Rockwell Files: The Heart of the Community

'Norman Rockwell Visits a Family Doctor' portrays the intimate relationship between doctor, patient, and family.

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The 1,200 citizens of Arlington, Vermont, would have agreed that Doctor Russell was the one man that town couldn’t spare. He had treated all of Arlington’s illnesses and injuries for 33 years except for the three years he spent overseas during World War I. He was the “well-trained sensible family physician” that Sir William Osler considered “worth many another man to any community.”

Rockwell had a special regard for the doctor, who’d treated his own family members for years, sometimes making house calls at inconvenient hours. He knew Dr. Russell as a kindly, tolerant, and reassuring physician who could, on occasion, speak bluntly. Like the time he gave a woman patient an honest, direct diagnosis: Her only problem was that she was accommodating too many summer guests.

Author Damon Runyon once wrote that whenever his old man’s faith in humanity started faltering, “he just contemplated the character and works of the doctors he knew, and that bolstered him up right away.”

This article is featured in the November/December 2022 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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