In the United States, more than 225,000 physicians are older than age 60 and close to winding down their careers. For many, retirement provides a chance to tackle projects and passions that have been put off during busy years in practice.
We caught up with two Indiana University School of Medicine alumni to learn about the unique ways they have filled their days since retirement.
EDWARD L. PROBST, MD
Class of 1964
If Ed Probst ever forgets what year he planted a stand of trees, he just thinks of his grandchildren.
“There’s Jake’s Woods, Eve Marie’s Woods and Samira’s Woods,” Probst said. “They were planted the year they were born.”
He paused. A grin crept across his face. “Obviously,” he said, “they always ask to see them every time they visit.”
In the years since he stepped away from his practice, Probst has spent up to six days a week tending to more than 1,700 hardwood trees he planted on his 80-acre tract near Columbus, Indiana.
He bought the land in the early 1970s after settling in Columbus with his wife, Patricia, but the parcel was wooly and unimproved. And the hectic pace of Probst’s dermatology practice forced him to put off clearing away dense undergrowth.
Today, though, he can amble along a grassy path parting rows of red and white oaks, along with walnut and cherry trees—all of which are planted on a precise grid. Cultivating hardwood trees is a meticulous and exacting pursuit for a man who loathes idleness.
“I’d be bored out of my mind if I had to sit at home all day,” he said. The tree farm allows Probst, who rose early as a child to go on milk runs before school, to blend curiosity with hard work.
Walking the ground, Probst explains the care and devotion involved with each tree. It starts with an 80-mile roundtrip to Vallonia, Indiana, each spring to buy 200 seedlings. Each sapling is carefully placed into into a hole and packed in with good soil
And then he slowly nurtures the trees through their youth. Ed lugs 2.5-gallon jugs and pours water at the base of trunks to nourish roots. He wraps them in plastic tubing, protecting the brittle trunk from deer who would break them while polishing antlers. And, when they’re more mature, he stands on a hydraulic lift 30-feet off the ground to prune limbs.
“Every tree I plant, I want it to be the best tree it can be,” he said.
TERRY F. HATCH, MD
Class of 1970
When completed, the bible chest Terry Hatch presents to his youngest son will be distinctive, with a striped-wood grain known as English tiger oak. And inside, the Rev. Nicholas Hatch will store heirlooms of faith and family: German-made tomes stretching back several generations.
“I started it a couple of years ago,” Hatch said. “But it will be worth it.”
Starting with a coffee table on his grandmother’s kitchen floor, Hatch has always gotten as much joy from the process of woodworking as he does from the finished product. The allure is the mastery of technique, knowledge of materials, and blending utility and beauty.
He’s made pilgrimages to hone his craft, including three-week trips to Hartland, England, over back-to-back summers. A rural village of 3,000 people, Hartland remains an artist enclave and a time-capsule to a bygone era. England’s best potter calls the town home. It’s a place where the job “pavermaker” still exists, and where Hatch stayed in a stone manor house while taking classes in the shop of David Charlesworth, a renowned woodworker.
He returned home with custom-made chairs for his granddaughters, the unfinished bible chest, and a kernel of wisdom: “It takes an impossibly long time to clutter the world with ugly things when doing hand woodworking,” he said with a chuckle.
When he was still practicing, Hatch had to carve out time just to maintain an expansive collection of tools, which includes 15 planes, 70 chisels, a lathe and a band saw passed down from his father. With more time comes more projects. While still working on the bible chest, he made a butterfly house, which was installed 20 minutes away at the University of Illinois Idea Garden. He’s also become interested in woodturning and makes homemade lumber with his middle son, Gus.
“I haven’t done as much day-by-day, month-by-month woodworking as I’d like to,” he said. “But there are always a number of ongoing projects. Each thing can take a long time to make, and they’ll get done – eventually.”