Dr. Harry Nikaido was anything but a normal doctor, but his eccentricities are why the people of Bow Island loved him. Image courtesy: Bretton Loney
Outside of popular fiction, doctors are usually perceived as being fairly professional people.
They wear long white coats, usually don a stethoscope, and have pristine offices where they only practice part-time during the week.
It’s rare to find a doctor who is anything but utterly professional in everything that he or she does in their role.
So it was with interest and a fair bit of perplexity that I read author Bretton Loney’s biography of Dr. Harry Nikaido who practiced in Bow Island, Alberta.
Living what Bretton describes as a Bohemian lifestyle, Nikaido seems like a doctor you’d find in a sitcom or a stage play. He was a lone wolf with a devout group of patients who he cared for, but he was also a Japanese Canadian practicing in a time of much adversity.
Born in February 1920 in Vancouver, Nikaido grew up in the heart of Canada’s Japanese community living just minutes away from Powell St. and its Japanese language schools and businesses.
From a young age, he showed himself to be a bookworm and academically focused, but also a superb athlete. He had lofty goals for his future and dreams of attending university in Toronto.
In 1941, The New Canadian celebrated Nikaido as one of the 400 graduates from the University of British Columbia.
That summer, Nikaido left Vancouver for Toronto where he studied medicine.
He arrived there in September, but his life changed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
His family back West lost everything and were moved into internment camps. This seeded a distrust in the government within Nikaido, but he continued to pursue being a doctor.
Where he wound up was in the small community of Bow Island where he would become a respected – if a little eccentric – member of the community.
Loney’s account of Harry Nikaido’s life takes us through everything, but it paints a picture of a man who wanted for nothing yet gave so much.
Without even a home to call his own, Nikaido lived in his office or in the hospital he pushed to have built in the small community.
While some preferred going to other doctors to seek treatment, those who knew him were loyal and saw him through various crises in his life until his death in 1975 from a stroke.
While his life was short, he made an impact that has stood the test of time in Bow Island.