March 29, 2013

Feature obituary: Dr. Russell Abbott, 87, veterinarian, Baptist minister

By Melanie Creamer
Staff Writer

OWLS HEAD – Dr. Russell Abbott was a well-respected veterinarian, who founded and operated the Rockland Animal Hospital for more than 38 years and was widely recognized for his work in veterinary ophthalmology.


Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.

In the late 1980s, he put down his scalpel and sold his practice to pursue another line of work.

He became an ordained American Baptist minister, and served as a relief pastor for churches throughout the midcoast and the islands.

Dr. Abbott died Monday after a long illness. He was 87.

Dr. Abbott practiced veterinary medicine for about 40 years.

In 1947, he graduated from Michigan State College as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Soon after, he moved to Rockland and established the Rockland Animal Hospital, which he operated for more than 38 years.

For many years, it was the only veterinary practice in Rockland. Many residents called him "Doc."

At the start of his career, he worked on farm animals. Midway through, he went back to school and became specialized in veterinary ophthalmology. He wrote several major papers for publications in this field.

His daughter, Sharlene Abbott Schwalbenberg of Brownfield, said her father was widely known for his work in canine ophthalmology. She said people drove from as far as Washington, D.C., to seek his help.

Dr. Abbott was immediately available to his patients. His animal hospital was located next to his home. Residents would knock on his door after hours.

"I remember situations where our family of five was packed for the beach, and someone pulled into our driveway with their dog bleeding," his daughter said. "He would get out of the car to go perform surgery. He was very available to his patients."

He ran his practice with his wife, Doris Abbott, by his side. She was his assistant, and also did the bookkeeping and scheduling.

The Abbotts were married for 59 years and raised three children.

On Thursday, Schwalbenberg reminisced about their early years. She said they had dinner together every night at 5:30 p.m.

"It was a must," his daughter said. "For him, it was important for us to have a strong work ethic and be together as a family."

In the late 1980s, Dr. Abbott sold his veterinary practice to pursue another form of healing work.

At the time, he was a devoted member of the Owls Head Baptist Church. His daughter said he was inspired by a pastor there and felt a calling to serve others.

Dr. Abbott became an ordained American Baptist minister and served as a relief pastor for churches along the coast and the islands. Later in life, he became a member of the West Rockport Baptist Church.

His daughter said he spent many hours a day studying the Bible until recently.

"He was so much into the word of Christ that he wanted everyone to know about it," she said.

Dr. Abbott had heart disease and lung issues. About eight months ago, he moved to The Homestead in Cushing. Schwalbenberg said her father was looking forward to seeing his wife again. She died in 2004.

"We're so grateful," his daughter said. "He was in a tired body. He was looking forward to being in heaven. It made (him dying) easier on us. He is in a better place now."


Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:


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