Dr. Carl Griesy, 84, passed away Oct. 10 after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. He practiced family medicine in Two Harbors for 20 years and was the first urgent care doctor at St. Luke's hospital in Duluth, a position he held for 10 years. He treated many during his career, but according to colleague Tom Lohstreter, he never took himself too seriously.
When someone would compliment his skill in the office, Griesy would reply, "Oh, I'm just an ol' poop." He even got an eye-catching vanity license plate emblazoned with "OL' POOP."
"He always would self-deprecate," Lohstreter said. "It was just fun."
Lohstreter shadowed Griesy beginning in 1977, his first year of medical school. From that grew a strong professional bond and a friendship spanning more than three decades.
"I have such, such fond memories of the man," Lohstreter said. "He really, really did shape me as a physician."
Griesy was born Dec. 27, 1928, in Belmond, Iowa. He served in the U.S. Army for two years during World War II before completing medical school at the University of Iowa. He accepted a position at the Community Health Clinic in Two Harbors in the early 1970s before beginning his own private practice about a year later.
"He was so dedicated to his patients. You don't have any doctors like that anymore," Lohstreter said.
He told the story of when Griesy was off the clock and one of his regular patients called a different doctor who was on call at the hospital to report indigestion. The doctor instructed the man to take some antacids and lie down. He died that night of a heart attack.
According to Lohstreter, Griesy knew he could have saved the man. He knew that patient was reluctant to complain, so if he had called the hospital at all, it must have been serious. From that moment on, Griesy decided he would always be on call for his patients. It's that depth of relationship with his patients and willingness to go above and beyond that made Griesy a "giant among doctors," Lohstreter said.
Griesy had a full life apart from the lab coat, too. He raised eight kids -- five biological and three adopted -- with his first wife, Becky. In 1983, he remarried, adding three stepchildren to the brood.
"He was always supportive for all of his kids and me," said his wife, Louise Fransen.
Fransen met Griesy when she was his patient and worked as his receptionist before they were married. When he gave up his private practice to work as an urgent-care doctor in Duluth, his building on Waterfront Drive was suddenly vacant, and Fransen no longer had a job.
With Griesy's encouragement, she transformed his former office into Louise's Place. It started as a gift shop and grew into a bakery, coffee shop and restaurant. Twenty years later, Louise's is a community fixture owned by Fransen, and she said she couldn't have done it without Griesy's support.
"Whatever I wanted to do, he said I could do it," she said.
His son, Jonathan Griesy, said his father always came to his track meets and band concerts, too, supporting him in all of his endeavors -- except for football, which he thought was too violent, Jonathan said with a laugh.
"He was a very busy man but he was very loving and made time for us growing up," Jonathan said. "He was a funny person. He taught me that things in life happen and you get through it."
In addition to Fransen, Griesy is survived by a brother, 11 children, 19 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.