Highly respected Watertown physician dies at age 87

Dr. David Philp, a tremendously popular and well-respected family physician in Watertown for more than 42 years, died on Wednesday, Sept. 5. Philp, who lived in Watertown, was 87.

Philp, a Korean War veteran who briefly began his medical career in Wyndom before being called to active duty, arrived in Watertown in 1954, where he joined Dr. James Bratholdt at his Watertown Clinic practice. Philp continued to practice in Watertown for the next 42 years, including his final 12 years at Lakeview Clinic after the merger with Watertown Clinic. Philp retired in December 1997.

“He was kind and very considerate of his patients,” said Harriet Johnson, who worked with Philp during all 42 of his years in Watertown as his nurse and later as office coordinator. “He was a good doctor — the best as far as I’m concerned.”

That was a popular sentiment among Watertown residents, many of whom recall Philp’s willingness to make house calls, especially early in his career, and even in the middle of the night. His patients and co-workers fondly recall his dry, sarcastic sense of humor, but also the caring man behind it.

“He had a dry sense of humor, but always right around that, there was a warmth that was always on the verge of emerging,” said Dr. Scott Jensen, who spent the first 11 years of his career in Watertown working at Lakeview Clinic with Philp.

Jensen, who now practices at Catalyst Clinic, remembers Philp not only as a terrific mentor, but also as a friend. Jensen said Philp was a tremendous role model for him early in his career, a man and doctor from whom he learned many lessons that he carries with him today.

“He was a heck of a mentor,” Jensen said. “He was a very talented physician and he had excellent surgical skills. He had an ability to deal with anything that came along with a certain grace and matter of factness.”

Jensen recalled one occasion when he was performing a surgery early in his career that became much more involved than he had expected. His own two hands and the two hands of his nurse weren’t enough, so he asked his nurse to go get Dr. Philp.

“He came in and with his two hands, we were able to get things accomplished the way we wanted and the patient ended up having excellent results,” Jensen said. “Knowing I could just call on him was humongous.”

Philp, a basketball standout in high school in Mankato who played in the state tournament, graduated pre-med from Marquette University in Milwaukee and earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville. He was a U.S. Naval Physician during the Korean War before coming to Watertown.

Philp is survived by his wife Charlotte and three children: Nancy Simpson of Minneapolis, Dave Philp of Waconia, and Alison Burgstahler of Sandpoint, Idaho. He also had seven grandchildren. However, those who knew him well know that he really considered the entire community as his family, and likewise, many people in town likely considered Philip to be something like family.

“When you’re around for a period of time as a doctor, you become a friend of everybody,” said Jim Berreth, the former publisher of the Carver County News who lived next door to the Philp family for nearly 20 years, and considered Philp a close friend since 1962. “As a doctor you get involved in the ups and downs (in another person’s life) a lot more than a normal person does. I think that’s part of it. When you’ve delivered just about every kid in town, you know everybody.”

Philp’s son Dave, who now lives in Waconia, said his father’s passion not just for his occupation, but also for the people he treated and the community he lived in, was always very apparent.

“From the beginning, we as a family knew he was not only our dad or husband, but that he belonged to the community,” the younger Philp said. “He taught us through his example that it’s important to give back and serve the community he was a part of here.”