Dr. Win Stuebner, right, listens to the citation awarding him the Faith R. Scarborough Community Service Award at Town Meeting in May.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — When Erwin (Win) Stuebner Jr. retired after more than 30 years as a primary care physician with the Williamstown Medical Associates, he did not relocate to a warmer climate so he would be able to take pleasure in hisoutdoor hobbies — golfing and hiking — all year round.
Instead, he and his wife, Jane, chose to stay in Williamstown, where they settled 38 years ago
"After I finished up two years in the Army at West Point, Jane and I decided that a college community would be ideal. I was fortunate that the Williamstown Medical Associates offered me a position," said Stuebner, who graduated from Dartmouth and did his medical training in the Midwest. "We have never had a regret; Williamstown has been a wonderful place to live and to raise our three sons."
And now, approximately seven years into his retirement, Stuebner was presented with the 2014 Faith Scarborough Award for outstanding community service. The presentation took place at the annual Town Meeting last month.
Among Stuebner's contributions to the community are serving as medical director of the Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice of Berkshire County and serving as president of the board of directors of the Village Ambulance Service.
In an interview in the day after receiving the award, Stuebner talked about finding out he had won the award.
Q: The recipients of the FSA are not informed beforehand that they will be honored at the annual Town Meeting. Did you have any inkling that you would be the 2014 awardee?
A: The first I knew of it was on the Monday before Town Meeting. Adam Filson, who is on the VAS board (and is the town moderator) said to me, "Are you going to be at the annual meeting? Will you be there at 7 o'clock?' I thought, 'Why is he asking that?' It was a little hint.
Q: Your body language at the time you were presented with the award indicated that you do not like to be the center of attention. What were you thinking?
A: Adam had some very nice things to say, but it was embarrassing and humbling as well.
Q: In your professional life, were you notified beforehand when you were to be honored for your service? If so, did you prepare a response?
A: The biggest award I received was the Massachusetts Clinician of the Year from the Massachusetts Medical Society. I knew about that as I had to go to Boston for a luncheon (where the award was to be presented). I prepared a little speech, but at the event there was so much to be done, I just said thank you.
Q: Did you prepare a speech for the presentation at Town Meeting?
A: What I planned to say was what an honor it was to receive an award named after Faith Scarborough - such a special woman - and what a double honor it was to be in the group of people who have received the award. It is a truly exceptional, dedicated group.
But at Town Meeting when everyone was standing and applauding, I knew there were a lot of important articles to be discussed and I was thinking, 'Let me go and sit down .People want to get on with it.' So, I just said thank you.
I feel badly that I did not say anything about Jane, my best friend and my dear wife, who constantly supports my activities.
Q: Did anything or anyone influence your decision to work as a volunteer in the community once you retired?
A: I've always been involved in fund-raising in different organizations to the point that people won't accept my calls. But I was so busy in medicine that as the time came near for retiring, I did not think about what I would do then, beside relax.When I did retire in the winter of 2008, it became obvious to me and Jane that sitting around the house was not my cup of tea.
Q: What do you find most satisfying as a volunteer?
A: I know that things I have been involved in are not for everybody. I just enjoy working with people. I got pleasure in practicing medicine and I get pleasure from volunteering for causes that I believe in.
Q: In a statement praising you for your contributions to the community, Adam Filson mentioned that as a volunteer you could be found painting a barn as well as sitting around a conference table at Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation. What kind of physical projects have you been called up on to tackle?
A: Well, for the most part, they only let me paint -- but not the trim. I am just the apprentice helper.
Q: One of the most recent roles you have taken on as a volunteer is to serve on the Advisory Board for the Fund for Williamstown. How would you describe the FFW to those who are unaware of its existence?
A: The Fund for Williamstown was founded about eigh to 10 years ago. Mark Gold (an attorney and former Town Moderator) got about 50 people together to pledge a certain amount of money to fund it - it's a small fund. Berkshire Taconic Foundation manages the funds for us. We gave out about $15,000 this year to support innovative community activities that are the brainchild of people just starting up or existing organizations trying something new. We help them monetarily only once or twice..
Q: Can you give us some examples?
A: We contributed to about 12 organizations -- including the Farmers Market so they could continue (providing) music at the market; children's programs at the Youth Center, where they pair up disabled adults with the children; performances by the Puppet Brigade at the Clark (Art Institute), a new program that Images Cinema will announce, and the like.
Q: If you had it to do over, would you retire at the age of 63?
A: The thing I enjoyed most about medicine was my contact with my patients. With hospitalists being utilized, we (private practice physicians) no longer made rounds and with electronic medical records being adopted, it seemed that things were changing in medicine. I still wanted to visit my patients who were in the hospital and I did, but I was technologically challenged. It was time, I thought, for older doctors to move out and time for the younger doctors to take the ball.
Q: Are you encouraged by the steps being taken by Berkshire Health Systems to buy the former North Adams Regional Hospital building?
A: I am really very grateful to Berkshire Health Systems and its CEO, David Phelps, who has always had a vision for making sure that the entire county has medical care. Opening the emergency department (at the former North Adams Regional Hospital) is a very important step . Now we have radiology and the lab back. What is going to happen in the future is still in question.
As much as I would like it to be, I don't think it (NARH) will be a full-service hospital again. It is my feeling that it cannot be sustained as such. Many small hospitals across the country are merging with larger hospitals. I would hope in my wildest dreams that we expand services to have a same day surgical suite where minor surgeries and procedures such as colonoscopies can he performed.
The immediate need of the community has been served by the emergency department being opened, but I feel so badly for my colleagues, nursing staff technicians and all the wonderful people I worked with for 30-plus years. I worry about them and the affect the closing of the hospital has on their lives. At least, some of those who lost their jobs (in March) are now back on the job (with the opening of the emergency department at the former NARH building as a satellite of Berkshire Medical Center).
Q: On a lighter note, what is your idea of a perfect day?
A Start with a brisk hike up Stone Hill, put in a half day of work, play nine holes of boogie gold - a true fantasy - have a nice dinner with Jane, go to a concert at Williams and get home just in time to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees with a walk-off home run!