Graham Hodgson and Penny Silver do not quite finish each other’s sentences, but their life partnership has seen them build a successful business and maintain a sense of humour while doing it.
After four decades the husband and wife chiropractors have called time as owner-operators of the Rich River Chiropractic Centre on Hare St, Echuca.
And stepping into the rather large shoes is Tia Deoki, who has reopened the business as Echuca Chiropractic Life, as its chief chiropractor.
Tia has been in Darwin with the Chiropractic Life organisation for the past six months and in the past four weeks has worked her way into a routine at the Echuca clinic.
For the past 12 months Graham and Penny have had an extremely popular foil to their own personalities in the form of their pet (and proxy grandchild), Marly the rather large German short-haired pointer.
“A lot of people will miss Marly,” Penny said.
“People would ring up and say, ‘is Marly there this afternoon. Oh good, I’ll have an appointment with Graham’.”
But meeting the couple for the first time, it is clear the clinic would have been an entertaining place even without Marly’s presence.
Conversation flows easily with the Hodgsons and half an hour was gobbled up before I knew it.
Most of it was spent laughing at Graham’s range of stories and dad jokes, along with Penny’s redirection.
It is clear Graham is known and appreciated for much more than his humour and hard thumbs.
He spent years as a horse trainer and in a variety of sport coaching roles.
Graham and Penny met at what was known as the International College of Chiropractors in 1978, where they were among the fourth intake of students for the medical discipline.
Graham was a qualified teacher before cramming six years of study into five alongside Penny at the college.
Prior to the late 1970s chiropractic practitioners were trained overseas.
After graduating, both practiced in Melbourne for a few years. Graham went into his own clinic in Hartwell while Penny worked for clinics in Upwey and Glen Waverley while also doing locum work.
“We bought the business, Rich River Chiropractic Centre from a couple who had just started it,” Graham said.
“It had two locations. One in Dr Ahern’s old medical clinic and the other in Gillies St, Rochester.
“That was in 1985. In 2003 they bought the current practice location at 22 Hare St, Echuca.
“We ran clinics for 35 years in Rochester in Gillies St and then Mackay St, and moved into rooms at the new hospital after the flood of 2011.”
About 12 months ago Penny stopped working in Rochester and has acted as administrator for the Hare St clinic.
“We had the clinic for 35 years in Rochester, but I moved into the hospital after the flood of 2011,” she said.
Between the husband and wife team they estimate they have had between 250,000 and 300,000 different heads between their hands, performing manipulations to release tension and pain.
They have also treated pets and stock animals, with Graham having animal chiropractic qualifications.
“It came in handy with my horse training,” he said.
They paid tribute to their many front office staff from across the four decades of operation.
“We’ve had some really good reception staff in both Echuca and Rochester over the years who made our job much easier,” Penny said.
“In Rochester, we were lucky enough to inherit Maureen Kennedy when we bought the business followed by Dianne Robinson who walked in to make an appointment and walked out with a job (at both the Rochester and Echuca clinics).
“Next came Kay Franklin (Maureen’s daughter) and Carole Ciavarella.
“At the Echuca clinic Robyn Dixon was our first receptionist and more recently Julie Rowbottom.
“The unrelated Dianne Robinson and Olivia Robinson have been our longest-serving employees with Di also contributing significantly by keeping the business side of things running smoothly.”
Penny and Graham are big on names.
“We’ve had a number of terrific masseuses for the past six years, with Mel Roberts doing the great majority of that time.”
The pair has always been involved in community activities and that will not change.
Through their two sons, Rick and Nathan, they were involved in a lot of junior sport, basketball, football and soccer, as well as the arts, which Penny also has a passion for (many of her paintings have hung in the clinics).
While Penny will devote more time to being outdoors, her art and volunteering at the Foundry Arts Space, her golf-loving husband has some goals to improve his handicap (currently at eight).
In summing up their professional experiences the couple agreed just being able to improve people’s quality of life was a highlight.
“We’ve been very lucky working with a wonderful group of clients for so long. Probably my one regret is that you can’t fix everybody,” Graham said.
Penny said the couple had seen clients from their childhood through to grandparent status at the clinic and shared a long health journey.
“We just hope now that people will give Tia the chance to continue the work we have done as she takes over the practice and we leave with some wonderful memories of the friendships we have been lucky enough to forge with a wide range of people who have attended as patients over the years,” Graham said.