“Small towns make up for their lack of people by having everyone be more interesting,” American political activist Doris “Granny D.” Haddock once said. My Mother’s hometown of Keewatin, five miles west of Hibbing, is a case in point. There are so many interesting people with interesting stories that emerged through the years in little Keewatin.
One example of this is the Damjanovich Triplets. Not every town has triplets, but Keewatin did! The doctor who delivered them, and looked after them throughout their growing-up years, was Dr. E.H. Loofbourrow, beloved doctor to many Keewatinites from 1914 until his retirement in the 1940s.
The following story about the triplets and their doctor is taken from two sources. Doreen Lindahl, who lived in Keewatin, was a longtime journalist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. She wrote about the triplets in a special section published by the Hibbing newspaper in honor of Keewatin’s 75th Diamond Jubilee in July 1981. Further information about Dr. Loofbourrow came from the Keewatin Diamond Jubilee book from that same year. I also want to thank Ardell Blair Damjanovich for her help with the information included in this article.
Triplets were born in Keewatin on November 12, 1926. Their arrival during a snowstorm was almost as quiet as falling snow.
No reporters clamored for first pictures. No big fuss resulted, even though triplets were unusual in those days, and even though they were heralded into the world by a small-town doctor.
Nick, Violet, and George Damjanovich were born to Ann and Theodore Damjanovich that morning. The oldest child in the family, Mike, was born in 1914. He was followed by Mary, Tom, John, Peter, and then the triplets.
The triplets weighed between four and five pounds, with Violet being the largest of the three.
The arrival of the babies on a Friday kept their mother home when her sister, Catherine, married John Carroll two days later on Sunday. The new bride in her wedding gown and white shoes had to hold her skirts up out of the snow and step carefully so she could visit her sister and show her how she looked.
The babies were delivered by E.H. Loofbourrow, Keewatin’s family doctor. He and his wife came to Keewatin in October 1914 from Chisholm. They lived first at the St. Paul Location where the Rood Hospital office was first situated. In 1918 they moved into their new house on Third Avenue in Keewatin, next door to the newly-constructed Rood Hospital office. The only way that a doctor could secure a telephone at that time was to have a pay booth installed in his office.
Helen Churchich, who later married Sam Grcevich, was the first of a large number of Keewatin babies to be delivered by the good doctor.
In the early years, because so many of the roads over which the doctor made his calls in a horse and buggy became impassable in the winter, the mines frequently sent a team of horses to see him through. Dr. Loofbourrow made one such trip to the Stevenson Location in the company of a Catholic priest who had also been called to see the patient.
By 1926, when the triplets were born, Dr. Loofbourrow had a car. However, it got stuck in the snowstorm that night and he tramped through the drifts and wind the rest of the way to the Damjanovich home.
Dr. Loofbourrow was remembered for many, many years after his retirement by Keewatin residents. Residents appreciated his “country doctor” ways, his deep and involved concern for everyone, and his boundless generosity. He visited the triplets regularly (this was in the days of house calls by doctors) and brought cod liver oil along to make sure the babies would be as strong and healthy as possible.
People would come to the Danjanovich’s home just to look at the babies. All of their lives people in the area knew them and enjoyed having the chance to talk to “one of the triplets.”
One of the pioneer women in Keewatin said, “He was so proud of those babies. On his way to check on them, he would pass our house and always knocked on the door, stuck his head in, and asked if the children and we parents were okay. He really cared about all of us in town.
“In the earlier days, he would go way out of town to make calls by horse and buggy. He was a believer in cod liver oil. When my boy was sick with whooping cough and bronchitis, and couldn’t seem to get better, he said to give him a teaspoon of cod liver oil every day. I thought he said tablespoon, and in no time the coughing was better. Even Dr. Loofbourrow was surprised! There was nobody like Dr. Loofbourrow!”
He always took an active part in the affairs of the community. Besides being the Village Health Officer and school physician for all of the years he spent in Keewatin, Doctor Loofbourrow served on the Library Board, Red Cross, Water and Light Board, and the building committee for the enlarged Village Hall.
The Loofbourrows eventually retired to Northfield, Minnesota to be near their children. The triplets all grew to adulthood, each married and had children. Nick and George worked at the mines and lived in Keewatin all of their lives. Violet and her husband lived in Kelly Lake. Although the triplets have all passed away, Nick’s wife Ardell and George’s wife Beverly still live in Keewatin.