They called him Ol’ Doc even when he wasn’t all that old, but he had been around enough to warrant that title in Nederland, having delivered hundreds of local babies.
Doctor Joe Maurer passed away last Wednesday, January 24, 2018, in his home in Boulder at the age of 103. He was an icon in the Front Range medical family, a man known for his mischievous sense of humor along with a kind, gentle demeanor. After turning 100, Joe’s family decided he was going to stay in his home and they got the elevator that had come with the house in 1953 all cranked up, so he could travel from his own bedroom to the couch downstairs to the kitchen, enjoying his last years as he had lived his life.
Joe’s son Larry says that he was still cognitive up to the last few weeks, remembering everybody and carrying on conversations. Born in Goshen, Indiana in a humble home next to the railroad tracks, Joe described his home as just a place to exist, with no water, no inside plumbing, no heat, no electricity, no telephone, and no books except for a Bible. His parents could barely read and couldn’t write. His dad was born during the Civil War; he was a tyrant and a disciplinarian, who did not show affection or talk about his life. Joe worked weeding celery fields for 10 hours a day for 50 cents a day. He never had a birthday or Christmas present.
When he graduated from Goshen High School in 1932 at the bottom of his class, he attended Goshen College for a couple of years and decided he wanted to outsmart his friends and become a lawyer or doctor. He hated lawyers, so the choice was easy. He was admitted to Indiana University School of Medicine and with $100 for the first semester’s tuition he headed to Bloomington where he was hired to embalm cadavers. He also tutored football players.
He graduated in the top half of his class in 1939. While in medical school be became sick and ended up marrying the nurse who cared for him, Helen Faris, in 1940. He worked for the Children’s Hospitals in Kansas City and Denver before deciding to move to Boulder and work in Dr. Howard Heuston’s office. In 1942, Joe was asked to be the Boulder High School team doctor, a job he held until 1967, going to all the games and never paying a cent. He also volunteered treatment to injured and sick miners.
In 1949, Joe joined a group of 10 doctors who formed the Boulder Medical Center, which still exists at the corner of Broadway and Balsam. His story is legendary history of Boulder and the mountain areas; a part of thousands of people who were born with his assistance back in the day when physicians did home visits. Doc Maurer came to Boulder in 1942 and was paid $100 a month to start a practice. At that time, nobody needed an appointment and they paid $1 for the visit.
A longtime friend says, “And therein lies the heart and soul of Joe Maurer, the best known and best liked doctor in the town’s history. Above all, it was never about the money. For his entire life, he was a simple guy befitting his simple name.” Joe was the first doctor who gave penicillin shots in Boulder. In 1943 the new wonder drug was not available to the public, but Joe had attended workshops at Fitzsimmons Hospital in Denver and had seen what the medicine was doing for World War II veterans, including saving lives.
When a friend contracted a potential fatal disease, Joe had a state trooper deliver the penicillin. The woman ended up dying, 50 years later, and that became one of Joe’s proudest moments. When a child he was treating died, he spent time talking to the parents, explaining how he had done everything he could, and the parents appreciated his time and effort in comforting them.
“Joe was of a generation that believed in civility and kindness and humbleness. If you needed help, Joe was your guy. He made 16 house calls in a day, for $3 each. He’d show up with his black bag and a few rudimentary items, pain medicine, a stomach tube, a pill with aspirin, a stethoscope, blood pressure equipment and a syringe. When seeing children, he’d pat the mother’s hand, saying ‘Now, now there’s no need for you to worry a bit. He’ll be fine.’” He believed that mental assurance had healing powers.
Joe and Helen enjoyed coming to their cabin in Nederland where he had delivered many local babies. Doc enjoyed attending local Nederland events and was the named the Grand Marshal of the Old Timer’s Days Parade in the early 2000s. He also loved to get in on the local poker game, where his wife Helen usually took everyone’s money.
Joe told his friends that his long life was due to keeping one’s weight down. He said it was fundamental. He said he tried to always live by the Golden Rule. Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Christian and Mary Maurer, his sister Carol Maurer, a grandchild Molly Maurer and his wife Helen. He is survived by four children, Larry Maurer and his wife Linda of Nederland, Chris Maurer of Boulder, Mary Lynn Cameron and her husband Mike of Boulder and Anne Marie Dietz and her husband Robert of Boulder.
Memorial for Doc Maurer will be held on Saturday, February 17, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, 1318 Mapleton Avenue, Boulder, CO 80304. A celebration of his life will follow at the Boulder Country Club, 7350 Club House Road, Boulder, CO 80301.