[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]APPLETON — Blessings have been bountiful in the life of Dr. Frank Van Lieshout — from his Catholic upbringing, to his marriage that lasted 65 years, his family and friends, his medical practice and so much more.
Raised in Kimberly, Van Lieshout was a graduate of Kimberly High School. “I passed and that was about it,” he noted. “My mother died when I was a freshman, my father had died when I was in the first grade.”
His parents had 10 children and one sister, 16, died a month after his father from an ear infection. “My mother’s religious factor was her stabilizer,” said Van Lieshout. “She was always a religious person. I was the one who would accompany her to early Mass. We used to walk to St. John’s in Little Chute for Mother of Perpetual Help devotions.”
According to Van Lieshout, the month of the rosary in October was always observed. “In our family, we knelt down and prayed the rosary every day. If you misbehaved, you knelt in the kitchen on the linoleum and if you were pretty good you could kneel in the living room on the carpet,” he recalled. “That’s how my mother separated the wheat from the chaff.”
Van Lieshout graduated from high school at the end of World War II and enlisted in the Navy. He spent most of his three years of service in Guam. “I was in the medical corps; that was my first exposure to medicine. I had an interest in medicine but never thought I was qualified to go to medical school.” Fortunately for him and for the folks from the Little Chute area, Marquette University saw something in him and he was offered a spot there.
His medical career spanned 42 years. With the situation his mother went through, Van Lieshout had empathy for other people in her position. “In my practice, widows and widows with children or the poor people I acknowledged them frequently. I would provide them with medicine and not charge them.”
At one point in the earlier stages of his career, Van Lieshout was a patient himself. “I developed cancer of the bowel. My father had died of cancer of the bowel. I ended up with a colostomy.” He started one of the first support groups in the Midwest for people with colostomies and ileostomies.
Last December, Van Lieshout’s wife, Jo, passed away. He said she was an excellent wife. Over the course of his career he delivered 2,500 babies, so he was on call a lot. “We had seven kids and she basically raised them by herself. Our first two graduated from St. John’s High School and when St. John’s closed we moved from Little Chute to Appleton.”
That’s when they got involved at St. Bernadette Parish. He and Jo were active volunteers there for 40 years. Even though his time was limited when he was working, he made it his mission to keep the school and parish property in good shape by pulling thistles, trimming bushes, and taking on other outdoor maintenance projects. He recruited friends to help with the duties.
He also helped with the annual St. Bernadette rummage sale and started the pro-life rosary at the parish with another couple. Both he and his wife volunteered with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Through the years, when Van Lieshout noticed a need, he did what he could to take care of it. He recalled a story from the early 1960s when he saw some nuns from Little Chute walking in the pouring rain. He picked them up and heard they were on their way to Appleton. Within days he raised enough money to not only buy the sisters a car, but also build a garage near their convent.
When his wife passed away, Van Lieshout made the decision to move back to Little Chute to a place that was within walking distance from St. John Church. While he doesn’t have the stamina to volunteer like he once did, he’s continuing a mission that he’s done for years.
“I rarely miss any of my former patients’ funerals. I call that my medical family. People really appreciate that,” he said. “Going to the wake and expressing (condolences) — the impression it makes on people you can’t believe how thankful they are.”
Another thing Van Lieshout does every day is pray.
“I sort of cheat a little bit, because I’m tired at night so I say my morning and night prayers in the morning,” he said. “I have this prayer list. I pray for all of my former patients and pray for a month for those who recently died.”
The doctor said he was so blessed in his practice of medicine. “Different times in my practice I would make some decision. I believe in the grace of God, there were times when things just went right. I had good people working with me and that’s basically what you need. We were seeing far more patients than most people thought we’d be able to see and practice good medicine. But we did it. I wasn’t afraid to refer people who had a problem. I thought that was one of my strengths in medicine, I knew what I didn’t know. It didn’t minimize my confidence by saying, ‘I’m going to call in a specialist.’”
Dr. Van Lieshout has advice for other seniors. “Stay active. I was the medical director at Parkside Senior Care for maybe 40 years,” he said. “Showing people that you’re really concerned about them is just so important and reassuring. As a result of remaining active ,it enhances my abilities to do things. Don’t sit around.”
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Dr. Frank Van Lieshout
Parish: St. John Nepomucene, Little Chute
Favorite saint: Francis Xavier
Words to live by: “The Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]