Dr. Thomas Hyde retired last week after 38 years treating thousands of area children — and their children.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An oil embargo, a gas tank on fumes and a long, long drive between Boston and the good life clinched Dr. Thomas Hyde's decision to begin his practice in the Berkshires nearly four decades ago.
On Thursday, the day before beginning his retirement, the local pediatrician recalled that trip east on the Massachusetts Turnpike in October 1973.
He had driven up to interview at Williamstown Medical Associates but had to be back for his night shift at Children's Hospital in Boston, where he was completing his residency. The first station on the Pike was out of gas; the second wouldn't sell it to him because his license plate ended in the wrong number — it had to be odd or even depending on the day.
"I convinced them I was a doctor on call at Children's Hospital so he sold me $5, which in those days was enough to get me from Springfield to Boston," said Hyde, at his offices at Northern Berkshire Pediatrics on the North Adams Regional Hospital campus.
With the choice between a practice across the street from Children's or one in the Berkshires, Hyde said the Berkshires were the obvious choice for someone who likes the great outdoors. No commute to the suburbs; no need for vacation homes.
"If you're going to live somewhere, you should live where you want to live," he said. "And so the kind of things I like to do — kayaking, canoeing, biking hiking or whatever — I can do right outside my front door. In Boston, I wouldn't have been able to do that."
Hyde and his wife, Susan, settled in Williamstown and raised three boys there. "The Berkshires have really been a great place to live," he said.
A 1969 graduate of Harvard Medical School, Hyde did his internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was a fixture at Williamstown Medical Associates for decades before more recently moving his practice to Northern Berkshire Pediatric.
He's not sure how many children he's treated but estimates he's had about 240,000 patient visits during his career in the Berkshires. Surrounded by balloons and desserts to mark his retirement after 38 years of treating thousands of area children, Hyde credited his colleagues with helping make his practice successful and enjoyable.
"I was lucky in my years of practice that I've always had partners and colleagues that were so helpful and cooperative that we work together so well ... all you had to do was say, 'Gee, would you ...?' and they would," he said. "I always had the kind of support you've needed.
"The North Adams Hospital nursing staff, in both pediatrics and nursery, was always very dependable. If they were worried I knew I had reason to come in; if they weren't worried, I could be fairly comfortable."
His former child patients have been bringing their children to him, something he said has been fun to see. Now, he said, he'll have more time for his own grandchildren who live some hours away in Boston and Pennsylvania.
His wife got a head start on him when she retired as school librarian at Williamstown Elementary School three years ago and became involved in different activities.
"She sort of figured out how to do retirement," he said, joking, "she's going to have to put up with with me for 50 or 60 more hours a week than she's had to do for the last 38 years."
Looking back, he said he feels good about being able to help children, and helping parents learn how to take care of them. His attitude about raising children is to be honest with them, show them respect and they'll respect you in return.
"I felt very lucky. This has been such a fun job. You get to come in and see kids all day," Hyde said. "When you've got a 3-year-old smiling at you even after you've given him a shot ... it really makes you feel good."
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