Although Poel’s workload has slowly lessened since last fall, the North Ottawa Medical Group family practice and sports medicine physician said he is officially retired as of Friday.
Poel, 69, was born in North Ottawa Community Hospital and grew up five blocks away from the Grand Haven hospital. After graduating from Grand Haven High School, he studied pharmacy at Ferris State University before attending Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Since returning to Grand Haven in 1974, Poel built a private practice, opened West Michigan Sports & Rehab Clinic, and joined the North Ottawa Community Health System.
“This is home,” he said.
Over the past 42 years, Poel said he has seen thousands of patients and attended too many athletic events to count. He got to know coaches and athletic directors during his years treating injuries on the sidelines for home and away varsity and junior varsity football and basketball games.
Having played basketball through part of high school, and his dad also an athlete at Grand Haven High School, Poel said that background and his interest in muscles and the skeletal system led him down that path of involvement with athletics.
As current and former staff members gathered during a retirement party earlier this week, NOCHS President/CEO Shelleye Yaklin told the group that the health system’s board wanted to create a way to continue Poel’s legacy. So, in working with the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, the Dr. Larry Poel Sports Medicine Fund has been established.
Yaklin said Poel allowed people in the community to “associate sports medicine with a physician for the first time.” From running a practice, being on the sidelines and his efforts behind the scenes, Yaklin said she can’t imagine the number of hours Poel dedicated to the community.
“I don’t think our community really understands the breadth and depth of Dr. Poel’s involvement,” she said. “We are so proud of the fact that, for the last several years, (he’s) worn a name badge that has our logo on it.”
Grand Haven Area Community Foundation President Holly Johnson said the fund will allow the hospital to grow and be innovative with its sports medicine program.
The endowment fund announcement caught Poel off-guard.
“They couldn’t have done anything nicer,” he said.
Poel’s efforts have earned him recognitions such as the Grand Haven Area Public Schools Excellence in Education Award and being inducted into the Grand Haven High School Hall of Fame.
In retirement, Poel plans to spend more time at his cottage a few hours away from Grand Haven. He also plans to travel to towns throughout Michigan — including Leland, where he hasn’t visited in 15-20 years. When Poel isn’t traveling, he plans to invest more time enjoying his hobby of smoking meat — pork shoulder, turkey, chicken, salmon and whatever the neighbors are interested in.
As Poel looks to the future, he reflected on his years involved in the community and the patients he will miss. He said the most enjoyable and satisfying parts of his career have been the people — knowing about their weddings, their children, going to college.
Some patients have been with Poel since he started his career 42 years ago, which he said is a compliment to him because they’ve trusted him over the years. Throughout the years, the community, school district and hospital have been “fantastic” to him, he said, and it made for an easy practice.
“It’s been a real pleasure,” Poel said.