NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - No one likes the idea of having surgery, but when it's necessary, there's one Nacogdoches surgeon East Texans often request.
His name is Dr. Larry Walker. In just over a week Walker will officially retire.
Walker said believes he'll miss medicine, and his patients and staff will miss him.
At 77, Walker could easily go from his hybrid tea rose garden to an operating room. His capability of saving lives made his decision to leave medicine that more difficult.
"One of the more gripping decisions I've made in my life," Walker said. "When you got a service that's needed, and you still feel like you're cutting the mustard pretty good, it's hard to quit."
However, Walker wanted to leave on top, under his terms.
When he was a little boy growing up in DeKalb, no one would have ever guessed his future. His height pointed to basketball. The East Texas State College graduate's love for anatomy led to surgery.
"I did my residency and internship at Ben Taub in Houston," Walker said. "And there's a war that goes on down there every night."
Walker saved lives from gunshot to car wreck victims. The grueling demands got him on the cover of Life Magazine.
"We were on every other night as a resident," Walker said. "The nights we were on, I went to bed one time in five years."
The experience helped him when he served in the very real war of Vietnam, before MASH units.
"We weren't a mobile unit," Walker said. "What we did was basically what an emergency room does."
Forty three years ago, the handsome young surgeon returned to East Texas. His desire to provide emergency service never went away.
"I stayed on trauma call all but two years since I've been here," Walker said.
Walker is the only chief of surgeons people can recall for Memorial Hospital. He's well respected by patients and colleagues alike.
"I said, 'What am I supposed to do when you're gone?' said Dr. Kim Schaus, one of Walker's mentorees. "And he said, 'You don't need me anymore, so it kinda brought a tear to my eye."
It also displayed confidence in the medical service he's leaving, the kind of trust he has in his surgery nurse of 38 years.
"When we're operating, we really don't need to speak if we don't need to," said Lynnae Perdue, Walker's surgery nurse.
"Saving lives," Perdue said. "Seeing God work thru his hands."
It's an attribute Patti Goodrum saw when she and Walker founded a hospice program in the 80s.
"I always feel like Dr. Walker was a pioneer in that," Goodrum said. "He always listened to his patients and his families, what they wanted."
Now it's time to provide the desires of the retiring physician. He'll still be snipping away, but on roses, not patients.
Dr. Walker's last day is July 14th. He plans with his wife, Diana, to travel, watch the grandkids grow up, and of course, tend to his roses.