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Williamsport resident used his 'eagle eye' to treat six presidents

September 10, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT -- Who hasn't at least once wished for the ability to look an important person in the eye?

Dr. Noel Stow got to do that with six U.S. presidents -- from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Richard M. Nixon.

But the 93-year-old retired ophthalmologist wasn't seeking the truth when he gazed into the chief executives' eyes. He was checking their vision, not their innermost thoughts.

"I practiced ophthalmology in Washington, D.C., for 45 years," said Stow, now a resident of Homewood at Williamsport.

His personal friendship with a White House physician in the 1930s led to his referral to then-President Franklin Roosevelt.

"Roosevelt wore glasses," Stow said. "I gave him regular checkups, sometimes in my office and sometimes at the White House."

Stow remembered Roosevelt as a "fine fellow" and very appreciative of Stow's skills as an eye surgeon.

A graduate of Emory University and Medical School, Stow interned in Baltimore, then spent three years in residency at the Institute of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.

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After Roosevelt died and Harry S Truman became president, Stow continued to provide eye examinations to the chief executive.

"Truman had the worst eyes of all the presidents I examined," Stow recalled.

Truman always would come to Stow's office, but instead of sitting in the waiting room, he would be escorted into a private office.

"He was quite a character. A good president and very honest," Stow said. "We had a lot of friendly talks."

President Eisenhower was an infrequent patient, Stow said.

"He only needed glasses for reading," Stow said.

President Kennedy also only wore reading glasses.

"He had very healthy eyes," Stow said.

A bonus during the Kennedy administration was treating JFK's whole family, including Jacqueline Kennedy.

"She was a lovely person," Stow said.

Lyndon B. Johnson's visits spawned a lot of spirited conversations.

"We were both Southern gentlemen -- he called me Dr. Stow and I called him Mr. President," Stow said.

His last president/patient was President Nixon, Stow said.

"I didn't agree with some of his policies, but we didn't talk politics much although he volunteered a lot," Stow said. "I wouldn't have asked him."

Stow retired at 55 and later was a consultant at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Stow, who was married for 57 years, said he misses his late wife, but enjoys contact with his son and daughter. He said he has been very happy at Homewood.

"I had an eagle eye and feathery fingers," Stow said of his long practice. "My patients said my touch was like a butterfly."

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