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Arthur E. Geschke.

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Geschke, Arthur Ernest (1907–2000)

By Wilfred Geschke

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Wilfred Geschke, M.D., is the son of Arthur and Frieda Geschke. A 1966 graduate of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine, he was a hematology/oncology specialist in the Portland, Oregon, area, where he has continued to make his home since retirement in 2014.

First Published: September 15, 2022

Arthur E. Geschke, M.D., founded Phuket Mission Clinic in Thailand, now known as Mission Hospital Phuket.

Early Years

Arthur was born in Hamburg, Germany, on August 25, 1907, to Frederick and Margaret Geschke. As a young man he was employed by an export firm with commercial ties to the Orient. Required to become proficient in English in order to represent the firm abroad, Arthur enrolled in 1928 at Stanborough Park school in England. He chose the Seventh-day Adventist school on the advice of his mother, a recent convert. Information given in a talk about the College of Medical Evangelists (CME) in Loma Linda, California, stirred his interest, and he eventually decided to change direction and pursue a career in medicine. He also decided to become a Seventh-day Adventist and was baptized by H. Drangmeister in Hamburg on June 28, 1929.1

Arthur made his way to Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, where he took pre-medical studies from 1929 to 1932. To help meet expenses, he worked as a colporteur in Alaska during the summers.2

In 1933 Geschke began medical school at CME (later Loma Linda University School of Medicine). While there he met Frieda Marie Willers (1908-1972), a 1933 graduate of the Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital School of Nursing. They married in Los Angeles on October 31, 1935, and would have one son, Wilfred Geschke, M.D. (b. 1939).3 After his graduation from CME in 1937, Dr. Geschke’s internship was at St. Francis Hospital in Santa Barbara, California (1937-1938). He then did a residency in medicine and surgery at Monterey County Hospital in Salinas, California, from November 1, 1938 to January 15, 1940.4

Medical Missionary in Thailand

In late 1939 Dr. Geschke accepted a call to serve as a medical missionary in the Far Eastern Division. He, his wife, and their infant son left San Francisco on the Japanese liner “Kamkura Maru,” headed for Thailand (Siam). Dr. Geschke’s assignment would be to develop a clinic in Phuket, an island off the country’s southwest coast with a population of about 50,000. After learning about the church’s work in Bangkok, Phuket’s business and civic leaders offered support for establishment of an Adventist clinic on their island.5

On the clinic’s opening day later in 1940, Geschke announced that he would treat out-patients and dispense medications but that the facility was not yet ready to receive patients requiring hospitalization. That same night, however, Dr. Geschke agreed to perform surgery on a seriously ill patient, at the urging of several the man’s relatives. He had been turned away from a government hospital and told that nothing could be done for him. With the success of the operation, Geschke won the full confidence of the community.6 Within a month, the clinic was treating 60 outpatients per day and the 15 beds it had set up for outpatients were all continuously occupied.7 “It seemed that practically every one of importance in the city knew of Dr. Geschke and counted him as a friend,” a mission administrator reported a few years later. “They told us of several people he had saved from death and about the great good he had done,” he added.8

The United States’ entry into World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941, brought the thriving work of the Phuket Mission Clinic to a halt after just one year of operation. After hearing a radio news report about Pearl Harbor the next morning, Dr. Geschke quickly conferred with the British consul in Phuket, and shortly thereafter received instructions to arrive with his family at the beach in 10 minutes to be picked up by a British vessel en route to Singapore. The ship was buzzed by Japanese dive bombers, but they did not attack, probably because the captain had ordered the British flag removed and replaced with the flag of Thailand (an ally of Japan). The Geschke family and other missionaries boarded the last American freighter out of Singapore before that city was captured. The ship sailed to Cape Town, South Africa, since a Pacific crossing was deemed too dangerous. Part of the crew deserted in Cape Town but the ship proceeded to cross the Atlantic, sailing in a zig zag pattern to escape enemy torpedoes, arriving safely in New York two months later.9

Phuket Mission Clinic, later known as Phuket Adventist Hospital, reopened in July 1949. New structures have been built over the decades and the hospital’s services expanded. Renamed Mission Hospital Phuket in 2002, it is, as of this writing, an 83-bed hospital operated by the Southeast Asia Union Mission.10

Later Years

Dr. Geschke took further surgical training at the Lahey Clinic in Boston and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. In 1946 he moved with his family to Fresno, California, where he began a private practice. He again served overseas as medical director of the Rangoon Adventist Hospital in Burma (Myanmar), 1955-1956, then subsequently resumed his Fresno medical practice.11 Over the ensuing years Dr. Geschke returned on several short term relief assignments to Phuket Mission Hospital.

Frieda Geschke, who worked alongside her husband in establishing the medical work in Thailand, died on May 6, 1972, in Fresno.12 After retiring from full-time medical practice Dr. Geschke moved to a mountain home near Yosemite National Park and continued to practice medicine on a limited basis into his 80s. He died in Portland, Oregon, on August 1, 2000, just shy of his 93rd birthday.13

Sources

“Arthur Geschke obituary.” Pacific Union Recorder, December 2000.

Cleveland, C. C. “The Call of Southern Siam.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, February 1948.

“Fresno Family Tells of Siam Flight, Dodging Nazi U Boats.” Fresno Bee, January 10, 1946.

“Frieda Marie Geschke obituary.” ARH, October 12, 1972.

Geschke, Arthur and Frieda. Secretariat Missionary Appointee Files. RG 21, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Archives, Silver Spring, MD.

Tan, K. O. “Our Medical Work at Bhuket.” Australasian Record, April 20, 1942. At that time, the island’s name was often rendered “Bhuket” in English.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. 2nd rev. edition. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1996. S.v. “Phuket Adventist Hospital.”

Notes

  1. Arthur Ernest Geschke, M.D., Biographical Information Blank, February 7, 1940, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives, Silver Spring, MD, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114913.

  2. Arthur Geschke Biographical Information Blank, February 7, 1940, GCA.

  3. Frieda Marie Geschke Biographical Information Blank, February 4, 1940, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives, Silver Spring, MD, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114913; “Frieda Marie Geschke obituary,” ARH, October 12, 1972, 30.

  4. Arthur Geschke Biographical Information Blank, February 7, 1940, GCA.

  5. K. O. Tan, “Our Medical Work at Bhuket,” Australasian Record, April 20, 1942, 4.

  6. Tan, “Our Medical Work at Bhuket.”

  7. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 2nd rev. edition (1996), s.v. “Phuket Adventist Hospital.”

  8. C. C. Cleveland, “The Call of Southern Siam,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, February 1948, 4.

  9. “Fresno Family Tells Of Siam Flight, Dodging Nazi U Boats,” Fresno Bee, January 10, 1946, 13.

  10. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 2nd rev. edition (1996), s.v. “Phuket Adventist Hospital”; “Mission Hospital Phuket,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook Online, accessed August 31, 2022, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=13081.

  11. W. R. Beach, “Recent Missionary Departures,” ARH, April 7, 1955, 32; “Miscellany,” Southeast Asia Tidings, July 1, 1956, 16.

  12. “Frieda Marie Geschke obituary,” ARH, October 12, 1972, 30.

  13. “Arthur Geschke obituary,” Pacific Union Recorder, December 2000, 49.

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Geschke, Wilfred. "Geschke, Arthur Ernest (1907–2000)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 15, 2022. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=FAYT.

Geschke, Wilfred. "Geschke, Arthur Ernest (1907–2000)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 15, 2022. Date of access June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=FAYT.

Geschke, Wilfred (2022, September 15). Geschke, Arthur Ernest (1907–2000). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=FAYT.