Patients praise retiring family practitioner


PHILMONT—When Dr. Neal Baillargeon, a family practitioner, retired at the end of December, the village of Philmont held a surprise farewell parade in his honor and Mayor Clarence Speed read a proclamation thanking the doctor for his 40-plus years’ service to the community.

Dr. Baillargeon also had an office in Kinderhook, his hometown.

He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Medicine and did his internship at DeWitt Army Hospital before returning to the Hudson Valley and opening a private practice in 1986.

The Columbia Paper interviewed four people—two long-time patients, a colleague and a former high school classmate—to get a fuller measure of the man and the doctor.

Shirley McThenia, 81, lives in Stockport. She is retired and volunteers at Columbia Memorial Hospital. Ms. McThenia started seeing Dr. Baillargeon one year after he opened his practice. Her husband and son were also patients. She described the family as “generally healthy” but her husband did require bypass surgery.

She recalled that Dr. Baillargeon “takes his time with you, explains your test results, goes through anything really good.” In summary Ms. McThenia described Dr. Baillargeon as a “loving, kind doctor.”

Debbie Brosen and three generations of her family have been patients. Ms. Brosen lives in Kinderhook and owns Featherarts Studio. She described her father as a “tough” man who “hated doctors” and didn’t think he needed to see one. But after meeting Dr. Baillargeon, “his attitude changed.”

Ms. Brosen recalled when her father died from cancer three days before Christmas. She credits the doctor with helping her father prepare for his end “with finesse and humor… How do you tell someone that at such a happy time?” She marveled that “appointments were like going to see family.” She compared Dr. Baillargeon to the “town doctor like in old Westerns.”

Bruce Meyer, a Ghent resident, is a retired registered nurse who worked with Dr. Baillargeon at Coarc, which services disabled residents, ages 21 – 85. They worked together for 28 years. Mr. Meyer said that the doctor “tried to establish a connection with people [and] treat the person with respect.” He added that the residents would enthusiastically proclaim, “Dr. B, he’s my doctor!”

‘Appointments were like going to see family.’

Debbie Brosen, Kinderhook

Mr. Meyer added that the respect also extended to the nurses, saying that he “treated nurses like colleagues” and was “wonderful to the nurses.” In 2000, Mr. Meyer became a patient too.

Cathy Hogencamp, 62, and Neal Baillargeon were classmates in the Ichabod Crane School District, back when “grades 7 – 12 were held together. He was in the upper grades.”

Ms. Hogencamp still lives in Kinderhook and is a retired Civil Service Commissioner. Dr. Baillargeon has cared for three generations of her family over 35 years and employed her mother as a cleaner and office help for 15 years.

When Ms. Hogencamp became caretaker for her mother and another family member, she said, “My plate was extremely full.” She shared how the doctor always asked how she was doing and always considered her feelings. “He didn’t push me to institutionalize Mom.” And he advised what she “needed to do to prepare herself.”

On a lighter note, Ms. Hogencamp recalled the day that a very excited Dr. Baillargeon wanted to show her a video of him and his granddaughter tooling around in an old motor boat with a restored motor that he had purchased from Hogencamp’s son. Restoration of old motor boats was a hobby that the doctor and her son shared.

Shirley McThenia, Debbie Brosen, Bruce Meyer and Cathy Hogencamp heaped accolades on Dr. Baillargeon calling him “always available,” “knowledgeable” and “able to pinpoint the problem.” Ms. Brosen sums up the sentiment about Dr. Baillargeon’s retirement as, “Happy for him but sad for us.”