Is it just a tree?
A tree is not just a tree when it is planted in honor of someone loved. That tree symbolizes a family’s strength and love, with sheltering guidance from above.
During the demolition of the legacy building at IU Health Frankfort in 2021, a tree stood in the path. A tree that had been dedicated to the memory of Harry Thompson Stout III, MD, a longtime physician in the Frankfort community.
Michele Tansey, RN, nursing supervisor, had worked with Stout for 31 years prior to his passing. She could not bear to see it torn down, so she had the tree moved to her property where it has taken up residence in a meadow with many other trees, living its best life.
This week, Stout’s children, Mark (wife Jamie), Anne (husband Tim), grandchildren and sister Susan joined IU Health Frankfort team members at the new Frankfort Hospital to dedicate a new tree in the memory of Harry Thompson Stout III.
Stout’s Frankfort legacy
Before the hospitalist discipline became commonplace, family doctors saw their own patients at the hospital. Tansey shares that since Stout saw the majority of the patients in town, he was often at the hospital doing his rounds bright and early, after office hours and on the weekends. She describes him as a tall and lanky man who took very big steps and had hard-to-read handwriting. He drove a yellow VW bug—a tall man in a little car.
“As a young nurse, he was a bit intimidating. I was shocked the first time he called me by my name,” shares Tansey. “He always got to know every person at the hospital. He was kind and generous.”
Stout also did home visits, often bringing patients and their spouse to the hospital himself when they needed inpatient care. He was also known to bring his patients to the hospital in a wheelchair from his office across the street.
“His wife Carol was a nurse, so he was always kind to the nurses, often thanking them for everything they did,” added Denise Scofield, RN, case manager, who joined the Frankfort hospital in 1977. Stout joined in 1978.
“Being a newer nurse, I would always start with ‘this might be a silly question,’ and he would always say there are no stupid questions,” recalls Sheena Kuyper, BSN, RN. “He listened to the nurses and spent a lot of time with us. Always mentoring.”
Like his father, Harry Thompson Stout II, he was a well-respected doctor and a leader in the community. The pair, along with a few other physicians had a practice located at 1305 S. Jackson St., the current home of the administrative office building of IU Health Frankfort. The difference, according to Tansey, is Harry (Stout II) was a big joker while Tom (Stout III) had a very dry sense of humor.
“He would order a glass of wine or beer for his patient which was shocking to the team. Stout felt it was part of the healing process if the patient was used to the drink and it wasn’t affecting the medical condition it would help them relax,” recalls Scofield. “Of course, patients used to stay longer. Times certainly have changed.”
“He was also the doctor who wanted to sit with his patients and learn about their life, asking “what do you do when you do what you want to’?” remembers Kuyper. “He considered himself the gatekeeper-– always kept track of his patients no matter where they were.”
In his free time, he loved his yard and was often seen cutting the grass and trimming trees. His children were married in his beautiful backyard full of trees.
There was also tragedy in his life, which often played out in the very place where he worked. Stout lost his wife to a brain tumor. When his son was in a tragic car accident, Stout had him moved to the Frankfort hospital for his final days, because no one could care for him like his father. When Stout was diagnosed with cancer, he closed his practice but continued to show up to the hospital until he could no longer.
“The closing of his practice was heart breaking,' shares Scofield. “I will never forget the advice he gave me: Never stop working. Never take to the clicker, Denise.”
Stout passed away in October 2011. He was a graduate of Frankfort High School and Wabash College. He received his medical degree from the University of Louisville Medical School and completed his residency at the University of Alabama Birmingham.
“It was hard when he passed. It was like losing a member of your own family,” added Kuyper.