2018-09-12 / Community View

‘Most brilliant person I ever met’

BY JOYCE BONESTEEL
Contributing Writer


Marion Rood grew up in Ann Arbor with a passion for learning. She graduated from high school, earned a master’s degree in physics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a physician’s license from New York Medical College. Marion Rood grew up in Ann Arbor with a passion for learning. She graduated from high school, earned a master’s degree in physics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a physician’s license from New York Medical College. Editor’s note: This is first of a three-part series about Dr. Marion Rood, the grand dame of homeopathy, who practiced medicine in Lapeer for more than 50 years.

LAPEER — She was a highly intelligent woman of slender frame, standing 5-foot four and sizing patients up with her piercing blue eyes. She worked on the quantum theory in the 1920s, but in later years lived primitively and practiced medicine in a small house on a rural road.

Dr. Marion Rood, M.D., known across America as one of the great elders of homeopathic medicine, would not have electronics in her humble home. No telephone, no television, no radio. She didn’t want distractions. Didn’t like the noise.

Dogs and cats were her companions and people had to walk around them to get through the door. Dr. Rood did not believe in appointments. Patients were seen and treated first come, first serve.

Everyone waited in line. Her fee ranged from $5 to $10 depending on her mood, said Lillian Whitman, a long-ago patient who wasn’t impressed by Dr. Rood in the beginning. As time went on, her opinion changed.

“The first time I saw her I was 20 years old,” Whitman said. “She still lived in town. She gave me medicine, told me how to take it. The problem went away, but I thought she didn’t do me any good and never went back.”

Some years later, Whitman was at her wit’s end. Rob, her young son, suffered from bronchial pneumonia. When he was four and they lived in Metamora, she took him to a Clarkston doctor who gave the little boy two injections and three prescriptions. He wasn’t cured. His condition was chronic. For the next three years, the mother and son dreaded the end of warm autumn days.

“He couldn’t go outside to play at all in the winter time with the other children,” she said. “He just couldn’t go outside.”

The Whitmans lived on Vernor Road when Rob was seven and his symptoms recurred in the fall, before the ground froze and snowflakes fell. By then, Dr. Rood was practicing medicine a mile away on Roods Lake Road. The road was named after her ancestors, whose farmhouse stood on the dirt end of the road at the edge of the state wilderness.

Dr. Rood gave the little boy Bryonia 200, a remedy derived from the white bryony vine. Whitman said it is a poison, diluted however many times. She took her son back to Dr. Rood four or five months later, in January or February for a second dose.

“I would have paid anything,” she said. “He never had bronchial pneumonia again. He’s 42 now. Once I saw what she could do, it was just … unbelievable. I saw her as a little old grandmotherly looking woman whom I think was the most brilliant person I ever met, as far as doctoring goes. I thought some of her thinking needed to be arranged.”

Whitman didn’t want the details in the paper, other than to say this: “She tested your abilities, and trust me, my abilities were nowhere near hers.”

Andrew Lange, a homeopathic doctor and author who said he apprenticed with Dr. Rood from 1980-84, wrote that she sometimes handed Scientific American journals to patients before pre- paring their remedies and quizzed them about the articles when she finished.

Marion Belle Rood was born into a privileged household Aug. 11, 1898 in Ann Arbor. John Rood, her father, was a prominent attorney and law professor at the University of Michigan. Royal, her brother, followed their father’s footsteps into law school.

Stella (Davenport), the mother, was a lay practitioner who taught Marion the lore of herbs, minerals and natural cures. She encouraged her to read books and study fervently in school.

Royal’s friends invited his blue-eyed sister to dances and parties, but marriage and motherhood were not in her plans. Her goals were lofty. At the age of 20 she taught mathematics at an allgirl’s school in North Carolina. Then she returned home and enrolled in classes at the University of Michigan, where she was the only female in her physics master’s program.

Rood believed a physics background was crucial to understanding and practicing homeopathic medicine, Lange wrote. She often lectured patients on the connection of homeopathy and scientific advancements, whether they cared about it or didn’t.

After earning her master’s degree in Ann Arbor, the young Marion Rood went to the New York Medical College to fulfill her dream of becoming a homeopathic practitioner. Around that time, the institution and others across the country dropped the word homeopathic from their names to stay accredited.

During her studies in New York, Marion earned a living by tutoring the Rockefeller children. She graduated in 1936, and set up her practice at her father’s magnificent house in Lapeer. He was then comfortably settled on the northwest corner of Saginaw Street and M-21 in town, where the gas station is now.

Donna Johnson, destined to become Dr. Rood’s neighbor, number one helper and the executor of her estate, was still a little girl, living with her parents in Otisville when she and the doctor first met. Donna had a severe case of colitis that led to surgery and a five-day stay at Hurley Hospital, as it was then called, in Flint.

It was the late 1940s. The family doctor in Otisville had sent her to a specialist, but surgery didn’t resolve the problem. She was riddled with polyps, and the medical staff decided her case was hopeless. The people who owned Yale Electric in Otisville were seeing Dr. Rood for other matters, and advised Donna’s parents to take her to Lapeer.

“Dr. Rood gave me medicine to get rid of all the polyps. They started drying up and falling off,” Johnson said. The remedy itself, she can’t remember. “I was only nine or ten.”

Next week: The Rood mansion burns to the ground, John Rood dies of injuries suffered in the fire and Dr. Rood moves her medical clinic out to the countryside. Ed Vakula shares fond memories of her, and Bob Miller tells a different story.

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