Jack Hedrick says goodbye after 60 years

Monika Spaulding, Digital Editor

After 60 years of serving the community, Dr. Jack Hedrick will officially retire July 25.

He has fit more people for glasses than he can count and he has enjoyed every single minute of it.

Jack and his twin brother, Gene, graduated from Salem High School in 1952. Jack was salutatorian and Gene was valedictorian. They headed off to college together to Purdue University.

In a newspaper interview from 2006 with the twin brothers, Gene said, “But then we decided to get an education, so we transferred to Indiana University. It was just too easy for us at Purdue, we needed a challenge.”

Of course he was joking, but they did transfer and both graduated from Indiana University with degrees in the medical field. Jack’s class was the third to graduate from Indiana University’s School of Optometry. 

“There were only nine optometry schools in the United States,” he said.

With degrees in hand, the brothers returned to Salem to start their practices. One as an optometrist, the other a dentist.

Jack said his original plan had been to go into the army when he graduated in 1958, but changed his plans at the last minute and went into practice at the age of 24. His first office was in an old house in the northeast corner of the public square. He said he was there for nine months. Then, he bought an office across from the old jail on South Main Street. In 1982, he bought the house on South Main Street where the current office, VisionFirst, is and remodeled it.

When asked what has changed in the business since he started all those years ago, he said optometry is night and day from what it used to be.

“In school, we studied about refractions, eye exams and fitting people for glasses and contacts,” he said. “We weren’t much into the medical side of things then. But I’ve been fortunate enough work with a lot of good ophthalmologists that helped me a lot over the years.”

He said he was fortunate to have a good staff. One employee, Becky Smith, who retired a few months ago, worked with him for 28 years.

Jack said he has been considering retirement for awhile now, but it was important to him to make it to 60 years.

In 2002, he sold his optometry business to Mindy Gunn, who owned it for about two years before she sold it to VisionFirst. Jack said he worked for Mindy and then for VisionFirst.

“There have been a lot of different employees over the years and I’ve made a lot of good friendships,” he said.

Jack will miss his patients the most. Some he has been seeing for almost all of his 60 years in business.

“I’ve been in the office talking with my patients the last several months and letting them know about my retirement,” he said. “It’s been a good experience to be able to talk to people the last few months and say goodbye.”

“It’s been a sad time for him,” said Donna.

“Especially when they cry!” added Jack.

Jack said he didn’t retire when most people do because he still really enjoyed what he did. 

“I still enjoyed it, so I just kept doing it!” he said. “Just like my brother, Gene. But, I guess everyone has to quit working sometime.”

Gene also retired earlier this year.

Jack said the job gave him satisfaction in being able to take care of his patients.

“It makes you feel good to be able to help people,” he said.

Two years ago, Jack had open heart surgery. The surgery has really limited him in what he can do and his balance isn’t what it used to be.

In his retirement, he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Donna, and getting involved in community service work. They attend First Christian Church and Jack has always been involved there. He spent many years doing laundry for Kay’s Closet, which hands out clothing to the needy. He said he donated countless hours to them and enjoyed it all.

“I hope to visit people in the nursing home and visit local businesses around the square just to talk and catch up with people,” he said. 

His official retirement will be July 25. Until then, he will be visiting with his patients in the office on Tuesdays and Fridays to say goodbye.

In closing, Jack said his only regrets are the years spent involved in selfish pleasure. The what ifs, he said to bury them. The time he has left will be spent on things to do, people to see and time to spend loving his neighbor. 

“And reminding myself that everything I have was given to me,” he said. 

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