48 Years of Special Deliveries

Hometown Heroes, People, Traditions
on December 24, 2000

Dr. Eddie Ross Apple has lost count of the number of times he’s been called away from a New Year’s Eve gathering to dash to the hospital, but he knows he’s delivered more “first babies of the year” than any other doctor in Salem, Ind.

Records show Dr. Apple has delivered 9,513 babies at Washington County Memorial Hospital during his 48 years of practice. (That’s an average of 200 a year and more than Salem’s entire population of 6,164.)

“My busiest year I had 324 deliveries, and one month I had 54,” says Apple, 75, who retired last March but still performs physical examinations one day a week and remains a familiar face at the hospital.

That a general practitioner would have such a booming baby business might surprise some, but Pat Walker, his office nurse for 42 years, says, “We had patients from all over southern Indiana, and of course, Dr. Apple always made sure he did his own deliveries.”

A French Lick, Ind., native who moved to Salem after graduating from medical school, Apple is the quintessential small-town doctor, Walker says. He worked long hours, seeing patients evenings and weekends. No appointments were necessary, and sometimes the waiting room was standing room only.

“You might have to wait for hours,” she says, “but even if it was midnight, he wouldn’t leave until everyone had been taken care of.”

Apple routinely made house calls, gave free medical advice, and never refused a patient who couldn’t pay. “He loved what he did,” Walker says. “He gave his life for his practice and for the people he served.”

Over the years, Dr. Apple has delivered two sets of triplets, about 70 sets of twins, second and third generations in a single family, all his grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. However, he stood outside the door when his own three children arrived in the 1950s because he had just started practicing medicine.

“There’s nobody quite like him,” says Rose Anna Stout of nearby Scottsburg for whom he delivered seven children. “He would tell jokes and sing in the delivery room to keep my spirits up.”

Not surprisingly, most everyone in town knows him. “Every time I go in a restaurant, people come up and say, ‘Are you Dr. Apple? You delivered me.’ I hear that all the time. I always say, ‘Well, looks like I did a pretty good job.'”

With tears in his eyes, he recalls the emotions felt with each new arrival. “I always think how wonderful it is,” he says. “Anyone who doesn’t believe in God would if he delivered a baby.”

Along with the joy, Dr. Apple has known tragedy. A week before his 60th birthday, he and his wife, George Ann, were in a terrible car accident. George Ann was killed, and he was severely injured. For two years, while confined to a wheelchair, Dr. Apple continued seeing patients and delivering babies.

For years he provided free physicals to high school athletes, says Salem High School principal Jim Ralston. “Not only does he bring them into the world, but he continues to help them throughout their school days.”

On Sundays, he leads the singing at the morning worship service held in the hospital chapel after arriving early to set up chairs and set out communion. The service was started 30 years ago by Dr. Apple and is attended by hospital employees as well as patients and their families.

“He has meant so much to the people of this community,” says Rodney Coats, president and CEO of Washington County Memorial Hospital. “He’s been a tremendous asset to this hospital. He’s really become a legend around here. Everybody was sad to hear of his retiring, but he deserves it.”

“We had people cry when they heard he was going to retire,” Walker adds. “We kept telling them they had to find a new doctor, and they just kept calling.”

Now that the good doctor can finally take it easy, chances are he won’t. “I’m giving up practicing medicine,” he says. “I’m not giving up living.”