Doctor was visionary leader of Friends

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A little piece of Dr. Ralph Shugart’s legacy will be tended to in perpetuity by another, larger piece.

Shugart founded Arapahoe Park Pediatrics in 1953, tending to young patients at a small office on Orchard Road. He died in 1985 at the age of 56, but the practice lives on, now on Mineral Avenue, and celebrated 60 years this summer by riding in the Western Welcome Week parade. That led to an encounter that reunited Shugart’s family with his practice.

Mike Fisher of HMRx Inc., a medical-business management company, calls APP one of his first, best and brightest clients. After seeing Fisher in the parade, a family friend of the Shugarts’ connected him with the doctor’s daughter, Martha McCannon. She rounded up other siblings, and they all met at Littleton Museum Aug. 23 to donate Dr. Shugart’s original microscope to the collection.

“We are so excited to celebrate this milestone,” said Dr. William DeLano, a former colleague of Shugart’s. “This microscope is a great piece of history to share with the community.”

Which leads us to what Shugart is perhaps best known for, as a visionary founding member of Friends of the Library and Museum.

Nancy Wynne’s history of FOLM, which celebrates 50 years in 2013, credits Shugard with realizing the importance of imparting a sense of community to residents of the city.

“Without exception, everyone with whom I have spoken during the preparation of this project has stressed the importance of Ralph’s presidency not only to Friends of the Library, but to the city of Littleton,” wrote Wynne. “His vision as to what a society such as Friends could do to the community, and do for the community, plus his ability to make others see this vision and be eager to work to accomplish it, these are the things to which all these people referred when they attempted to explain to me the electrifying effect that was caused by Ralph’s leadership.”

Those who knew Shugart describe him as passionate, curious, fiery and funny. Daughter Beth Duncan says he might best be described as a combination of Dr. House and Dr. Seuss, and daughter Martha McCannon adds Dr. Jekyll to the mix.

“He even dressed loud,” said DeLano, recalling a favorite pink seersucker suit.

He was active with Fiasco, an old Littleton tradition of residents producing a musical spoof of themselves and goings-on in town. His children say he had a natural flair for the dramatic that was on all the time.

Which might have been a little awkward for some boys growing up in Littleton in the 1960s and 1970s, because he volunteered his time to do “the sex talks” at local schools.

“That was embarrassing,” said Duncan.

Shugart later recruited DeLano to perform that role, but DeLano said he trained him well first, as he did in all things.

“He was always passionate, and he was a good teacher. He was forgiving, willing to instruct and guide. He molded me in some ways. I just didn’t acquire his witty personality.”