Local doctor decides to hang up his stethoscope
Dr. Charlie Kellermyer has spent more than half of his life trying to keep North Lake Tahoe residents healthy.
But after 34 years of service to the community with the Truckee Tahoe Medical Group, the 64-year-old Squaw Valley has finally decided it’s time to hang up his stethoscope.
“I wanted to retire while I could still stand up and now just seemed like the appropriate time,” Kellermyer said a gentle laugh.
Kellermyer, an Ohio native, began his medical career in Los Angeles County after graduating from medical school at Northwestern University. Later, he worked in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco’s prestigious medical facilities.
Still, Kellermyer knew that the city life wasn’t for him, the avid outdoorsman, and in 1969, him and his wife Janie, decided to pack up and head for Colorado.
“On our way, we decided that we wanted to stop in the Sierras for a little while, because we wanted to get to know that area better,” Kellermyer said. “We weren’t going to stay very long, but we just fell in love with the community, the people and the environment and we’ve been here ever since.”
Since he landed on the North Shore, Kellermyer has spent the majority of his career working between the Squaw Valley and Tahoe City offices of the Truckee Tahoe Medical Group where he’s treated hundreds of patients, young and old, and left a lasting impression on all who knew and worked with him.
“What more can I say other than I love him,” said retired TTMG nurse and long-time acquaintance Jean Sproehnle. “He was just wonderful with our patients – spent more time with them than anyone else I know. He always found time to answer any questions or help anyone, at any time.”
Another retired nurse and friend Joan Klaussen remarked on the sensitivity Kellermyer possessed.
“He was extremely interested in helping people, particularly those who were less fortunate economically,” Klaussen said. “If people came in to the office and didn’t have very much money, he would always try and find ways to charge them less.”
She added that he was also particularly attuned to the special needs of the elderly.
“He was so good with older people,” she said. “He was sensitive to aging, I think largely because of the older relatives he was raised around.”
In addition to his sensitive side, friends and coworkers fondly remembered the formal side of Kellermyer.
“He was very fastidious,” Sproehnle said. “He was always in a clean, crisp shirt. When we would have lunch at work, he always had us sit down with a real knife and fork, and have a real lunch with real conversation – even if we were just eating peanut butter and crackers.”
Despite his formal side, Klaussen stressed that Kellermyer was low-key at work, easy to work with and extremely considerate of coworkers and patients.
“He never made a fuss if someone made a mistake,” Klaussen said. “He never made us uncomfortable or feel bad.”
When he’s not helping patients, Kellermyer wants nothing more than to be outside, climbing peaks or “paddling” on the lake in his kayak.
“He touches the earth in all ways, knows every bird, flower, and peak in this whole area,” Sproehnle said. “He loves people, but solitude as well. He goes into the woods to be alone, but that allows him to do his job better.”
Over the years, Kellermyer has even found ways to combine his love of nature and sport with helping others as an active member of the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue team.
Although, he’s modest about the details, Kellermyer was an integral part of the rescue crew that responded to the tragic cable car accident at Squaw Valley in 1976 which left several people trapped.
“He was really one of the heroes of that day, putting his own life in danger to save those people,” Sproehnle said.
While his days of search and rescue might be drawing to a close, Kellermyer said he hopes to have more time to spend cross-country skiing, hiking, swimming and kayaking in his retirement.
“I’d also like to acquire another sense of time and enjoy having some more freedom,” he added. “There’s a million things I want to do that I just haven’t had the time for.”
Kellermyer stressed that looking back on his life, he couldn’t imagine having chosen any other career.
“I truly feel fortuitous – blessed,” he said.
Judging from the comments of family, friends and coworkers, many North Lake Tahoe residents feel lucky for Kellermyer’s career choice as well.
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