Longtime Lititz optometrist settles into retirement

By on January 23, 2014
Harry Wertsch doesn’t have to get up early for work anymore. After being at the family practice in downtown Lititz since 1971, he is now enjoying retirement. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Harry Wertsch doesn’t have to get up early for work anymore. After being at the family practice in downtown Lititz since 1971, he is now enjoying retirement. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Harry Wertsch can’t remember the last snow day he spent sleeping in.

The early December snows of this winter that covered the area in a frosty blanket of white might be the first in about 40 years that Wertsch didn’t mind.

The Lititz native has spent the last several decades getting up early each work day to serve his patients at Wertsch Vision Associates on East Main Street.

This winter is the first he’ll spend in retirement after starting at his father’s optometry practice in 1971.

“Certainly, the optometry practice was just a part of our family,” Wertsch said recently. “That’s the best way to look at it. I can remember going into the office when I was just a child.”

Wertsch’s father, Chester Wertsch, opened the office at 126 E. Main St. in 1931.

One patient, now 93, told Wertsch recently that she remembers holding him as a baby.

At just a few weeks old, the proud new papa brought his tiny son out to the woman so she could hold him in the exam chair.

“You look back over the years and you think, ‘Talk about a small world,’” said Wertsch, now 66.

The office now sits at 65 E. Main St. and it is serving the third and fourth generations of some families. Even with the optometry offices’ longevity, the first Wertsch business in Lititz was owned by Wertsch’s grandfather, Harry R. Wertsch, who owned a jewelry store in the early 1900s.

“Our roots are here,” Wertsch said.

Since Wertsch’s August retirement, he’s been watching it flourish from afar as his sister, Dr. Karen Malleus, and two other optometrists, Dr. Erin Bender and Dr. Pamela Snavely-Dickow, both Warwick High School graduates, carry on the practice. Neither his nor his sister’s children went into the family business.

“I feel comfortable with the practice,” Wertsch said. “Even though it may be the end of our family legacy, all the doctors in our practice are Lititz people. That makes it a little more interesting.”

After 40 years of routine, Wertsch said, he’ll miss the patients who knew his father, and the sportsmen he’d spend a little extra time with talking about hunting and fishing.

And those are things Wertsch hopes to spend more time doing in his retirement with his wife of 33 years, Sandy.

“I can tell you, if I hadn’t retired already I’d be worried about going into the office,” Wertsch said. “I’d want to get the snow off the sidewalk. I’d be doing lots of paperwork because I can bet half the appointments would get canceled.”

Instead, he enjoys the free time.

“The thing I think you hear from everybody with regular jobs is they miss people they work with,” Wertsch said. “But I think as a healthcare practitioner you miss a lot of the patients. You get to know them well over the years. The nice thing about practicing in Lititz is you really get to know everybody.”

Wertsch also plans to take a trip to Kenya this summer with Lititz United Methodist Church. It will be his third trip where he’ll help work in an eye clinic. He also plans to take many trips to his favorite hunting club. He hopes to have better luck than he had on his most recently trip, where he reluctantly admits he came home empty handed.

“It’s been fun so far,” Wertsch said of his retirement. “I can say I’m really enjoying it.”

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