LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid community has lost a revered doctor: a World War II field surgeon at Iwo Jima, a top physician for the 1980 Winter Olympics, and a family doctor who was, in the words of a local politician, "Lake Placid's only health care plan."
Dr. George G. Hart died of natural causes early Tuesday morning, May 13. He was 97 years old. A lifelong resident of Lake Placid, he was born here on July 22, 1916, and was a graduate of Lake Placid High School.
Villagers spoke kind words on Tuesday in remembrance of the doctor.
Hotel entrepreneur Art Lussi, right, talks to the first patron of his Hampton Inn hotel, Dr. George Hart, center, after he and his wife Ruth checked into the new hotel July 11, 2013. Hart was born in 1916 about 100 yards from the hotel, which is located on Mirror Lake Drive. He died Tuesday, May 13 at the age of 97. Hart was Lussi’s first doctor. Jim Morganson is standing behind Hart. (File Photo — Jessica Collier)
"My thoughts and prayers are with Ruth Hart and her daughters and their families this morning as we acknowledge the passing of Dr. George Hart at age 97," village Mayor Craig Randall wrote on Facebook Tuesday.
A family doctor
For many of the residents of Lake Placid, Hart is remembered as their family doctor: making house calls and tending to wounds, whether minor or more serious. Hart also delivered generations of babies in the village.
"For so many years he was Lake Placid's only health care plan," town of North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said. "George Hart was one of the pillars of this community. He brought most of us Placidians into this community, including me."
At North Elba's board meeting Tuesday night, May 13, town officials discussed their memories of Hart. Highway Superintendent Larry Straight recalled a time when he was treated by the doctor for a sports injury.
"He stitched me up at the arena one day, no Novocaine, no nothing," Straight said. "He stitched me up and said, 'Get back out there.'"
Hart was an accomplished doctor, winning an award last year from the New York State Academy of Family Physicians Foundation for his service to the community.
He was chosen as the chairman of medical services for the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. He was also on the board of directors and executive committee.
"There was about 30 people on the board of directors," Jim McKenna, president of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, said Tuesday. "He was involved in all the decision making process for the games."
Hart was close friends with Henry Uihlein, co-founder of the Uihlein Foundation, of which Mckenna is a board member. Hart also served as medical director of Uihlein Mercy Center nursing home from 1975 to 1987.
"They were friends for many years, and George has had an influence with the foundation since Henry's death," McKenna said.
Hart also served as a president of the medical staff at Placid Memorial Hospital and at Saranac Lake General Hospital.
Randall recalled a time when he was in charge of fundraising for Placid Memorial Hospital and received Hart's help.
"I was saying to George, 'I don't know what I'm doing, really; I'm not a fundraiser,'" Randall said.
Hart offered to attach a personal note to all of his patients, informing them of Randall's fundraising effort. After that, donations started to come in, Randall said.
For Hart's many commitments to his community, he was inducted into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame.
Hart enlisted as a flight surgeon in World War II, he was on the ground at the island of Iowa Jima for the battle against the Japanese. An estimated 6,800 American soldiers died there. Hart was the only medical officer on duty after a "banzai" charge, a wave of Japanese soldiers attacking in hand-to-hand combat. He would later receive the Silver Star for his actions during the attack.
After the war ended in 1945, he returned to his home in Lake Placid where he continued to practice medicine.
The Hart family
Hart's wife Ruth and their four daughters - Marilyn MacIvor of Ottawa, Nancy Beattie of Lake Placid, Ruth Mary Ortloff of Plattsburgh and Elizabeth Barrett of Dallas - were together at their parents' home on Interlaken Avenue Tuesday.
"He was really remarkable, a really remarkable man," Ortloff said. "The family really feels very blessed that we had the opportunity to have him for so many years and blessed to have so many wonderful friends in the community in every aspect of his life. He gave so much to people, and they gave so much back to him."