After 40 years, Dr. Hanna decides to retire

Posted October 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm

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Doctor Phil Hanna recently retired from the Monticello Veterinary Clinic after 40 years. Here, Dr. Hanna visits Mrs. Adams’ fifth grade class for a lesson on the circulatory and respiratory systems. He’s demonstrating how the body works with a pig’s heart and lungs. (Photo submitted)
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A retirement party was held for Doctor Phil Hanna on Sunday, Oct. 6, at the Youth Development Center. The community thanked Hanna for his years of service and wished him luck in retirement. Among the partygoers was the staff of the Monticello Veterinary Clinic, front row from left, Diane Leibold, Diane Fitzsimmons and Pat Adams. Back row, veterinarians Jeremy Johnson, Tom Lee, Phil Hanna, Trevor Schwartz and Cole Burrack. (Photo submitted)

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

After 40 years in the veterinary business, Doctor Phil Hanna decided to retire.

An ad appeared in the Monticello Express on June 13, 1974, announcing Dr. Phillip Hanna as an associate at the Monticello Veterinary Clinic, working along side Dr. John Chittick and Dr. David Gilchrist.

Hanna attended Iowa State University, where he earned a degree in animal science.

“Because I was a farm kid, I knew all the terms discussed in class,” Hanna said. He explained the profession just seemed like a natural thing to do having grown up on a farm.

While at ISU, Hanna said there was a job listing on a bulletin board for the Monticello Veterinary Clinic. An interesting connection to Monticello, it just so happened that Hanna and his wife, Marilyn, banked in town.

“I applied for the job, had an interview and was hired that same day,” Hanna said, as simple as that.

Married with two young kids, Hanna said they were looking for a town to settle down in and call “home.”

After working as an associate at the vet clinic for a year, Hanna bought into the business and has been part owner for 39 years, alongside Dr. Tom Lee.

“Monticello is the only job I’ve ever had in the field,” he said. “I’ve been doing it all my life.”

As for why he decided to retire, Hanna said it was just time. As he was getting older, a lot of veterinary tasks were becoming harder to do.

“A lot of people don’t realize that this job is very physical,” he explained. He joked that at 66 years old, “things are wearing out.” He said it’s not as easy as it used to be to help with calf births anymore, pulling out a 100-pound calf. “It began to wear on me.”

With three younger vets coming into the business (Jeremy Johnson, Cole Burrack and Trevor Schwartz), Hanna said they are able to do so much. Dr. Tom Lee is still continuing his tenure at the vet clinic as well.

“These young guys are more advanced and can do a lot more in-house,” Hanna said of the veterinary industry’s advances. For example, they can do blood work and take X-rays in house versus sending the animal and its owner elsewhere.

Looking back over the past 40 years as a local veterinarian, Hanna has seen so many changes in the size and makeup of farms. He said every farm would have dairy, chickens, hogs, a feed yard and a cow/calf herd.

“Dairy is declining,” he observed. “Hog operations have gotten bigger and people aren’t farrowing hogs anymore.”

He said there are a few old farm families still around the area. Those he worked with now are the kids and grandkids of farm families that were around when he first started here in Monticello.

Forty years ago, the vet clinic earned half its income from the agriculture industry, and maybe 5 percent small animals (household pets). Hanna said now, it’s definitely a mix of large and small animals.

“We’re a mixed animal practice now,” he said of the patients they see here in Monticello. “There are a lot of dogs and cats in town.”

Leaving the job behind is bittersweet for Hanna, but there are a few things he won’t miss about the job.

“I’ve been on-call all my life,” he said. When he would leave the vet clinic, the Hannas would have to transfer the line to their home in case of an after-hours emergency. Hanna recalled receiving 23 calls on one Easter Sunday.

“But that’s been our life,” he said truthfully.

He also won’t miss getting up at 5:30 a.m. every morning for 40 years.

Of the rare and unusual calls, Hanna said there was one time he had to put a snake to sleep because it was having trouble breathing after ingesting something.

As with any job, there is always a downturn. In the 1980s, Hanna said the farm industry “had a bad time.” The calls just weren’t pouring in then.

Over the years, the advantages of working in a small town like Monticello have allowed the vet clinic to partner with the local schools. Hanna has gone into the classrooms and assisted in lessons on the respiratory and circulatory systems, showing the kids how the body works by demonstrating on a hog heart and lungs. Classes have gone into the vet clinic to watch Dr. Hanna spay and neuter a dog.

“Someone always got light headed during that lesson,” Hanna laughed.

He’s also gone to Sacred Heart Preschool when the kids are learning their alphabet, representing the letter “V” for veterinarian.

The vet clinic also works closely with the Great Jones County Fair every fair season, checking every single animal that comes through the gate before it’s ready for show.

“This was my 40th fair,” he said looking back. After 40 county fairs, Hanna said he’s never kicked an animal out for poor health.

“The vet clinic is part of this community. It’s just a service we’ve provided all these years.”

Through it all, though, Hanna said he would definitely miss the people more than anything, the people he’s worked with and the people he’s met along the way.

“You just become friends,” he said of the animal owners. “You watch their kids grow up and watch them have grandkids. You become part of their families.”

With a growing family of his own, Hanna said he and Marilyn are looking forward to traveling some and spending quality time with their 11 grandchildren, with most living close by.

“Retiring is the normal progression,” he said.

He’ll also have more time for his hobby of woodworking. Hanna’s immense talent is seen all over their home from quilt racks to grandfather clocks, bed sets, bookshelves and end tables.

“We can also go to more ISU games,” Hanna proudly proclaimed as a Cyclone fan.