HealthPartners will open its new Riverway Clinic-Anoka facility on Monday following a grand opening celebration held Thursday. It will double the size of its facility to 60,000 square feet. It accommodates many new services including chiropractic, occupational medicine and urgent care.
A year ago we traced the medical genealogy of this facility as descending from Mork and East Main clinics.
But, thanks to information from several readers, there was another prominent medical clinic in Anoka’s history – the Larson/Anoka Clinic.
Dr. Ralph H. Larson came to Anoka in January 1947. He was a graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School, served during World War II as a battalion surgeon, was part of the Normandy invasion and received a Purple Heart for wounds suffered.
Following the war Dr. Larson practiced for a year in Cannon Falls before coming to Anoka. He purchased the Bernard Frisch home at the northwest corner of Jackson Street and Third Avenue and opened his medical office in his home there.
In August 1955 he moved this house to 636 School St. where it stands today. During the move he practiced out of his new home on Oakwood Drive but soon was operating out of the relocated house.
Then, in October, he began construction of a new clinic at his old site, 241 Jackson St., which he opened in February 1956.
The Anoka Herald described the Larson Clinic as a “completely modern” facility. It was a one-story brick building with full basement and a parking lot.
Entering from Jackson Street, the medical clinic was on the right side of the hallway. There was a suite of 10 rooms connected by a state of the art electric light call system. On the outside of each room, linked to the reception station, was a set of three lights — amber (vacant), red (occupied) and blue (calling the technician).
In March 1956, Dr. William H. Rock joined Dr. Larson in his clinic. Dr. Rock was also a graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School.
They were assisted by receptionist Louise Klemish and medical technologist Lorreen McClellan.
Across the hallway was the dental office of Drs. Robert W. Page and Thomas J. Kuelbs. Their assistant was Marie Sledick.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck just eight months later. In November 1956, Dr. Larson drowned in Diamond Lake in a hunting accident. He was only 41.
The shocked community, led by the Mork family, rallied around the Larson and Rock families.
Later Dr. Rock gained ownership of the property and business. He renamed it Anoka Clinic and continued to practice at this location throughout his career.
In 1958 Page and Kuelbs constructed a new office, now known as Fifth Avenue Dental. Dr. Raymond E. Asp then occupied their Anoka Clinic space.
Dr. Rock, along with older mentors like Dr. Bevan Bunker and Dr. Frank Mork, was instrumental in establishment of Mercy Hospital. Dr. Rock served as the second chief of medical staff there in the late 1960s.
After 34 years of practice at the Anoka Clinic, Dr. Rock retired in 1989.
Later, the building was sold to the neighboring Registered Abstracters business which expanded into this space.
So now we know that the Anoka Clinic was the second modern medical facility established in the city midway in time between Mork (1950) and East Main (1960), which are direct business ancestors of HealthPartners. But in their own unique way, the Rock family is also connected with HealthPartners.
Dr. Rock’s son, Dr. Lee W. Rock, has been a physician in the HealthPartners system for over 30 years. He practiced at Riverway Clinics-Anoka and Elk River, Phalen Clinic-St Paul and now as medical director at several senior living communities in the East Metro and Stillwater areas.
Dr. William Rock defied the odds and succeeded as a solo doctor well after others had been swallowed up in the tide of mergers that produced the mega-clinics that are the norm today.
As he recently reminisced, “My only goal was to be a small town doctor with a modern clinic and equipment.” He did just that – a kind of tribute to his beloved mentor Dr. Ralph Larson.
Bob Kirchner is a local historian, seminary student and recently retired as the city of Anoka’s community development director.