The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

James Patrick Strong, MD


January 16, 2018

ONTONAGON, Mich. - James Patrick Strong, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, 82, died on Jan. 6, 2018, at the Ontonagon, Aspirus Long-Term Care Unit after a lengthy illness.

The oldest of four children, Jim was born on Aug. 16, 1935, in Milwaukee, Wis., to the late William F. Strong, MD, and Gertrude (Helmbrecht) Strong. In 1936, the family moved to Ontonagon, when Jim's father answered an advertisement to purchase a rural medical practice in Ontonagon.

Jim attended St. Norbert High School as a boarding student in DePere, Wis., from 1949 to 1952, returning home to Ontonagon for his senior year to graduate as valedictorian from Ontonagon High School in 1953. He went on to study pre-med at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., from 1953 to 1955, finishing his undergraduate study at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in 1956. He was then accepted to the University of Michigan Medical School, graduating with honors, a proud member of the Class of 1960. He went on to intern at Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, completing his formal education in 1961.

Jim married his high school sweetheart and love of his life, Florence Lillian Welch (Flossie), on Feb. 4, 1956. They moved their family from Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo for Jim to complete his medical training, and returned to Ontonagon in 1961 to raise their growing family. The couple had 10 children and shared their lives, working at the medical office together, traveling the country to play golf, and cheering for their favorite teams, the Ontonagon Gladiators, Michigan Wolverines and Green Bay Packers.

After completing his internship, Dr. Jim, as he became known in town, joined his father's Ontonagon medical practice in 1961 and they worked together until his father's retirement in 1966. In 1971, he and Flossie built the Strong Medical Center adjacent to the Ontonagon Memorial Hospital to provide exceptional medical care as a board-certified family physician to the residents of Ontonagon County. Dr. Jim's passion and quest for learning prompted him to continuously study medicine throughout his lifetime, leading him to receive additional training in cardiology and allergy from numerous locations, including Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic. He earned certifications not only in family practice, but also in advanced pediatric, trauma, obstetric and cardiac life support to better minister to hospital and emergency room patients.

He was always willing to tend to patients in need, whether at his office, the emergency room, the hospital, or at home at their kitchen table.

Dr. Jim was a great advocate for his patients, never giving up until he diagnosed their ailments and could determine a course of treatment, always taking time to answer patient questions and family concerns. In addition to his private medical practice, Jim also served as the Chief of Staff and attending physician at Ontonagon Memorial Hospital, Medical Director of Maple Manor Nursing Home, Medical Director of Ontonagon Memorial Hospital Long-Term Care Unit, Ontonagon County Coroner and volunteered as the Ontonagon Gladiator team doctor for over 25 years while his children were playing school sports.

He was a lifetime member of the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Practice, Michigan State Medical Society, and Ontonagon County Medical Society.

Dr. Jim received many accolades for his medical career, but was most honored to receive the 2007 Frederick and Besse Moulton Plessner Memorial Award, given to a Michigan physician who best exemplifies the practice and ethics of a rural practitioner. After 52 years of dedicated service to the local medical community, Dr. Jim retired from practice in 2013 at the age of 78. He never stopped reading his cherished medical books, and remained an avid student of medicine for his entire life.

During the rare moments when Dr. Jim left the hospital, golf dominated his free time. Each spring he started hitting golf balls before the snow left the ground, claiming he had "the secret," and practicing until after the sun went down, or Flossie sent one of the kids out to get him for dinner. He was extremely competitive and was exhilarated by weekend golf tournaments. His favorite memories were of leading the 1983 U.S. Open Qualifier at North Hills Country Club in Milwaukee, vying against many other talented U.P. golfers for a weekend tournament victory, or challenging his sons in the Nolan Olson Shortstop.

As a charter member of the Boyne Highlands Country Club in Harbor Springs, he spent many summer days at the back of the driving range perfecting his swing or playing endless rounds of golf with Flossie, family, and friends. Idyllic vacations meant family gatherings at the Harbor Springs log house for the Fourth of July, or pairing off to compete in The Kircher Cup over Labor Day weekend. Through golf, he taught his children many life lessons about respect, sportsmanship, and never giving up.

He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 47 years, Flossie, his parents Dr. William F. and Gertrude Strong, and brothers-in-law, Larry Makimaa and Roger Menigoz.

Dr. Jim is survived by his 10 children, William Strong, Michael Strong, Thomas (Lynn) Strong, Robert (Peggy) Strong, Jeffrey (Elizabeth) Strong, Dr. Joseph (Meredith) Strong, Lawrence Strong, Kim (Jeff) Makimaa, Cathy (Tony) Kucherak, Daniel Strong; his 22 grandchildren, Danielle, Samantha, Nicholas, Joseph (Rebecca), Nathan (Erin), Megan, Kyle, Britni (Joseph Halama), Sharon, Lauren, Marja (Matthew Carty), Matthew, Benjamin, Mackenzie, Zachary, Katie, DJ, Lacy, Tracy, Ryan, Addison, and Delaney; and his seven great-grandchildren Sadie, Sophia, Elijah, Paige, Braydon, Hunter, and Daasch. He is also survived by his siblings, Thomas ("Charlie") Strong, Sally Menigoz, and Lynne Makimaa, as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral services will be officiated by Father Michael Jacobus from Holy Family Catholic Church in Ontonagon. Visitation will be held at Cane Funeral Home, Ontonagon Chapel, on Thursday, Jan. 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. and at Holy Family Catholic Church on Friday, Jan. 19, from 10 to 11 a.m., with a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. A luncheon will follow the Mass service in the Holy Family Catholic Church basement.

Memorial donations can be made in Dr. James P. Strong's name to the Ontonagon Area Scholarship Foundation, PO Box 92, Ontonagon, MI 49953.

Cane Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.


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