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Super Senior: Bill O’Rourke

Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 12:34 PM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Six degrees of separation is the idea that people are six social connections away from each other. For me, at the Rutland County Free Clinic, it’s just two degrees.

“We’re here for anyone who needs our help,” said Laurie Krupp, the clinic’s manager. I went to school with her brother. Tia Poalino is the clinic’s executive director, and her dad is a WCAX Super Senior alumnus.

And then there’s Rutland native, Dr. Bill O’Rourke, who grew up just around the corner from my mom and her family, and is affectionately known as “Doctor O.” “I think he’s an awesome man, absolutely a wonderful person,” Krupp said.

O’Rourke has been volunteering his time at the clinic for close to 10 years. It’s a place for people who are under-insured or have no insurance at all. “It’s the one morning a week I have to get up early,” O’Rourke said with a laugh.

Mickey Carvey is a friend of Poalino and she asked him to come in for a checkup with O’Rourke. The 73-year-old had open-heart surgery years ago. O’Rourke listens to his heart and checks other vital signs. “Everything sounds good,” he said.

Doctor O’s days are numbered at the clinic. He will be turning 90 soon and has decided not to renew his license to practice medicine, a career that started in the late ’50s.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Do you remember this photo?

Bill O’Rourke: Yeah, Knights of Columbus breakfast.

It’s a picture of the young doctor with his dad during the last year of medical school at the University of Vermont. Bill Sr. was a pharmacist in Rutland. “My father said you’re better off writing the prescriptions than filling the prescriptions,” O’Rourke said.

Another connection -- O’Rourke and my mother actually worked together at the Rutland Hospital when she was an overnight nurse. “At the time we didn’t have any emergency doctor or things like that,” O’Rourke said.

It was up to nurses like my mother, Sheila, to call in the doctors. She had an “S List” for doctors who were sometimes grumpy on the phone. The “S” didn’t stand for surgeon.

Reporter Joe Carroll: The fecal roster, let’s call it... she never mentioned your name.

Bill O’Rourke: Oh, is that right? Maybe not!

From Laurie Krupp - only kind words. “He brings everything, the patients love him, he’s one of the easiest people I’ve worked with in my life,” she said. “If he was still practicing, he would be the doctor I’d want.”

At the end of the month, Doctor O will be hanging up his badge for good, ending a 63-year career of helping others.

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