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A Hundred Year Adventure: The Life and Exploits of Eugene Clair Foote

A Hundred Year Adventure: The Life and Exploits of Eugene Clair Foote

Автором Julia Adrian Foote

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A Hundred Year Adventure: The Life and Exploits of Eugene Clair Foote

Автором Julia Adrian Foote

269 pages
3 hours
Dec 5, 2015


He was “Indiana Jones” with a medical bag. Born in the era of the horse and buggy he lived to see the jet age and saw man walk on the Moon. Craving a life of adventure, he also wanted to help his fellow man and make his community and the world a better place.
These few words give the briefest overview to a life that spanned a century and continues to impact the people of south central Nebraska. He made such a difference in the lives of his patients, his name and reputation is even known among their descendants. Such was the life of Eugene Clair Foote M.D.
Going by the maxim to work hard and play hard, Dr. Foote lived a life of great purpose and touched the lives of countless individuals. Despite humble beginnings, at the height of his career, if you walked through the parking lot of his medical clinic you would have seen license plates from all over the country. He started a medical tradition that continues to this day.
Dec 5, 2015

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A Hundred Year Adventure - Julia Adrian Foote


A Hundred Year


The life and exploits of Eugene Clair Foote

Julia Adrian Foote

Hungry Kitty Productions

2513 Commerce Avenue Grand Island, NE 68801


Copyright © 2015 .

Interior Graphics/Art Credit: Foote family photo archives

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted by any means—whether auditory, graphic, mechanical, or electronic—without written permission of both publisher and author, except in the case of brief excerpts used in critical articles and reviews. Unauthorized reproduction of any part of this work is illegal and is punishable by law.

ISBN: 978-1-4834-4285-3 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4834-4032-3 (e)

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models,

and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

Lulu Publishing Services rev. date: 11/25/2015


Dedications and Acknowledgements


1.   The Man, The Myth, The Legend

2.   In the beginning: The Foote Family

3.   The Footes Always had Itchy Feet

4.   A Boy’s Paradise

5.   School Days

6.   Medical Influences in Gene’s Life

7.   Portrait of the Doctor as a Young Man

8.   Medical School

9.   His Irish Maiden

10.   First Do No Harm – Gene Begins his Practice

11.   Old World, New Skills

12.   Lafayette, He has Returned Gene Goes to War

13.   A Magnificent Young Man and His Flying Machines

14.   Lions and Tigers and Cataracts: Oh My!

15.   The Best is Yet to Be - Later Years

About the Author

Dedications and Acknowledgements

This book is dedicated to the many generations of the Foote family who came before me. I am particularly indebted to those of the family who loved, guided and inspired Eugene C. Foote through his life.

It is also dedicated to the spouses who married into the Foote family despite the family’s reputation for personality quirks and other minor (endearing) eccentricities and who were generally willing to put up with the lot of them till death did them part.

I must also acknowledge the help and guidance of my own spouse, Kris L. Mleczko M.D. who, though an immigrant to this country, has better English grammar and editing skills than I. Also for his insistence on perfection and attention to detail that helped make this book as good as it possibly could be. When it comes to diligence you can’t beat a pathologist.

In this age of the Internet I feel I should also acknowledge the website, Ancestry.com. For pedestrians, like me, who cannot read a genealogy book to save their lives, the website is a godsend! Their sources of information and family tree construction programs filled in numerous gaps and clarified many things! Frequently it wasn’t so much a family Tree as it was a family vine. On more than one occasion relationships appeared to be twisted beyond comprehension. Acestry.com was able to straighten me out!

Thanks also to Catherine Renschler, former director of the Adams County Historical Society for her years of assistance with many other historical topics, as well as asking me the question, So I take it you are writing a book about your great-grandfather?

That’s how this whole project started.



In 1974 Eugene C. Foote M.D. was 95 years old when he received a letter from the President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon. The President acknowledged Dr. Foote for his services to the people of Nebraska and for his community involvement.

In acknowledgement of that honor the Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital newsletter did a feature on him. In the piece Dr. Foote explained that as a young boy, more than anything else in the world he wanted to be an adventurer and an explorer.

To a boy growing up on the family homestead on the plains of south central Nebraska in the heyday of the railroad and the economic boom of the 1880’s, his ambition to become an adventurer must have seemed a great destiny. Young Eugene was keenly aware of what lay in wait for him out in the great wide world. He was impatient to grow up and begin his quest.

Whether he knew it or not Dr. Foote came from a long line of adventurers. His English ancestor Nathaniel Foote left his home in Essex, England in 1630 and came to the new world. He settled in Watertown, MA, and made a productive life for himself and his family. But in 1634 he and some of his neighbors ventured to explore some land south of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in what would later become Connecticut. Their bold move earned them the collective name of Adventurers. They settled in a place known to the local Indians as Pyquag which they renamed Wethersfield.

The men in this group had taken a great leap into the unknown when they left their homeland. With time and toil they had created new homes and lives in the colonies. Even with all of this, they were still eager to continue to explore the world around them. Many would have been happy with their situation and stayed put. However, Gene’s ancestor was curious to see what other opportunities and experiences lay over the next hill.

Some scientists have speculated there is a gene or something on the cellular level that spurs on some people to be more curious about the world and are therefore willing to move beyond a comfort zone to explore new things and new places. It begs the question, was Eugene Foote’s desire to explore the world and experience life, something in his DNA or in the spirit of the times in which he lived?

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Gene, his parents, Melville, a sober veteran of the Civil War, and his mother Betsey, a level-headed former school teacher turned farm wife, were eager to dissuade Gene from such a questionable career choice. They insisted that he get a good education and pick a stable, practical profession. They were people of limited means but they were willing to help him any way they could, provided that he be realistic about his choices in life.

In the end Eugene managed to please his parents AND fulfill many of his childhood dreams. He was a diligent and successful student as well as a go-getter. Inspired to become a doctor, Gene worked his way through school and with continued study eventually became a physician of great reputation and helped to provide Hastings, Nebraska with an outstanding reputation as a center of quality health care.

With his skills and talents Gene could have lived anywhere in the county. He briefly considered moving to Idaho, going so far as to get a medical license to practice there. The state had a great deal that appealed to him—good hunting and a relatively unspoiled frontier that may have reminded him of his childhood on the Great Plains. Fortunately, both Gene’s extended family and his heart was in Nebraska. He admitted he genuinely liked the state and the people, so he happily returned.

For Eugene, a.k.a. Gene Foote every day was an adventure whether he was hunting quail near the family home in Ayr, tracking a Bengal tiger through the jungles of India, or lions on the plains of Africa, fishing for rainbow trout in the Cache la Poudre River in Colorado, delivering a baby on a stormy night or studying with the world’s leading eye surgeons. Each day of his life seemed to bring him adventures both monumental and mundane. When he reached the last day of his life, it had spanned a century, It was a hundred year adventure.



The Man, The Myth, The Legend

>Dr. Gene Foote saved my/my wife’s/ my father’s/ my son’s (insert the family member of your choice) life.<


This was something I frequently heard in my youth. I still hear it, albeit rarely, even today. Over the years this statement was amended to include my grandfather, great uncle, a cousin, my father, an uncle and a second cousin. The declaration, as gratifying as it was to hear, was also rather startling. As I grew up and began to understand the enormity of what these older members of my family had accomplished, it made me quite proud to be part of such a clan.

Initially tongue-tied by the statements, I learned to respond to them as graciously as I could by saying, I’m so pleased to hear that. It’s always good to know the family is well-thought of. I always tried to make note of the person’s name and remember them to the appropriate doctor. Even more amazingly, when I shared the encounters, the great-grandfather, grandfather, father, uncle etc. usually remembered the individual in question!

Gene was the first star in our medical family and he was a tough act to follow. He set the stage, blazing the trail in health care and civic involvement in Adams County and south central Nebraska followed by subsequent generations of the family.

There were and are several Dr. Footes involved in this story and to make matters even more confusing, some had the same first name AND they specialized in the same area of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology, or the specialized field of medicine concerned with diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the eye, ear, nose and throat.

I should also like to point out the family’s medical men and women are not limited to just those with the surname Foote.

The other descendants of Gene in the medical profession, whose surnames are NOT Foote included his grandson, Dr. Jerry Anderson, son of Gene’s oldest daughter Eugenia Clair and her husband Dr. Herbert Anderson, an ENT physician. Dr. Jerry Anderson was a neurologist who worked in Puerto Rico and later in Florida. Dr. William Bill Beck, Gene’s grandson. Dr. Beck joined the practice at the Foote Clinic in 1967. Bill’s oldest daughter, Dr. Jeanne Beck is also an ENT practicing in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Dr. Bill Beck’s youngest son, Scott Beck is a dentist practicing in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Two other of Gene’s grandsons with the surname Ammons practiced medicine in the Denver, Colorado area.


The tradition of medicine continues in the Foote family. This photo was taken in the late 1960’s when Gene’s grandsons William Bill Beck (not pictured) and Donovan B. Foote Jr. joined the practice. From left: Charles Mel Foote, Eugene C. Foote, Donovan B. Foote Jr. and Donovan B. Foote Sr.

Those doctors descended from Gene, down the male line with the surname Foote were his sons Dr. Charles Melville Mel Foote (1910 - 1997) and Dr. Donovan Byrne Foote Sr. (1911 - 1975) and Gene’s grandsons Dr. Donovan Byrne Foote Jr. and Dr. Terence Terry Foote. Dr. Donovan Foote Jr. retired from practice in 2004 and currently resides in Hastings, Nebraska. Dr. Terence Foote who retired in the fall of 2013, lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. With Terry’s retirement it was the first time in over one hundred and five years there hadn’t been a Doctor Foote practicing in south Central Nebraska. However, Terry’s oldest daughter Meghan Foote Boyer is a doctor specializing in OB-GYN and practicing in Medina, Ohio.

Margaret Foote, younger daughter of Dr. Donovan Foote Jr is an R.N, formally specializing in psychiatric nursing. Margaret’s oldest daughter, Kyla Foote Lindeque, earned her nursing degree in 2014 and currently works at Mary Lanning Hospital.

All of these men and women are descendants of Eugene C. Foote M.D, so the medical tradition of the Foote family does continue. It is just moving to new areas of expertise and spreading across the country.

As stated earlier, the first star in our family medical tradition was Eugene Clair Foote M.D.—my great-grandfather and the subject of this book.

To our modern eyes, Gene’s story reads like a Horatio Alger story—the rags to riches tales which came to personify the American psyche. Gene was no less remarkable or less dedicated to medicine than his sons, grandsons, great-grandsons, nephews, great nieces, great nephews and great–granddaughters or even great-great-granddaughter who followed him into the profession. Gene just had the distinction of doing it first. As the first doctor in the family he set the standard. He was a pioneer in many ways. His achievements were those that the others who came after him were measured against. To their credit, while his descendants may not have surpassed him they were and are his equals.

I’m happy to say I knew Gene; I was fifteen when he died. Unlike my younger sister and cousins, I was aware of who he was and when the adults told stories about his life I could at least put the events to a face. By the time I was old enough to realize the magnificent scope of his life, he had entered extreme old age and it wasn’t easy to talk with him.

Physically he was a slightly built man with dark brown eyes and a high-pitched reedy voice, who smelled of peppermints. His birthday, September 6, was a significant day in our family. We’d either go over to his house and wish him a happy birthday or on that day we’d make a point of reminding to each other,today is Gene’s birthday! As each year passed we’d marvel at his longevity and endurance. Like the Energizer Bunny, Gene kept going and going and going and going!

By this time—the mid 1970’s—my grandmother, Marie Foote told me Gene could remember in great detail the early years of his life but could not remember what happened just a few minutes before, which is a typical condition for many older people. Gene was always kind and gracious to me but I doubt by his late 90‘s he knew who I was. When I was ten, we went to his house for a family get-together. It was one of those times when we took pictures of four generations.


September 6, 1974 Four generations of the Foote family. (Back standing) Donovan Byrne Foote Jr., his daughters (left) Julia A. Foote (right) Margaret M. Foote.Seated, left) Donovan Byrne Foote Sr. (left)Eugene Clair Foote.

Sadly I didn’t really get to know my great-grandfather until my early 40’s when I came into possession of photos, films, letters and other artifacts from his life. As I learned even more about the events in his life and things he accomplished, I looked back on those earlier years and wished I had the presence of mind to ask him questions about his life when I had the chance. We’ve all had this experience, so start talking to the older members of your family and get important information written down NOW! (Don’t plague yourself with woulda, shoulda, coulda down the road!)

Beyond those artifacts, much of my information about Gene has come from the remaining members of the family who knew him. I’ve done several interviews with these people and made notes over the years of what other family members have shared of Gene’s childhood, his early years as a doctor, his world travels, chasing bank robbers and his interest in aviation. The stories always caught my attention and thankfully stayed with me.

When I heard the stories, in my mind’s eye I saw the frail gentleman I’d always known and it was hard to believe the tales of his exploits. Papa Gene looked like Father Time but he sounded like a cross between Indiana Jones and Albert Schweitzer!

The person who chooses to become a physician does not tread an easy path. After making the initial decision there follow years and years of schooling in complex and diverse subjects. Once the education is acquired there are even more years of long work hours, high stress and frustration. I would think all of this is compensated by what must be the unbelievable satisfaction and joy of healing the sick and making a difference in people’s lives.

I decided to write this book because I felt it was important that people know who Dr. Eugene C. Foote was and how much he did for his family, his community, his country and for humanity.

There is an old Spanish saying that a life lived in fear is a life half-lived. It always reminded me of Gene. He was fearless. Most of his century on this earth (September 6, 1879 to October 29, 1979) was spent living life, loving his family, endlessly seeking adventure and being of service to his fellow

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