Summit Old Timer: Fred Webster
Breckenridge resident Fred Webster is celebrating his 89th birthday today. Webster was born to Frederick and Carrie Shannon in Lincoln, Neb., in 1916. He comes from a long line of doctors. His great grandfather was the first physician to come to Lincoln after the Civil War; his father was the head of oral surgery at the University of Nebraska; his brother is a physician; his son is a physician; and Webster said he knew he wanted to be a doctor since he was 7 years old.He spent his early years in and around Lincoln, always enjoying the outdoors. He graduated from Lincoln High school in 1934, then went to the University of Nebraska, where he wrestled for three years and graduated in 1938. He then went to the University of Chicago to study medicine, where two of his instructors were Nobel Prize winners at the teaching hospital.
Soon after graduating college in 1942, America was gearing up to go to war. Webster said he wanted to go, was even anxious to go. Unlike today’s war in Iraq, Webster said Americans were solidly behind the war against Germany and Japan.Webster stormed Omaha Beach at Normandy, but said he didn’t go in on the first wave. He went in afterward as support. Nonetheless, his regiment suffered – two officers were killed, two captured, several injured – Webster was wounded three separate times.”Men and women were proud to be soldiers in World War II,” he said from his Breckenridge home. “We knew the Germans were doing some very bad things, and we knew they needed to be stopped.”
After spending a year-and-a-half in the hospital recovering from mortar fragments in his thigh and forearm and a compound fracture in his left leg (he received three purple hearts), Webster went on to Duke for four years for his surgical residency.He then returned to Lincoln, where he married his sweetheart, Wanda Seaton, whose father was a professor of engineering at the university. Webster started his orthopedic practice and, over time, says he performed 900 joint replacements of the hip as one of few doctors in the country trained to do that type of surgery at the time.The couple had four children – Lawrence, Nan, Frederick and Douglas – and were married for 50 years. Wanda died of lung cancer.
Always a lover of the outdoors and an avid hunter and fisherman, Webster knew since coming to Colorado to chaperone his daughter on a ski trip to Aspen in the late 1950s that he wanted to live in the High Country. He had never skied before and said of his daughter and her friends, “They were having so much fun, I decided to try it and took three days of lessons.”The next year he came out for a week, fell in love with Breckenridge and bought a house in the early 1960s on Morning Star Drive.
“Back then the road was dirt and the sidewalks were wooden blanks,” he said. “But I knew I wanted to hunt, fish and ski in this beautiful place.”In 1978, he retired to his home in Breckenridge and spent the last 27 years playing in the outdoors – bow hunting big game (he won three national titles competing in archery tournaments), fly-fishing (“I’ve always tied my own flies”) and skiing (he is still skiing at 89, but admits to slowing down after seven heart by-pass surgeries). “I’ve lived a good life,” he said reflectively. “I have been so lucky with so many things. I don’t worry about dying, I just want to remain healthy and active so I can keep enjoying life.”Happy Birthday, Fred!
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