Tasso Oliver Felix – 1997 Inductee

One of the eminent early physicians of Osborne County was Tasso Oliver Felix.  The son of Henry and Mary (Hanna) Felix, Tasso was bornMarch 21, 1861, in Tippecanoe County, Indiana.  He received his early education in the northwestern part of Missouriand taught rural school there for a time.  He attended both the University of Missouri and Drake University in Iowa before entering theological school in Chicago, Illinois, where he was ordained in the Congregational Church.

Felix served as a pastor in Chicago, then returned to teaching. He taught history at a college in Iowa before becoming superintendent of schools at Kirwin, Kansas.  Felix then entered Marion-Simms College of Medicine (later St. Louis University Medical School) in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating as a general practitioner in 1898.  The next year he spent as an assistant professor of surgery at the school.  In the fall of 1899 Felix moved to Downs and opened a medical practice.  He was one of the famed “horse and buggy” doctors of the era, making house calls in all manner of weather.

While in Kirwin Tasso had met an intriguing lady by the name of Neva Lee Trusdle, the daughter of a local physician.  The couple was married April 14, 1903, in Atchison, Kansas, and made their home inDowns.  They had three children:  Robert, Tasso, and Mary.  The Felix family was an important fixture in the Downs community, and the doings of the children was followed in later years with great pride by the local citizens.

Tasso was a member of the Downs Masonic Lodge, Rotary Club, and the Isis Temple Shrine.  He was a great student of history, particularly religious history, and wrote several newspaper and magazine articles of historical note.  He served his community for forty-two years in his chosen profession before succumbing to asthma December 12, 1941, while visiting his daughter in Denver, Colorado.  He was brought back to Downs for burial in the Downs Cemetery.  The funeral was largely attended and the service conducted with full Masonic honors.

Tasso Oliver Felix, MD

 “Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of T.O. Felix was the breadth of his intellect.  From what I have learned of him from conversations with my father [Robert Felix] and from reading some of his journals he was a renaissance man, a man with deep interests in many areas.  As one can tell from reading his obituary, he was a schoolteacher, a college professor, an ordained minister, and finally a physician.  He did not enter the medical profession until he was in his late thirties.  His contributions as an early ‘horse and buggy’ doctor earned him recognition in his community, and his place in Osborne County history.

My father related to me that T. O. spent many a Kansas blizzard on his medical rounds.  It seemed that babies in particular, picked the most horrendous circumstances in which to arrive.  My father accompanied his father on many of these rural calls as early as the age of five, and learned first hand the skills and sacrifice it took to practice medicine on the prairie ofKansasat the turn of the century.  I have been told that more often than not T. O. was paid in ‘watermelon and cordwood,’ a practice common at the time.  One did not enter medicine in those days to become wealthy.  I have been told that Dr. Felix had quite a large library, somewhat of a rarity in those days.  Though he treasured his books, he would readily lend them out as he highly valued learning, an obvious holdover from his days as a schoolteacher.

It seems that Dr. Felix took his stewardship toward his patients as an almost sacred calling.  But I suppose that was to be expected from a man who had been an ordained minister.  My father related to me that when he was to graduate from the University of Colorado Medical School in 1930 his father was unable to attend.  The senior Dr. Felix, it seemed, had an obstetrical patient who was having a very difficult pregnancy and was near term.  T.O. was unwilling to leave his patient, even for a few days.  As it turned out the patient did deliver during the time that Dr. Felix would have been away, and as was anticipated the delivery was very difficult.  Many years later my father received a phone call from a man who had read an article about him in a local paper.  The man inquired if Dad was the son of T.O. Felix from Downs, Kansas; he then went on to say that he was the baby that had been delivered back in the spring of 1930.  The family never forgot the sacrifice that T.O. had made, and the caller said he felt that he would not have been alive if Dr. Felix had not been in attendance.

It seems that the life of a country doctor was far from easy or profitable, but I do not think any of the individuals practicing medicine at that time in rural areas expected an easy life.  They did the best they could with very little by today’s standards.  My father told me that when he was a teenager he came down with typhoid fever and almost died.  Apparently my grandfather would spend hours by his bed praying and ruing the fact that although he was a doctor he could do little more to save his own son.  Obviously my father survived, but before the advent of modern medicines his survival was credited more to prayer than anything else.  The heartbreak and frustration those early physicians must have felt on a regular basis make them all heroes in my eyes.

I have been told that my grandfather was devoted to his family.  When his wifeNevadied in 1936, he attempted to fight off loneliness by devoting his time to his medical practice and his hobby of writing.  He attempted an extensive theological work he hoped to have published.  He had a deep interest in history as well and one of his early journals talks of the need for a canal to link the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans; this, decades before the Panama Canal.  He was a renaissance man to the end.

The man I never knew who was my grandfather it seems had a truly remarkable life.  Born in a log cabin on Wildcat Creek.  Highly educated, even by today’s standards.  Devoted to his God, his family and his professions of teaching, theology and medicine, he must have been a fascinating man; I wish I could have known him.  As his obituary states:  ‘his standards of morality and manhood were very high.  He gave his life and strength to pursue these to the best of his ability.’  What a fitting summation to the life of a remarkable man who lived in remarkable times.” — Katherine Hoenigman, granddaughter, June 1997.

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