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Dr. Laurence Andrew LaGattuta, “Larry,” passed away on October 13, 2023 at the age of 93. He stayed on the planet much longer than any of his family expected. We can only chalk it up to the fact that he was a very happy man in spite of his grumblings about the nuisance of aging. He was happily married for 59 years to the love of his life, Dottie, surrounded by his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and his many dear friends.
Larry was born in 1930 in Antwerp, Belgium to American parents. They returned to the States on the last boat out of Belgium at the outset of World War II and settled in New Jersey. When he was in high school, his family moved to Mexico City, where he attended the American School and mastered his Mexican accent. When Larry was 14 years old, both he and his best friend, Ron Peterson, decided to become doctors. They both followed through with their plans.
After a stint in the US Army during the Korean War, where he served behind a desk in England, Larry returned to America, finished his undergraduate education at Rutgers and then graduated from Boston University Medical School.
In the mid 1960’s, as a surgical resident, he met Dottie, a young nurse, in the Emergency Room at Detroit Receiving Hospital. They married in 1964 and moved to Allegan in 1968 where he spent the rest of his life.
He lived a life of many accomplishments.
Together with Dr. Harry Schneiter, Larry formed the Allegan Medical Clinic to bring primary care services, family practice, OB, urgent care, and surgery to the residents of Allegan and the surrounding areas, He established an ICU unit at the Allegan General Hospital so that acute care cases could be handled in Allegan rather than sent to larger hospitals in Kalamazoo or Holland. He attracted many talented physicians to Allegan and forged lifelong friendships with his colleagues and patients along the way. He felt very privileged to be a physician in a small community where he knew most of the patients who walked through the doors of the Allegan Medical Clinic. As the only surgeon in a 20 mile radius, he always carried his beeper and was on call every night. Many mornings his family had no idea that he had spent much of the night in the operating room performing an emergency c-section or an appendectomy.
During his retirement, his weekly Wednesday morning breakfasts with his colleagues from the Allegan Medical Clinic became a highlight of his week. In 2021, the city of Allegan named “LaGattuta Lane,” and “Schneiter Blvd” to honor the contributions of two physicians who expanded the healthcare services in the small town of Allegan. One of the heartbreaks of his life was seeing the dismantling of the medical care that he helped build in Allegan.
In 1970, he purchased 18 acres of what many believed to be swamp land by the Kalamazoo River on Monroe Road in Allegan. By shifting some earth around, he was able build the homestead of his dreams where the only pesky neighbors he had to deal with were the occasional woodchuck or raccoon. He was an untrained builder, but that did not stop him from building a barn, which leaned charmingly to the left. He fearlessly delved into farming, again with zero experience, and raised chickens and cattle. When he bought his first two young steers to raise for beef, he worried that his animal-loving children would become too attached. To prevent any tearful misunderstandings, he named them “Burger Chef” and “McDonald's.”
Larry revitalized the family cabin on Bass Lake in Traverse City. The original cabin was built by Dottie’s grandfather in the 40’s. Larry doubled its size by building an extension, built a dock, added indoor plumbing and electricity, all before the existence of YouTube. The “cabin” eventually became the “cottage,” The cottage on Galvin Road was not only his building project, it was the location for many family gatherings, his peaceful fly-fishing escape, and ultimately his favorite place on Earth.
A man known for his spontaneous and sometimes shocking sense of humor, he was fortunately long retired before the “Me Too” movement. He loved speaking in foreign accents to his friends, his colleagues, over the Allegan General Hospital PA system, and to any poor telemarketer who happened to call the LaGattuta landline.
He is survived by his wife, Dottie; his four children, Suzanne (Jim), David (Pam), Diana, and Daniel (Evelina); his grandchildren, Carrie, Amanda, Erica, Kyle, Joseph, Alaina, Sophia; Great grandchildren, George, Cian, Juniper, and Aurora. He was preceded in death by his three siblings, Joseph, Margaret (Peggy), and Patricia and his daughter-in-law, Beth LaGattuta.
His family will dearly miss him, his sense of humor, his advice, his inappropriate comments, and the steady hand that guided our family through the good times, through many adventures, and through the most challenging times in our lives.
Memorial contributions should be directed to Wings of Hope Hospice or Wings Home, 530 Linn Street, Allegan, MI 49010.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, November 18, 2023 from 12:00 PM to 2:30 PM at The Silo located at 1071 32nd Street, Allegan, MI 49010.