James “Doc” Brester retired this August after 50 years of his Bean Blossom veterinary practice. It is hard to fathom the number of animals he saw in over a half a century. The prices Brester charged were a factor in drawing the clientele, but it was Doc’s gentle touch and kind nature that really made the difference.
We posted something about Doc Brester’s retirement on the Our Brown County Facebook page and hundreds of people shared and commented on the post. Here are just a few:
“I am so very honored that my precious dog was treated by you. She was very sick and needed to be put down. But you had a different idea. A gentle kind approach!”
“One of the best men we have ever known!! Thank you Doc for all the years of selfless practice, and everything you have done for the kids and families of 4-H!”
“Thank you Dr Brester! This is our horse that you tended to his mother and him when he was born 36 years ago on John McDaniels farm! He is still going. Not many teeth, but a big heart!”
“You have cared for many of my pets. You have cared for me as well as I cried for my pets....And you did it from your heart, which allowed pets to have the care they needed when times were hard.”
Doc is a man of few words and is reluctant to talk much about himself, so we reached out to family members for some background on this humble community servant.
James was born in Indianapolis to parents Max and Ruth Brester in 1942. His family had moved to Bean Blossom in 1949 after buying the farm where Doc lives.
Brester attended school in Helmsburg and was class valedictorian in 1960. He went to vet school at Purdue University. He and his younger brother Fred worked their way through college doing drywall construction.
After graduating, he bought an old building for his vet practice in Bean Blossom on contract from Carl Brumley. His spent 10 years there and then built his own building, where he worked for the next 40 years.
When Brester started his practice, everyone in the area had a cow and a pig, so he made a lot of farm calls. If he showed up around dinner time folks would often ask him to join them. His son Jeb recalls going along on farm calls as a kid and meeting all the people and the animals.
Doc’s routine was to wake up very early in the morning, do surgeries, go on farm calls, and get home in the late afternoon for lunch. Once a deer jumped onto his vehicle and busted the windshield. Instead of stopping to fix it, he just got some goggles to protect himself from the wind, and finished his farm calls. That’s dedication.
His wife Paulette made every day function like clockwork. Doc would take a quick nap and then go off to the clinic in the evenings. A lot of nights he would come home after nine. “Workaholic” doesn’t come close to describing his dedication to his practice. The family seldom vacationed. The focus was always on work. They worked hard at home, too, putting up hay in the summer and cutting wood in the winter. There was always a huge garden that required a lot of their attention.
The business focus shifted to the smaller animals over the years but Dr. Brester continued to service some larger animals. He donated a lot of his time to 4-H, and did testing for livestock.
Although Brester has dedicated much of his life to hard work for the community, he still managed to find time to be a loving, caring parent and grandparent to his family.
Now that his routine has slowed, Doc spends a lot of time in the garden. When asked if he was going to go on a big vacation after his retirement, he said, “No, he was just going home.”
Dr. Brester has left his practice in good hands. The clinic continues to serve the community now as Bean Blossom Veterinary Clinic. The new owners also operate the Franklin Animal Clinic. You will see familiar faces there because much of the staff remains, including Dr. Brester’s daughter, Anna Gartner, who will serve as practice manager. New services are offered such as X-rays and blood work. Five vets will rotate at the clinic until a full-time vet is hired.