Life and death was this Craig man’s business |

Life and death was this Craig man’s business

An exhibit displays medical memorabilia from the life work of Dr. Elmer P. Monahan
Sasha Nelson

— For more than 40 years, this Craig man has cared for people from cradle to grave.

An exhibit at the Museum of Northwest Colorado that opened in May 2014 commemorates the lifework of Dr. Elmer P. Monahan, Jr.

Items on display include Monahan’s doctor bag and the various medical tools that would have filled it to aid him during frequent house calls.

“In the mid-20th century, doctors in rural areas like Craig had to be skilled at a little bit of everything. They frequently had to act as eye doctor, dentist, surgeon, psychiatrist, lab and X-ray technician and nurse,” states one of the educational signs in the museum display.

Before opening his first general practice in Rangely in 1949, the doctor served in the Army Medical Corps and was commander of the Medical Nutrition Laboratory.

In 1951, he moved to Craig to open a general practice. He married Katherine Kanaly in 1961, and the couple raised four children.

One estimate puts the number of area babies delivered by Monahan at more than 700.

“Almost everyone knew the doctor,” said Museum Director Dan Davidson, also a patient.

The doctor was known to love the outdoors and was active in the Sheriff’s Posse, now Moffat County search and rescue.

Museum achieves hold a prescription written by Monahan in 2004 made out to Bill Lawrence for maps.

“Now, maybe you’ll stop getting lost so often,” Monahan wrote in the prescription description.

He also served without pay for 25 years as county coroner and, in that capacity, ushered the deceased to the grave.

When Sheriff Bill Terrill was appointed U.S. Marshall for Colorado, the coroner was legally responsible for filling the role of county sheriff, for a brief time, Monahan served in that capacity.

“I was sheriff of Moffat County until the commissioners caught on — then there was panic in the courthouse,” Monahan is credited with saying.

The doctor retired in 1989 at the age of 70, but as in the case of the prescription to Lawrence, he continued to give advice and serve the community until he passed away at age 92 in 2012.

In March 2014, his family gifted the museum iwith the medical memorabilia now on public display in one of the large cases in the main exhibit hall.

Monahan was the last generation of doctors who could work without restraints and limitations other than their own judgment and conscience. He was reported to have felt uncomfortable with changes to the medical field

His family used as his epitaph a quote from St. Paul: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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