The cards and letters that have poured in to Frederick F. Marschalk Jr.'s office and home in the last few weeks all bear similar sentiments.
"I know that I could speak for many others in saying that you will be missed in many ways!!! I have felt so secure in your care for the past few years. I really respect and appreciate your expertise, your professionalism, your compassion, your friendship, your wonderful staff and more!" Etta Wilcher wrote to Dr. Marschalk, who retired last month after 43 years.
The son of a dentist, Dr. Marschalk became a doctor and later focused on pulmonology -- the branch of medicine that deals with respiratory diseases -- because he felt it was his calling in life.
"God just told me to be a doctor," he said.
And his patients took notice.
In a letter, Johnnie Crowley called Dr. Marschalk one of God's physicians.
"Your patience, interest, compassion, understanding and dedication to the practice and art of healing have touched every patient under your watchful care," the letter said.
Naomi Monge, a patient and a neighbor, visited Dr. Marschalk at his office on one of his last days there.
"He's the best doctor of my life," she said. "I don't have a great many health problems. I've had good care."
An Augusta native, Dr. Marschalk graduated from the University of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia. After serving in the Army at Fort Benning during the Vietnam era, he returned to Augusta. He started out in internal medicine, but in the mid-1970s he realized there was a need in Augusta for a pulmonologist,
"I spent most of my career at St. Joseph Hospital, and most of my patients were in ICU," he said.
With patients in such critical condition when he first met them, Dr. Marschalk encountered many sad times as well as joyous ones.
For about 20 years, he worked with a team of physicians, each one in a different specialty. Working with that team was a highlight in his career, he said.
"We got a lot of people through," he said. "We saw some really sick people."
The team disbanded around 1998.
Dr. Marschalk said he's looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Joyce, his children and grandchildren. "All these years, I've put my patients first and family second," he said.
Dr. Marschalk sees the next chapter of his life filled with family, golf and motorcycle riding. His cousin owns Hildebrandt's in downtown Augusta, and he would like to spend some time there. He also plans to travel to Germany to meet some of his cousins who live there. "I've corresponded with them. I feel like I know them, but I've never met them," he said.
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at firstname.lastname@example.org.