Man honors father, former Lancaster doctor
But after his father, Jack Bartels, passed away in 2007, Bartels was inspired to tell his father’s story. He self-published a book titled “More Than Just Cheap Cigars: The Life and Times of My One-of-a-Kind Father — A Stogy-Smoking, Gruff-Talking Obstetrician.”
The seed of the book was planted at his father’s wake.
“The line went out the door, around the corner and down the street. My mother said, ‘I wish I had a way to record everything,’” Matt recalled.
Later, he found essays that his father had written about his own parents. Matt set out to write something similar to honor his father and to cope with his loss.
“I wasn’t quite done with him. I hadn’t quite figured him out,” said Matt, who spent months contacting everyone in his father’s old Rolodex. In most cases, he was reaching out to strangers, but he got surprising and enlightening results.
“I heard from a man named Ed Fox, who trained with dad. They hadn’t been close for 40 or 50 years — I didn’t even know the man existed — but he had wonderful stories. He became my litmus test,” said Matt. “After I showed him the finished product, he said, ‘You nailed it.’”
There was also Matt’s own perspective. His father was a contradiction: a strong, loving father and respected physician who could also be cantankerous, bigoted and profane. Rather than hide the rough edges and smooth out the contradictions, Matt sought to portray him accurately. He had a good start.
“I went to visit him in 2001, and he was very cranky, much more so than usual,” Matt recalled.
After the frustrating visit, Bartels returned to New England, where he was living at the time, and “as therapy” penned an essay titled “My Dad is Archie Bunker.” The essay served not only as the basis for one of the chapters but also as a motivator.
“I couldn’t let that be the only document I ever wrote about dad,” Matt said. His original goal was to write just a few pages. But the background information alone was 50 pages. He turned it into a 242-page book.
“It’s more than just a book; it’s a way of getting people to appreciate where they came from. Hopefully, it will make people think about their own families,” he said.
Matt said that his father began working in Lancaster in the early to mid-1980s, helping out at an office after his good friend and fellow obstetrician, Dr. Robert Powalski, died. Matt’s father maintained the practice, which is now located at 6440 Transit Road. The practice is now part-owned by Matt’s eldest brother, Dr. Edward Kelly Bartels, and Dr. Robert Powalski Jr., among several other doctors.
Matt donates the proceeds of his book to the Gianna Molla Room, a Catholic Diocese program that benefits needy, pregnant women.
“More Than Just Cheap Cigars” is available on his Web site, www. morethanjustcheapcigars. com.
If you have a suggestion for someone to feature in this column, send it to Lisa Johnson, editor, Lancaster/Depew Bee, 5564 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14221; call 204-4924; or e-mail LJohnson@beenews.com.