Dr. Ernest Collett McKibben Jr.


Dr. Ernest Collett McKibben Jr. died on November 11, 2011, in Kirkland.  He was 91.

Ernie was born in a Kirkland which has largely disappeared.  His family home on State Street had a potato patch in front and second-growth firs crowding the back.  The town was small and he walked or bicycled to all his schools — the now-vanished Central elementary, Kirkland Junior High and Kirkland High.   His bicycle paper route started at the ferry dock, where the ferry Lincoln would off-load his bundle of Seattle Star papers, and stretched south to the chicken farms of Houghton ( near  present-day Northwest University).  And an outing with his Boy Scout troop involved a short hike over Rose Hill to camp in the woods of Redmond.

 

At the time Ernie was born, his father (Ernest McKibben, Sr.) was one of Kirkland’s two doctors.   So Ernie Jr. frequently heard the question, “Junior, are you going to be a doctor just like your daddy?”  And as far back as he could remember, his answer had always been  “Uh-huh.”  So in due course, Ernie Jr. headed off to Washington State College (now WSU) to enter the pre-med program.  There he made life-long friendships in his AKL fraternity and another life-long connection with Ardis Hines (“a pert little blonde from Spokane.”)

 

The attack on Pearl Harbor came during Ernie’s senior year, and his education accelerated.  Upon graduation, he proceeded directly to George Washington University School of Medicine where the Army saw to it that he got into uniform and squeezed four years of medical education into three.  In June of 1945 , the newly minted doctor had just enough time to marry Ardis before taking up  his civilian internship at Ohio Sate Medical School Hospital.  Nine months later he went on active duty on bases in Oklahoma and Arizona before being discharged in 1947.

 

Ernie returned to Kirkland and joined his father’s  medical practice – an arrangement that lasted for 15 years until the retirement of Ernest Sr.    There was one break – the military was not quite through with Ernie Jr. and recalled him for six months of active duty in Korea in 1953.  He served as camp doctor for the Peace Delegates’  establishment in Munsan, and was present at the signing of “Operation Big Switch” (a prisoner exchange agreement) in Panmunjon – an occasion which he photographed in color on his newly acquired Japanese knock-off of an expensive German camera.

 

Back in Kirkland again, Ernie Jr. returned to family practice with his father. Family practice appealed to Ernie because it let him “watch families grow” and  get to know whole patients – their backgrounds, personalities, wants, and  outlooks on life – not just their infirmities.  And working with his father was an easy choice.  “I was very like my father in both appearance and temperament.  We worked well together, and were accepted as almost interchangeable.  It was virtually one long continuum of  “Dr. McKibben” in a community family practice which lasted from 1914 to 1987.”  No one counted the number of babies delivered, bones set or shots administered, but those 73 years spanned medical technology ranging from mustard plasters to Medic One.  And more than once Dr. McKibben delivered a baby girl who grew up to have her own children delivered by … Dr. McKibben.

 

Meanwhile, Ernie and Ardis were raising 4 children (Craig, Connie, Barry and Margaret) and pursuing an active outdoor life.  As Ernie tells the story, while sweating through calisthenics with the Army Reserve (105th General Hospital) on the parade ground at Fort Lewis, he looked at Mt. Rainier off in he distance and thought “I could be up there!”    He quit the Reserve in 1956, joined the Mountaineers, and proceeded to climb all the major peaks in Washington.  Family vacations with Ardis and the children usually centered around backpacking and camping trips.   All the mountaineering combined nicely with Ernie’s continuing interest in photography, and he developed real skill at capturing a whole range of wilderness subjects,  from vast snowy peaks to one tiny, perfect avalanche lily.

 

Other community activities included the Rotary Club, the Congregational Church and Boy Scouting.  He raised money for Scouting, taught Scouts first aid, gave them physicals, accompanied them on camping trips and became famous for his campfire stories.  He was deeply involved in planning and launching Evergreen Hospital, serving twice as Chief of Staff. Even though he was scaling back his obstetrics practice at the time it opened, he made sure he delivered a baby there “just to say that I’d done it.”

 

Retirement in 1987 meant time for some long-deferred hobbies such as travel and playing the organ.  It also meant more time for gardening, both the vegetable variety and the landscaping variety. He planted trees by the dozen, transforming the backyard alder patch into a pleasing nature trail showcasing the reddish wood of the cedar stump, the curving trunks of the corkscrew willow.

 

When Ernie and Ardis moved to Emerald Heights retirement community in 1997, Ernie naturally gravitated to working on the woodsy trail around the perimeter.  He helped build new sections of trail, pulled out blackberries and planted new ground cover and more trees.  He also wrote a monthly column for the Emerald Heights newsletter about what was blooming, sprouting, greening up or turning color along the trail.

 

A few years after Ardis’s death in 2005, Ernie had to abandon gardening as his eyesight failed and mobility decreased.  He became a great fan of audio books, especially on the topic of United States history.

 

Ever the Kirklander, Ernie spent his last days at the Gene and Irene Wockner Hospice care center, a part of Evergreen Hospital.  He died peacefully in the town where he was born, and under the care of medical complex he helped to build.    He is survived by a sister, Helena Kirkwood, his children Craig, Connie, Barry and Margaret Mckibben, and five grandchildren.  He will be dearly missed.

 

Memorial services will be held on Tuesday, November 22, at 2 pm, at Emerald Heights Retirement Community, 10901 176th Circle NE in Redmond. All are welcome to come and share their memories of Ernie.

 

The family suggests any gifts in Ernie’s memory be sent to the “Emerald Heights Trail Fund” at the address above.

6 Responses to “Dr. Ernest Collett McKibben Jr.”

  • Nancy A. Marshall, MD says:

    Dr. McKibben was an inspiration to all of his medical colleagues, this one included. I took care of him with great pride knowing what he’s done for our community and countless Eastside families. I am so glad he could live out his days among the community he watched blossom and which he helped create. Thank you Dr. McKibben!

  • Roxanne Carlton Raubacher says:

    Kibby,
    I have always thought of you when I’ve seen the name Ernest McKibben and only now realize he was your brother. I’m glad he had his final days at our hospice as my mother did. It was a good experience. My thoughts go out to you. Thank you for your kind words when my mom, Pat, died. Wondering if you’ll be here for the service.

  • cathy venema says:

    Ernie, and Ernie Sr. were two men (besides my father) whom our mom (Lois Venema) thought walked on water. Not only did Ernie Jr see my mom and dad through the terrible loss of an infant, he also told Mom the news that he didn’t hear just one heart beat, but two on her following pregnancy! I am happy to report, that we (my twin & I) survived each other and are still going strong 58 years later, along with our two younger siblings, all delivered by Dr. McKibben. Ernie also took our tonsils out at the ol’ Kirkland Hospital, as it was either ‘us’ or ‘Dad,’ thanks to more than a few bouts of tonsillitis. Since that time (we were carried to the operating room over someone’s shoulder) we both have remained healthy-yea! I think it amounts to being lucky enough to being born and raised in a town such as Kirkland (eating dirt and playing outside in the woods), and taken care of by physicians such as Ernie Jr. and Sr. (house-calls included). On behalf of my sisters, Cindy and Diny, my brother, Tod, and parents, Bob and Lois, (who have since passed), we send our condolences to your family. Dr. McKibben, along with his father, will always be held dear to our hearts.

  • Linda Mitchell Hudson says:

    My siblings and I, along with our parents were cared for by Dr McKibben for years! He did an outstanding job caring for all our needs and made house calls at all hours, day and night! I cannot count how many times he came to our home and cared for us or had us come to office after hours. Even today I can recall his kind and caring attitude, and in fact we were just talking about him last month with fond memory.
    Our condolences to his family, and may his memory live on!
    On behalf of the Mitchell family
    (Elroy,Mary,Ken,Duane & Linda)
    Linda Mitchell Hudson.

  • Debbie Taylor says:

    I only met Dr. McKibben last month when he was my dad’s roommate in the Corwin Center at Emerald Heights. What a sweet man! I helped him look through his mail one afternoon and noticed a card from Washington State University. I commented that he was a Cougar and I was a Husky. He said most people are around here. He also told me that he had loved gardening. Reading about his life was so nice…to be able to know that such a dear man had such a full, successful, and rewarding life that touched many, many people. Your family is in my prayers.

  • Chris Glenn says:

    I have very fond memories of Dr. Mckibben and family. I
    was born and raised in Kirkland, back when Kirkland was
    a very unpretentious little town. I was a Cub Scout and of course moved on to Boy Scouts and got to know Dr.Mckibben quite well. He and the rest of the “Committee men” of Boy Scout troop 452 were a wonderful influence on us growing up. I still laugh though about Dr. McKibben’s health conscientious menus for our camp outs and hikes. Most of us Scouts brought lots of treats stashed in our packs to supplement the Ryecrisp, cheese fizzies and etc. that his meal planning provided for our consumption. (Lots of other good nutritious stuff too, of course) But it’s pretty
    hard to convince a ten or eleven year old, in those days that a frugal, low-cal meal will sustain them until the next, frugal low-cal meal comes along, while
    you’re running around full tilt having a great time in the out-of-doors.
    Anyway, unfortunately, I missed the memorial. Still working for a living, and worked that day.
    As an adult, having experienced Boy Scouting in Kirkland I greatly appreciate the time and effort Dr. McKibben and so many others cheerfully gave to all of us boys that grew up in Scouting and acquired values and ethics that have lasted a life time. My prayers and sympathy go out to the entire Mckibben clan. May God bless and keep you.
    Chris Glenn

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