Dr. Czuczka Hangs Up His Stethoscope

Al Beasley. Neil Lebhar. Jack Shiller.

Those are legendary names. Nearly every baby boomer growing up in postwar Westport went to one of those 3 pediatricians. They helped thousands of kids grow up, and calmed thousands of mothers’ nerves.

Peter Czuczka is a direct descendant of those doctors. He worked with 2 of them, then grew his own practice into Westport’s largest pediatrics group.

When he retires at the end of this year, he’ll join the ranks of beloved hometown doctors.

As a kid in Mount Vernon, New York, he loved science, people, and working with his hands. When he was just 8 years old, he knew he wanted to be a pediatrician.

His path to Westport took him from Brandeis University to Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  When it was time to apply for jobs, he searched the Yellow Pages for pediatrics practices everywhere.

He knew Westport as a “clean and green town.” So he was thrilled that Dr. Beasley — and his pediatrician wife Jean — had an opening.

He joined them in 1973. Several months later, Dr. Jean Beasley died.

Shiller and Al Beasley — with Czuczka — soon joined forces. “They were titans,” Czuczka says.

Dr. Peter Czuczka

They worked together at “The Willows” — the medical complex at the corner of Kings Highway North and Wilton Road known as Fort Apache. Seventeen years ago they moved to the former site of Chubby Lane’s, across from Athletic Shoe Factory.

Czuczka has been part of the community his entire working life. He and his wife Alice — a middle school teacher — bought their first house for $53,000. “We thought we were in over our heads,” he recalls.

They raised their own kids here, and sent them to the “great” Westport public schools.

His 45 years as a pediatrician have flown by. He watched babies grow into children, then teenagers. They went off to college, and got married. Some moved back. Now their children are his patients too.

He’s proud of that — and of the many patients who have gone on to become doctors, nurses and other medical personnel.

Czuczka enjoys mentoring younger pediatricians and physician assistants. Yale and the University of Vermont send them to train with the Willows group. He appreciates teaching them all he knows, from how to talk to a child on his or her level, to thrill of diagnosis.

The pediatrician loves his partners. Drs. Laura Marks, Jeff Owens, Rachel Sheiman, Jonathan Sollinger and Janet Woodward — plus the newest addition, Lauren Allison — make each day joyful.

Willows Pediatrics group. Dr. Peter Czuczka is 4th from left.

“He’s an incredible teacher, mentor, friend and pediatrician,” Sollinger says. “He’s the kind of guy you want as a teammate and captain. Plus, he’s got a hilarious sense of humor.”

Besides his colleagues, Czuczka will miss interacting with parents, holding babies, and dealing with adolescents. Making teenagers feel comfortable has become one of his most favorite parts of his profession.

“Society today is so stressful,” he says. “Pediatricians play a much more active role in managing that than we used to.”

That’s one change. Another is technology. When Czuczka began, there was no MRI, CAT scan or ultrasound. Now he performs blood tests in his office, and uses a computer constantly.

The business of medicine has also changed. “I used to spend so much time with a family,” he notes. “Now managed care mandates all our administrative burdens.”

Czuczka seems amazed that he’s 73 years old, and has been practicing for almost 45 years. “A train stops!” he says, about his decision to retire now.

Every kid loves Dr. Czuczka.

Over the past few months, he’s cut back his work and eased into his new life. He’s had time to read for pleasure, and garden. He bought a small fishing boat, and named it after his wife: “Sea Alice.” (Say it out loud — get it?)

They’re staying in Westport. But now he’ll have time to visit his grandchildren. They’re nearby in Westport, and further away in Massachusetts and Maryland.

Still, it won’t be easy to leave a job he loves. “Not a day goes by without joy,” Czuczka says. “The best thing is the children. I think I’m a kid at heart.”

The Willows Pediatrics Group logo.

In a “Dear Willows Families” letter announcing his retirement last April, Czuczka wrote that from the happiest moments of welcoming a new baby, to the “ultimate heartache of grieving a loss together– and through each earache, stomach bug and strep throat in between” — it was a privilege to serve as their pediatrician.

Noting that he was confident in his decision to “hang up my stethoscope,” because of the strong Willows team, he finished with thanks “for entrusting the care of your children to me, and teaching me to be a better doctor and person.”

Peter Czuczka’s friend, former colleague — and neighbor — Al Beasley knows the feeling.

And somewhere, Neil Lebhar and Jack Shiller are smiling.

(Click here to read families’ letters of thanks to Dr. Czuczka.)

24 responses to “Dr. Czuczka Hangs Up His Stethoscope

  1. Yes, every Westport parent loves and appreciates Dr. Czuczka. Because in many ways, he was a throwback to the physicians we grew up with: someone who would listen to our concerns (and our children’s distresses), and would really care about what was needed.

  2. Donna Calabrese Rosenfeld

    Does anyone remember Dr Lynch? Wonderful, kind man who made house calls! Westport was such a small town then ( 1950’s ), that if Dr Lynch saw you in town he would honk and wave out the top of his convertible ! I can still picture him!

    • I sure do. He doctored all the Eason kids. Can still see him coming up the front steps making a house call. Franklin Lynch, Marine and WW 2 vet. Old school, the best…

    • Yes! Dr. Franklin Lynch was pediatrician for the six Pettee kids as well. MOP

  3. Gerry Kuroghlian

    The Czuczkas not only ministered to the health of children but also to their education. The couple is an amazing example of giving!

  4. Linda Pomerantz Novis

    Dr. Lynch made long-ago house call to our house in Weston, when I first fell off my bike without training wheels; (& I still remember how kind he was with cleaning up some bad scrapes on my face)
    Dr Beasley also made house calls to our house too ..he was a real gem!

  5. Vanessa Bradford

    Wonderful doctors…I too remember Dr. Lynch doing house calls…and Dr. Shiller at Fort Appache. When our son was born in 1992, we took him to Dr. Czuczka as he had a rash that we thought would infect his eyes. He took a look and said “just a bit of dermatitis….relax. You are new parents…I’m not going to charge you.” Wow!

  6. I can make either the most dubious or laziest claim of being Peter’s single longest and oldest patient. To be fair he is the greatest family friend a family could have. Like in “A Wonderful Life” I and my siblings couldn’t and wouldn’t want to imagine a life or world that Peter was not apart of… enjoy the boat Peter

  7. Petie, the pediatrician, because who could pronounce C Z U CZ K A ?
    When we left NYC in 1973 I asked my son’s pediatrician if she knew anyone who practiced in Westport. She told me her best chief resident had just taken a job in Westport. The rest is history. 45 years , 5 children and a truly wonderful friendship.
    Now he and Steve, my radiology retiring husband will gallop into the sunset
    together, redefining retirement . If it was once for the elderly, not anymore
    Peter will continue to be the fun loving Petie, the pediatrician. Not retirement, just another chapter

  8. I remember Dr.Lynch . I still have the birth card they put in the bassinette when you delivered your baby. It says”attending pediatrician Dr.Lynch” I was so sad when he retired but the wonderful Dr.Perlman took over the helm.

  9. A steady hand, amazing bedside manner, calm and thorough explanations that instilled confidence, no condescension or arrogance. A total class act. Many Thanks, Peter and enjoy!

  10. And for those of us who crossed the border to Norwalk there was the amazing Dr.Heaphy On West Avenue in Norwalk Like those mentioned the real deal .No concierge service needed

  11. Thank you Dan for another great article- this time about a great guy, a true friend and a wonderful physician- and for 45 years a Westport treasure- Peter Czuczka MD!

    On a professional level- Peter has always had the perfect combination of qualities families look for in their doctor {especially their pediatrician) – caring, kind, funny, down to earth, and a brilliant diagnostician. And Peter just never slows down- from his early morning hospital rounds, to his scheduled appointments, to his add on emergency visits- he has always given the time and attention every kid needs!

    On a personal level- I can state unequivocally- Peter is also an almost a perfect friend- funny, kind, caring, down to earth and a brilliant back seat driver. His only fault is every time we pass Mt Vernon on the way to NYC he insists on sharing how he grew up just 5 blocks from the Hutch- right over that way- and he starts planning during the entire rest of the trip just what he is going to order for his pretheater lunch, and always ask the same question-
    Am I willing to share a chicken salad sandwich!!

    Peter- I look forward to sharing that CHICKEN SALAD sandwich- any time, any place!

    Happy, healthy retirement!! On to the next chapter!!

  12. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Dr. Lebhar was amazing with a dry sense of humor. Dr. Shiller saved my life when I went into anaphalytic shock after being stung by a yellow jacket. Dr. Lynch was a partly disabled war hero and a very kind man and although I never met Dr. Beasley, I remember his daughter from school and don’t believe the apple fell far from the tree.. My single mom had no health insurance and it didn’t matter because you could always afford to pay cash with these gentlemen. And PLEASE, don’t forget Betty Godfrey who was the head pediatric nurse at Norwalk Hospital until Dr.Lebhar swiped her for his practice. She grew up and lived her life in the red house on North Avenue around the corner from Staples. Dr. Lebhar counseled me at a very young age not to put salt on my food (“there’s plenty of it in there naturally and if you never use it you’ll never miss it and you’ll protect yourself against high blood pressure later on”). He also advised me not to wear glasses at my eye exam at DMV. “You can always wear them when you drive but you don’t want that restriction on your license.” How many people remember that he went after an elementary school principal because he was forcing kids to eat all their food and got a school physician (Staples had an MD on staff back then) fired because she was prescribing tranquilizers to his patients. Not much that Dr. Lebhar didn’t do or miss to look out for his patients.

    dr.

  13. Michael Lublinsky

    It was a priveledge to know you and your family, Dr. Czuczka! You are a one-of-a-kind and we wish you all the happiness and joy in your retirement!
    Thank you!

  14. It was a priveledge to know you and your family, Dr. Czuczka! You are a one-of-a-kind and we wish you all the happiness and joy in your retirement!
    Thank you!

  15. Best pediatrician ever! So glad he took care of my kids.Wishing you a rich and fulfilling retirement Dr. Czuczka!

  16. I went to Franklin Lynch. Fond memories. I was one of the kids in the Saturday Evening Post cover featuring his office. (Separation Anxiety by Westporter Stevan Dohanos September 3, 1955} And Neil Lebhar saved my father’s life. Never had the pleasure of Peter Czuczka’s care, but I am sure it was in the same fine tradition.

  17. Albert S.Beasley, M.D.

    Interesting article about a great guy, but not entirely accurate. After the death my first wife Dr. Jean Beasley Dr. Jack Shiller and I decide to join practices. We had both been practicing at the Willows “Fort Apache”. We then decided to add an additional partner and selected Peter Czuzcka to join us. He added a great deal to the practice. The practice then grew with the addition of the other pediatricians mentioned. Some before i retired after almost 50 years in practice and followed a number of years by the retirement of Dr. Jack Shiller. Peter Czuzcka continued to to add to the quality of care at Willows Pediatrics over the years. I will let him know that I wish him all the best now that he is entering the 2 feet out the door category. I feel sure that he will, as a nonagenarian plus six i have had many great years of retirement.

    Albert S. Beasley, M.D.

  18. Dr. Czuczka provided excellent care to our daughters for the past 20 years. They have grown up with the benefit of an “old school” physician who took the time to get to know his patients; he was never rushed, always smiling and quick to laugh. He is a Westport gem.

    We will miss you, Dr. Czuczka!

  19. Just found out that my Grandson was a patient of Dr. Czuczka. How lovely.
    That is my son’s son! However, he and my daughter were taken care of by
    you Dr. Beaseley and you were wonderful. I remember too, how darling Dr.
    Jean was. My best to you both in retiremrnt

  20. Both my children came into this world via his sure-handed guidance. He’s an iconic “small town doctor” which played such a wonderful role in the community.

    Anyone know his “stats”? Years ago I heard it was in the thousands! Imagine being witness so many miracles!

  21. Congratulations, Dr. Czuczka on a truly wonderful and fulfilling career. You are amongst the first group of people I think of who truly make Westport a great place to call home.

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