This article originally appeared in The Inquirer on May 19, 1986.
As his wee patients extended tiny hands for hugs and turned their cheeks for kisses yesterday, Ludwig E. Schlitt, M.D., was in his element.
There are probably few things Schlitt knows and likes better than children. Schlitt has treated more than 25,000 of them in the 26 years he has practiced in South Jersey.
Yesterday, about 300 of his patients, past and present, turned out to say thank you to Schlitt, who for years has helped heal their wounds and soothe their ruffled emotions.
His friends and patients say Schlitt is “effervescent” and a special person — both helpful characteristics in a man whose business is children.
They came from townships and boroughs all over South Jersey, and met in the auditorium at Haddonfield Friends School, where they had prepared a surprise party for Schlitt.
Eileen Fuzer and several other parents of Schlitt’s patients had worked since February on the surprise for Schlitt, who celebrates his 60th birthday today. Fuzer and her husband, Edward, took both their children, Kathleen, now 23, and Daniel, now 26, to Schlitt when they were young, she said. According to Eileen Fuzer, many of Schlitt’s patients do not want to leave his nest even when they are no longer children.
“He is also understanding of the longtime patient who may be 20 and would not let go, insisting on seeing Dr. Schlitt. So what if he has a beard ... ," she said.
Schlitt was born in Geisenheim, West Germany, and attended medical school in Frankfurt. He began his practice in Haddon Heights in 1960. After 11 years, his practice outgrew the small house where he and his partner, Dr. Ronald Shissler, had their offices. He and Shissler moved their practices to 112 White Horse Pike in 1971 and called it the Haddon Pediatric Group, Shissler said, because their secretaries refused to answer the phone "Schlitt and Shissler. "
Shissler has been Schlitt's partner for almost 17 years.
A couple of years ago, Shissler said, he and Schlitt went through their files and counted more than 5,000 families, and the practice has grown since then. He said it is no doubt one of the largest pediatric practices in the area.
“I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have been a partner with. He’s very energetic, very effervescent. I’ve never seen him unhappy," Shissler said.
To Schlitt, a pediatrician known far and wide in South Jersey and even farther by his smile and his German accent, the thousands of children he treats are his small friends.
Ray Johnson, 28, says he first went to Schlitt in 1962 when he was 4 years old.
Now he and his wife, Cherie, have two children, Ray Jr. and Katie, he says, and Schlitt is their doctor, too.
"We would never go to anybody else," Cherie Johnson said.
“He used to make house calls in a little Volkswagen,” Ray Johnson said. ''In this day and age, nobody makes house calls."
Schlitt worked yesterday morning, but stopped by the Friends School believing that a shower was taking place for his daughter, Valerie, who is soon to be married. He was surprised.
''All the old faces," he said. “I’m amazed that I know everybody, even people I haven’t seen for 10 or 15 years.”
Schlitt says he is so popular because he never takes the children for granted or talks down to them.
“My secret is, I talk with them, and I take them seriously — when they have their fears and when they want to tell me something they have on their hearts.”
A pediatrician has to "adjust to each one's personality and explain so they can understand," he said.
"I have five of my own, so I must love them," he said, laughing.
“It’s a pleasant way to practice,” Schlitt said. “The kids give back to you what you put in.”
Update: Schlitt, now 93, retired in 2001, but still dedicates a few hours every day to reviewing patient reports and making treatment recommendations to the doctors in his practice. Three of his five children are now pediatricians and partners in their father’s former practice. Three of his 15 grandchildren are also pediatricians, and a few others are showing interest in the medical field. He still lives in Haddonfield with his wife, Noreen, 85, but they spend summers in Avalon, where their family visits often.