| Podiatrist Paul leaves big shoes to fill.
After more than 50 years of keeping others feet happy, Dr. Bernard "Barney" Paul has decided to kick back and give his own toes a rest - preferably on the golf course.
Paul, 74, has been a podiatrist in Fort Smith for 43 of his 53 years in the profession and has decided it's finally time to retire - much to the dismay of a host of appreciative patients.
Wednesday was the last day of practice for the kindly "foot doctor" who likes golf, funny stories, tending his azaleas, big-band music, bow ties, woodworking, cigars (which he had to give up following a heart attack two years ago) and solving his patient's foot problems.
"Many of Dr. Paul's patients tell us he treated their mothers and grandmothers - it has been a very good practice. "Our patients are more like a big family than just clients." Paul's receptionist and wife of 46 years, Virginia, said as she closed Paul's West-?Ark Foot Clinic at 3100 Jenny Lind Wednesday. "We hate to leave them, but age eventually creeps up on you."
The last patient Paul saw "before he goes to smell the roses," as she put it, was Mary Ann Ervin of Ozark. Paul has cared for her feet for the past 20 years.
"I've grown old with Dr. Paul, " she joked, as Paul checked her feet for the last time. "I'm tough all over, except for my feet - they're tender. I play golf and that gives me calluses. And I've had neuroma - nerve tumor- which comes from wearing shoes too narrow and too pointed."
Ervin said she usually sees the podiatrist about every six weeks.
"Having your feet worked on makes you feel good all over," she said. "You know the old saying - when your feet hurt you hurt all over. That's really true. It's hard to smile when your feet hurt, and I like to smile."
It's no accident that Paul's patients sound knowledgeable about podiatry.
The "soft-spoken, unassuming practitioner" has devoted his entire professional life to the advancement of podiatric medicine," the editor of American Podiatric Medical Association News wrote in a full page feature on Paul last year.
Nationally known with the profession, Paul is a lifetime member of both the state and national American Podiatry Associations. In 1986 he received his 50 year pin for service as a delegate to the American Podiatry Association House of Delegates.
He has also influenced at least four area youths to enter the profession, including brothers John and Tom Werner of Fort Smith - John practices in Fort Smith and Tom practices in Russellville; Laurence K. Connelley of Paris, who practices in Little Rock; and Nikki Doty of Greenwood. Paul said the last he heard from Doty she was teaching in Iowa after completing chiropody studies there.
In the APMA News feature, editor David Zych praised Paul for his unflagging work in the profession on both state and national levels, for making available - at his own expense - podiatric career literature in libraries throughout Arkansas, and for serving on the state podiatric examining board.
Paul was also lauded by APMA officials in the article for helping new practitioners in the field and for staying current on the latest developments in podiatric medicine.
"There have been a lot of changes in the profession since I started out (in 1936) and there are a lot of new modern concepts, surgical techniques and skin treatments," Paul reflected as he offered a visitor a coffee flavored candy - his substitute for the stogies he once loved to smoke.
"But basically, people don't take any better care of their feet now than they did 40 years ago and the biggest cause of foot problems is still hereditary or congenital." Paul added. "Then there's general disease conditions - such as diabetes, arthritis and thyroid problems which affect the skin, bones and circulation of the feet; injuries ; and, number four on the hit parade - shoes."
People should wear shoes appropriate for the activities they engage in, Paul said. He said men are more likely to do this than women, who tend to "wear whatever is fashionable regardless of what it does to their feet." He said about 80 percent of his patients are women.
When interviewed, the dapper Paul was wearing a pheasant feather bow tie (one of his wardrobe of about three dozen bow ties) with his dress shirt, slacks, white smock and custom-made shoes. The shoes were constructed "out East," Paul said, around an exact replica of his foot.
"Sometimes I wear conventional shoes and sometimes I wear these contour molded shoes," Paul explained. "When this type of shoe came out in 1955 they were called space shoes. They're not to be confused with the ‘earth shoes' that came out in the ‘70's - which caused a lot of stress and strain on leg muscles."
A native of Chicago and a 1936 graduate of the Illinois College of Chiropody and Foot Surgery, Paul said he has never regretted his decision to locate his practice in Fort Smith after being stationed at Fort Chaffee in 1942 with the 14th Armored Division. A graduate of the Army's Command and Staff College at Leavenworth, Kan., Paul was a supply and evacuation officer in the Far East during World War II and at Eighth Army Headquarters during the Korean War in 1950.
"I was just getting established in practice in Fort Smith when I had to leave for the service in 1950." Paul said. "When I came back I had lost about half my practice and had to do a lot of PR (public relations) work." Paul said. He said that led to him doing radio spots and becoming active in Fort Smith civic groups such as Kiwanis, the Masonic Lodge and the Exchange Club, which he has served in for 30 years.
The Pauls'' two children have also remained in the area. Ralph, 34, lives in Van Buren while Ellen Paul Pugh, 30, lives in Fort Smith. She is a certified podiatrist assistant and worked for 10 years as her father's assistant.