Tunbridge school and photos
Above left: The one-room "School #3" in Tunbridge. Top right: The interns and residents of Burlington's Mary Fletcher Hospital, circa 1952. Harry Howe, M.D.'52, in back row, far right, and his cousin Luke Howe, M.D.'52, in front row, right. Bottom right: Cousins Luke Howe, M.D.'52, and Harry Howe, M.D.'52, in the late 1990s.

Luke is four years younger than Harry. The Howe cousins did their post-graduate internship — a requirement before residency back then — at Mary Fletcher Hospital, a precursor to UVM Medical Center. Harry Howe discovered he loved surgery, and stayed at Mary Fletcher for his general surgical residency.

“As in each specialty with which we became involved, we worked directly with the attending physicians, including the chief of the service,” he wrote in his book, a substantial memoir he published in 2012. “This, I believe, is an advantage in training with a smaller medical center as compared to the large center where there is little or no contact with the top-level physicians.”

After residency, Harry started his practice in Massena, N.Y., far north on the St. Lawrence River, hoping to improve care in a rural area that needed skilled physicians. About a year later, he moved with his wife and two children to Canton, N.Y., where he practiced for almost 30 years before retiring. He and his wife traveled all over the world, bought a farm in Louisville, N.Y., then returned to Vermont to be closer to their grown children.

Luke Howe started a family practice in Chelsea, Vt., with classmate and close friend Brewster Martin, M.D.’52. During medical school, Martin and his wife lived upstairs in Harry and Theo Howe’s house in Burlington. Martin and Luke Howe also founded the Chelsea Nursing Home, which became the Home for the Aged in Chelsea Village.

For four years, Luke served as director of health for the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, now known as the Federated States of Micronesia. Back in the States, he practiced in Newfane, Vt. His wife, Pat, was his office nurse and bookkeeper. He served as a U.S. Coast Guard staff physician in Connecticut and Maryland and eventually retired with his wife to Florida.

Luke Howe had a sharp sense of humor, Yamashita says. When she asked him about practicing medicine, “He would be flippant and say, ‘That’s why they call it a practice, because we don’t know what we’re doing!’ ” she recalls.

Yamashita has a connection to all four physicians. Luke Howe is her first cousin; his mother is her father’s and Royal Whitney’s sister. Yamashita and Harry Howe attended the same one-room school, South Tunbridge, where he was several grades ahead of her. Today, both the Howe cousins and Yamashita live at Harvest Hill Retirement Community in Lebanon, N.H., which Royal Whitney helped to establish in the 1980s.

In 1945, after Yamashita’s sophomore year in college, she took a teaching job at Tunbridge one-room school Number Three, where Ouellette was in eighth grade. Ouellette had polio at age 2, temporarily paralyzing his left side and leaving his left leg shorter than his right. What he lacked in stature he overcame with intellect, Yamashita says.

“His brain was so advanced,” she says. “Any assignment I gave him, he had it done before it was due. … And then he would help the other kids, which is what you do in a oneroom school.”

At age 10, Ouellette would trudge down the road in the morning to light the wood stove that heated his school. He figured he’d spend his life as a farmer, but by his teen years, the physical difficulties from polio became apparent. “I was smaller. I was weaker,” he says. “I couldn’t do the job.”

Three of the four doctors attended the nearby South Royalton High School. Ouellette played the saxophone and considered becoming a jazz musician. His music teacher and a local priest, though, pushed him toward college.

“People who were educated saw something in me that my parents had no way of knowing,” he says. “I never thought of myself as being smart.”

The priest helped him get into St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vt. During his pre-med undergraduate years, Ouellette worked nights in a laboratory at Fanny Allen Hospital, now part of the UVM Medical Center, and lived at the hospital with interns and residents. He says he never considered studying medicine elsewhere.

“I had to toe the line, because it was a very demanding medical school,” he says, noting that only 40 of 50 original students in his class graduated. “We worked hard.”

In his first year of a four-year residency in internal medicine, Ouellette met a nationally renowned allergist, Charles Reed, who awoke his interest in that specialty. “I loved the key functions,” he says. “I loved the anatomy and the physiology of the lung.”

Ouellette completed a two-year fellowship in his specialty, then served a two-year military requirement at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Back in Wisconsin, he expanded his allergy and asthma clinic to 22 satellite offices and joined the University of Wisconsin medical school faculty. Later, Ouellette became an expert in building science and environmental air quality.”

After retiring at age 69, Ouellette and his wife have devoted themselves to raising prized black walnut trees on their Dayton Ridge Tree Farm. He remains close — “like brothers” — with his medical school roommate, Dick Caldwell, a general surgeon in Chicago, and classmate John “Jack” Stetson, M.D.’60, who helped Ouellette during his recent knee replacement. For Ouellette, that modern medical miracle is just another reason to be thankful.

“Just look at what medicine has done for me,” he says.

Story by Carolyn Shapiro