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
“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
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
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
“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