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MEMORIES IN FOCUS: From big game to world war, doctor saw it all years ago

MARION HISTORICAL MUSEUM PHOTO

Pioneering Marion physician G.P.Marner in an undated photo.

Volunteering to go to war overseas at age 62 was just one of many endearing qualities of pioneering Marion physician Gideon Penrod Marner.

Born in 1856 to a Pennsylvania farm family, Marner and his family moved when he was 9 to a farm in Iowa.

Yearning for more than the farm life that one of his brothers had settled into, at age 21 he trudged through four inches of snow to enter Iowa City Academy, a college preparatory school.

He spent two terms there, paying his tuition by working as a carpenter’s helper. He then enrolled for two more terms at Grandview Normal, qualifying him to teach school — which he did for two years while continuing to work as a carpenter in the summer.

Another of his brothers became a lawyer, and third become a doctor. Not to be outdone, in 1880 he entered the medical department of Iowa State University at Iowa City, graduating in 1883.

After two years of medical practice in the nearby tiny town of Frank Pierce, Iowa, he relocated to the almost as tiny Kansas town of Morganville, near Clay Center, and practiced there until moving to Marion in 1892 at age 36.

At the time, the Clay Center News wrote this farewell:

“It is with sincere sorrow that we extend a parting greeting to Dr. G.P. Marner of Morganville. The doctor has chosen the thriving town of Marion, Kansas, for his future home. His departure will be hailed with deep regret by the host of friends he made in Clay County, being one of the ablest and most enterprising physicians.

“His liberal ideas and hard work won him a large practice. An enthusiast in schoolwork he was ever looked up to as an educational authority.

“In losing him, the poor part with a sympathetic friend, the county one of its brightest young men, and the city of Morganville a clever physician and leader in all that is upright and honorable.”

Marner was equally appreciated in Marion, where he practiced for more than a quarter of a century, serving for 20 years as local surgeon for the Santa Fe Railway, four years as coroner, eight years as county health officer, and eight years as a member of the school board.

He was a pioneer in making athletics a distinctive part of public schools and was known as an ardent sportsman, having shot big game all over the west and north and decorating his office with trophies of the chase.

Member of a number of gun clubs and both the Masons and Elks, he worked in partnership with another Marion physician, J.F. Coffman, from 1906 to 1917, when at age 62 he briefly left town to complete a postgraduate course at the University of Californian and then applied to the American Red Cross to join the U.S. Army as a physician.

Commissioned as a captain, he was stationed in France for six months during World War I at an annual salary of $3,360, the equivalent in buying power of $66,000 today.

He returned to his practice in Marion after the war, eventually retiring to 1912 vintage home at 204 Miller St., now owned by Shawn Vondenkamp.

Marner and his wife, the former Louise Ernestine Merling (1862-1951), had three children: son Omer (1884-1957) and daughters Zoe (1885-1972) and Eulah (1887-1993).

Marner died in 1945 at age 89 and is buried along with his wife and daughters in Marion Cemetery.

Last modified Aug. 21, 2019

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