The 92-year-old was the sole doctor in the Sounds for 50
years, dispensing aid from his boat to some of the most remote parts of the area
from the 1940s up to his retirement in the early 1990s, travelling 25,000
kilometres a year by boat. With no roads in the area at the time, he would be
called out day and night, through wind and rain, to deal with any problems the
farmers and fishermen in the region would have.
One of his successors, [Blenheim-based doctor] Phil
Dashfield, said nowadays people don't have the durability that “Dr
Jakie” had. “His was a remarkable working life, one that a lot of us
aspired to. Havelock has lost a legend, but his time had come.”
After leaving medical school, Dr Jacobson practised in Gore
Hospital as a house surgeon before moving to Blenheim to work at Wairau Hospital
Some time later it was suggested he go to Havelock, a
responsibility that the young physician felt keenly but found fascinating and
“loved every minute of it.”
At first, a local would ferry him in a slow single-cylinder
engine vessel, but as the need increased, Dr Jacobson bought his own faster,
more reliable boat. The government of the day used to subsidise the diesel
required for his marine house calls, and the community-conscious doctor would
therefore not charge his patients. He remained with Havelock Hospital until it
closed in the 1960s.
“We all have very vivid memories of Dr Jakie,”
said Ms Freeth. “The whole area benefited from his total commitment being
a country doctor.” For Vic, it meant that he could be relied on to go the
extra mile (and in his case, often tens of miles) to attend to a patient.
“With Vic around, there was no question of whether he
was being funded to do the work or the travel; he responded to the needs of the
patient and the result was a safe and secure community.” “Especially
the elderly people in the Sounds—they stayed in the Sounds much longer
then and he used to pop in and keep an eye on them. He took a real interest in
them,” said long-time local Jan Godsiff who also wanted to give credit to
Dr Jacobson’s wife for her tender care of the good doctor in his final
years. “I would like to commend Rita's care of him in the past [he
suffered a stroke]. She has given him excellent care...just devoted.”
Mrs Godsiff said she was grateful to Dr Jacobson for his
care of her family too, recalling one time when he attended her call for help
with typical good humour. “I was expecting a baby and wasn't feeling too
good. I was [taking] a lot longer than he thought I should. He got a special
boat and came down to meet us.”
“By the time he arrived, I started to feel well again
and I was a bit embarrassed. He had the ambulance waiting on the wharf. I had a
toddler with me with a doll and he got a shawl out, wrapped the doll up and
handed it to the ambulance people.”
Ms Freeth agreed that Dr Jakie’s bedside manner was
always a bonus to his diagnosis. “We received the treatment along with a
dose of his own brand of humour. We all appreciated how lucky we were to have
Vic as our GP and felt that he richly deserved his retirement and the
recognition that his work brought. His death marks the end of an era for the
people in the Pelorus area.”
As well as his membership of the Royal New Zealand College
of General Practitioners he was made a Fellow of the College and was awarded an
MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.
A father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Vic Jacobson
lies at Braeside today for those who wish to pay their respects.
Rose Daley of The Marlborough Express wrote
this obituary under the heading Doctor known for durability. It
appeared in that newspaper on 5 February 2009. We thank the editorial
staff for reprint permission as well as Dr Jacobson’s wife, Rita, for
supplying the photograph.
Additional comments by Dr Phil
Vic Jacobson’s standing in the communities he served
for almost 45 years is difficult to overstate. After graduating from Otago
Medical School circa 1941, he moved to Gore Hospital for his first house surgeon
job then to Wairau Hospital.
In 1945 he moved to the practice based at Havelock,
providing medical services to the people of a huge area extending from Okaramio
on the way to Blenheim, Havelock, the Pelorus and Rai valleys, and the Pelorus
Sound and all its offshoots right out to D’Urville Island.
Affectionately known to one and all as “Jakie,”
his practice was mostly house-call based, by boat to those in the Sounds, and by
car elsewhere. He especially enjoyed obstetrics and delivered many babies in the
Havelock cottage hospital.
In the pre-helicopter era, and with far fewer roads than
there are now, his medical exploits are the stuff of Sounds legend. Even when
other boats were running for cover in a storm, he was known to head off down the
Sound when duty called.
But he is memorable also for his no-nonsense personality,
his moustache and monocle, and his love of fast cars and fast boats. For many
years he used a converted whale chaser to go about his water-borne business, a
vessel equipped with a minor operating facility and the usual emergency
equipment, cruising speed 18 knots (32kph).
For a time he was also the only person licenced to drive the
local ambulance, and having got his patient safely into Havelock would then put
them in the ambulance and take them into Wairau Hospital.