,” Papadimitriou said in the interview. “It affected us because part of the house was no longer ours. They had two rooms in our house and other than that of course there was no food in Greece. So we barely managed to survive all these years.
Papadimitriou then shared more information with Dunlevy, noting that the occupants weren’t necessarily mean. He said an officer brought in a military doctor when Papadimitriou’s mother was ill. Another, who may have been later killed by partisan forces on the island of Crete, gave him a book of European maps which he found fascinating.
Dunlevy said his son’s interview and a second one conducted by daughter Danyelle Dunlevy gave rare insight into a part of his father’s life that he rarely discussed.
“He was so quiet about everything unless you asked a specific question… I wish he had written a book,” she said. “I told him a thousand times that he could have.”
In her new life in America, she noted that Papadimitriou often displayed a lighter side that did not reveal anything about her unusual past.
“He wore a sports blazer / coat pretty much everywhere he went,” Dunlevy said. “I’m fully convinced it was because he had a pocket to carry a book – usually an Agatha Christie.
“He was a nice guy when it came to cats. Growing up in Greece there were always cats roaming the backyards, ”she continued, adding that her family was able to visit her father’s house there as it still belongs to the extended family. . “We now personally own four ‘island’ cats because he welcomed stray cats that roamed near his office. ”
Hirsch, who retired from nursing when Papadimitriou’s practice closed, said she hopes another doctor will someday open a shop on the island, welcoming human residents in need of health care. base near their home. But, even if it does, she said it probably wouldn’t be the same.
“You will never find another doctor like him,” Hirsch said. “They are all gone.”
Papadimitriou is also survived by his son Dr. Paul Papadimitriou of Wheeling and his daughter Kathy Figaretti of Wheeling and their families.