With the retirement of the physiotherapist Rick Susick, founder and owner of the Petaluma Valley Therapy Center, Petaluma is losing another connection to the “good old days”. Susick has been caring for Petaluma athletes plagued by sports injuries for more than three decades. Many have been able to continue or resume active lifestyles because of his care and understanding of how to repair human bodies and relieve pain.
For hundreds of Petaluma High School athletes, Susick has served as a first responder on the sidelines at Petaluma High School football games. He teamed up with the legendary Dr. David Sister, a general practitioner who was a living definition of the “crusty and beloved country doctor”.
We lost Doc Sisler in 2018 after 91 years of full life. For 23 years, Susick Doc was a constant companion on the sidelines at Petaluma High School football games. The two also offered free compulsory physical exams, which are required of all preparation athletes.
In 2011, Sisler and Susick received the Service to Youth Award at the Petaluma Community Recognition Awards of Excellence. I had the pleasure of introducing you at the ceremony. I presented the two in flowery prose and withdrew while they delighted the audience with the quick repartee that corresponded to the close relationship between the two. It was no coincidence that the program was extra long this year.
Standing on the sidelines with Doc and Rick has been an education and a joy. It was like being a cozy guest at two old friends – the jokes and stories kept coming back. Both left the sidelines in 2010 – Doc for reasons of age and Rick to focus more on his thriving businesses.
Doc Sisler stories are legendary, and Rick Susick has always been quick to tell stories. Along with the camaraderie, the barbs, and the banter, they were both excellent medical professionals, Sisler as one of the disappearing races of real family doctors and Susick as a physical therapist who was an expert on sports injuries and their treatment.
Speaking at the awards ceremony in the community, Susick said one of the things he would miss the most if he left the soccer team volunteer position was “being on the edge with Doc. I will miss seeing a kid having one shoulder pain and the look of instant relief when Doc puts his shoulder back, ”he said.
As Doc got older, it took him longer to reach an injured player in the middle of the field. Susick would stand on the sidelines with a smile unless the injury appeared serious. In this case, he would be the first to reach the player.
In later years, Doc returned to sit in a chair on the Petaluma sideline and immediately became the focus of a group of well-wishers and friends delighted to be told (again) that Brett Favre was the greatest quarterback, who ever lived and the Trojans were doomed if they didn’t come by more often.
It is now up to Susick to step aside after 33 years and build the Petaluma Valley Physical Therapy Center into one of the most prestigious physical therapy facilities in the region. In addition to bringing young athletes back to their favorite sport, Susick has treated people of all ages, including adults in the past, who just wanted to keep being active.
As he said goodbye to his patients, he wrote on the center’s website: “Maybe one day we’ll meet while fly-fishing on the Rogue River.”
I could just accept the offer. We share a common bond with the Oregon Coast. Many years ago, one of my first jobs as the new sports editor of Coos Bay World was writing about a football coach who was retiring from Marshfield High School. Pete Susick was Coos Bay’s counterpart to Steve Ellison – a local legend. I had known Rick for a few years before I found out Pete was Rick’s father.
It’s a small world really, but our little part of the world is losing a precious resource with Rick Susick’s retirement, and with a disarming joke and a friendly smile.
(Contact John Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org)