‘It’s been a wonderful journey’: Veterinarian Dr. John Stevenson retiring after 45 years

Published 8:42 am Saturday, April 28, 2018

A familiar face will soon be leaving the Austin Veterinary Clinic on West Oakland Avenue.

Dr. John Stevenson, who has practiced veterinary medicine in Austin for the past 45 years, will be retiring on Monday. Stevenson recently stepped down from his partnership, which he shared with Drs. Lowell Meyer and Steve Olson, to allow Dr. Jocelyn Bell to assume the role.

“I’m sure I will miss it,” he said of the job. “That’s why I’ve stayed for so long. I love this job and I love veterinary medicine. The clientele has been very good to me.”

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Stevenson grew up on a farm south of Mason City, Iowa. It was there that he developed his interest in veterinary medicine.

“We had a lot of livestock; cattle, horses, sheep, chickens,” he said. “Back in those days it was the well-rounded farm, a little bit of everything. I was a good student and I just liked to be around livestock. It was kind of a natural fit.”

After getting pre-veterinary education at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City, Stevenson attended Iowa State University.

When asked what brought him to Austin, his answer was simple: a job.

Dr. John Stevenson examines a patient at Austin Veterniary Clinic Thursday morning. After 45 years Dr. Stevenson is retiring. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“Back in the days when I started, Drs. Pint, Butman, Stensland and Rolfson were the veterinarians here,” he said. “Dr. Pint was retiring and Dr. Butman knew a veterinarian in Mason City whose clinic I used to hang around when I was a student. Dr. Butman mentioned that they were hiring and the vet from Mason City said, ‘Well, I know a guy.’ So they got my phone number and called me and I visited and one thing led to another.”

Stevenson came to Austin on Memorial Day of 1973. At that time, the Austin Veterinary Clinic was located at 701 West Oakland Avenue.

“When I started, small animal medicine, companion animals, was about 10 percent of the practice,” he recalled. “It was basically farm work. Times have evolved and now the small animals make up over 50 percent.”

With the shift in the types of patients, it became clear the old facility was too small. On Jan. 17, 2000, they opened the clinic’s current location at 3100 West Oakland Avenue.

“It was a good move,” Stevenson said.

Over the years, Stevenson’s work provided many memorable experiences.

“There’s a lot of memories,” he said. “A lot of times they were emergency visits. It could be in the middle of the night, like delivering a calf. There were days you remembered how cold it was when you were working outside all day. Stuff like that sticks out in your mind. And there are good experiences in there too. Good clients, good people, both the small animal clients and the farmers you deal with on a regular basis and you get to be good friends. With the farmers, I’ve eaten a lot of meals at their tables and been to their kids’ graduations and weddings. You get to be really involved and part of the community.”

“I should write a book,” he added with a laugh.

There were challenges along the way, such as keeping current on drugs, techniques and equipment as the practice changed. Despite those, Stevenson says there will be aspects of the job he’ll miss.

“There’s a wonderful staff here,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with great partners to work with. Even though our patients are animals, our clients are people and it’s a people business. It’s going to be a major lifestyle change and hopefully things work well, but there will be a lot I’m going to miss.”

Stevenson hopes to play a little golf during his retirement, as well as travel and get involved with the activities of his grandchildren in Red Wing and Eagan.

“It’s been a wonderful journey,” he said.