By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — Esteemed physician Dr. Michael Werckle died March 28, shortly after he was honored at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford.
“My dad was the most caring and compassionate person,” Beth Werckle said, speaking for thousands of people he touched outside of his practice.
From opening his home during the holidays to making new friends driving antique cars in parades, her dad truly lived for others.
“For as long as I can remember, we have had patients who had no family join us for holiday dinners,” Beth said. “It has always shown me how much my dad loved those he cared for. My dad always said he never worked a day in his life because he loved what he did. It didn’t seem like work.”
Werckle was born Aug. 10, 1939, in Peoria and grew up in Rockford, where he aspired to become a doctor at a young age. After graduating from East High School in 1957, he received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. He graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago in 1966. An internship and residency at the University of Michigan followed.
At the Wayne County General Hospital in Westland, Michigan, Werckle became director of the outpatient department and long-term care facility. As talented and dedicated as he was, Werckle could have taken up roots anywhere, including major cities with greater needs. Instead, he chose to make his way home. But it took a few years. He first made an important stop in Springfield in 1973.
In Springfield, Werckle was the associate director of the Illinois Department of Public Health and spent 1976 making sure children were vaccinated during the swine flu outbreak. The instrumental effort all but punched his ticket to a long career in the public sector. Instead, he opted for one at a new medical school in Rockford, the University of Illinois College of Medicine and in 1977 became an assistant clinical professor of medicine, a position he held until he died. He also served as the assistant dean and director of education.
Werckle practiced internal medicine, specializing in geriatrics at the North Alpine Medical Clinic, which he founded and was later named Rockford Clinic. He retired in 2006. In 2017, he became majority owner and CEO of Hospice Care of America after serving as medical director for 11 years.
Werckle received numerous awards throughout his career, including two Golden Apples, Faculty Distinguished Service Award, and the Arnold Gold Humanism in Medicine Award. He was a president of medical staff at Rockford Memorial Hospital and served as medical director of many organizations, including Rockford Clinic, Fairhaven Christian Home, Willows on Main, Alpine Fireside, and In Home Medical Service.
Before he died at his home, Werckle was at UIC Rockford for the formal investitures of Drs. Matthew Matthew and Xue-Jun Li through the establishment of the Michael A. Werckle, M.D., Endowed Professorship in Biomedical Sciences.
“We were all with him on this wonderful day when he received this great honor,” son Mike Werckle said. “He gave a speech, came home, sat at the dining room table, put his head down and he was gone.”
In addition to his wife and three children, Dr. Werckle leaves two brothers, a sister and three grandchildren.
Visitation is from 3 to 6 pm, Friday, April 6, at Olson Funeral Home, 1001 2nd Ave. Rockford. Dr. Werckle’s funeral is at 2 p.m., Saturday, April 7, at UIC College of Medicine, 1601 Parkview Ave. R.