Dr. Chris Sieglitz: serving his community for 50 years


It all started with an offer.

Dr. Chris Sieglitz was born in Vevay, the son of Worth and Lorraine Sieglitz. His grandfather, Opp Sieglitz, was established as the optometrist in Vevay, earning his optometry license in the 1930s and establishing an office over what is now MainSource Bank in the center of town. He also maintained an office in Aurora.

Graduating from Vevay High School, Chris Sieglitz moved to Indianapolis and worked for New York Central Railroad for a couple of years. After spending some time there, he decided that he would accept an offer from his grandfather: Opp Sieglitz would pay for half of his grandson’s college tuition if he studied to be an optometrist. Father Worth Sieglitz would pay the other half.

Chris was the second of four Sieglitz children. Chris’s older brother, Eddie, now lives in Avon, Indiana; while younger sisters Sue and Mary both now reside in Carmel, Indiana.x Chris said that brother Eddie was also offered the same deal on schooling, but he turned it down to pursue his own interests.

“I never thought I’d be interested in optometry, either, right out of school,” Chris Sieglitz smiles. “I mean, ‘Which is better, one or two?’ That sounded boring, but there’s a lot more to it than that.”

Chris Sieglitz earned his optometry license after studying at Indiana University, and his grandfather passed away just 10 days before Chris got his license. That was 1961.

That was a half century ago; and this month local optometrist Dr. Chris Sieglitz is celebrating his 50th year serving Switzerland County and the surrounding area.

He was honored with some surprise celebrations last week, and was the guest of honor at an open house that was held at his office during “First Friday” and coordinated by his office staff: wife Carol Sieglitz, Peggy Yount and Courtney Dayadharum. He also has an associate, Dr. Tom Lisle, who is in Vevay one day a week.

Chris Sieglitz had been working with his grandfather before he got his license to practice independently, and he had his own office space – two rooms directly across the hall from his grandfather’s office.

“The floor was like two floors up, because the ceilings were so high,” Chris Sieglitz said of that first office over the bank. “You went up a flight of stairs, and then there was a landing, then another flight of stairs, just to get to the second floor. I used to have to carry patients up the stairs, the older people. I’d put them in a hard-back chair and I’d carry them up one stair at a time. It boggles the mind for me now. I couldn’t begin to do that.”

Making the decision to return to Vevay and practice with his grandfather was a hard one for Chris Sieglitz, because he didn’t know if he wanted to come back home.

“I didn’t know whether my grandfather wanted me to work with him or not,” Chris Sieglitz recalled. “He said he did, but maybe he was just being kind to me.”

Having a ‘new’ eye doctor in town wasn’t only a big adjustment for the young Dr. Sieglitz, but it was also a change for the people he served.

“My grandfather didn’t charge for eye exams, he just charged for glasses,” Chris Sieglitz laughed. “When I started, I charged $5 for an eye exam, and they thought that was outrageous!”

Chris Sieglitz continued to practice in his grandfather’s office until 1969, when he moved to his current location on the south side of Main Street.

Chris Sieglitz said that his decision to “come down” to street level met with some opposition from his family.

“My uncle was from the old school, and he insisted that professional people did not practice on ground level, street level. They were always upstairs,” Chris Sieglitz said. “It used to be the dentists and all professional people were upstairs in the old days. I asked him what he thought about me moving down, and he said, ‘Oh, you don’t want to do that’.”

When he first started, Dr. Sieglitz said that he had a small metal box where he kept his patient exam cards – laughing at the memory of thinking it would take him forever to fill up that box. Today, 50 years later, one entire wall of his office is filled with patient exam records, and he only has enough space to go back seven years.

He has records on approximately 8,600 patients.


Looking back over his 50 years in the optometry business, Chris Sieglitz says that much has changed. Optometrists can now prescribe drugs and there’s a lot more electronic equipment and field testing and pressure reading devices. He also notes that there are now many more specialty fields in optometry, with many new doctors coming into the profession choosing to specialize in one particular aspect of optometry.

“We are required to have continuous education now, which we didn’t have to do back then,” Chris Sieglitz said. “Now, we have to have 40 hours of continuous education every two years.”

Chris Sieglitz said that early contact lenses covered the entire eye. Because the eye requires oxygen, a person wearing contact lenses could only keep them in for about four hours. Those evolved to hard contacts; and now to soft varieties that are much easier on the eye and the person wearing them.

And what’s it like being an eye doctor in a small town?

Chris Sieglitz said that originally he planned on opening an office in Madison.

“I really didn’t want to practice in a small town, but it turned out that I liked it here, and I still like it very much,” Chris Sieglitz said. “I’m in the country, where I like being. I like living in the country and going to the city; rather than living in the city and going to the country. I love it here. I’m not sorry I stayed.”

In the community, Dr. Sieglitz has been a member of the Vevay Kiwanis Club in the past; and currently is the President of the County Health Board. He also has several hobbies, he enjoys boating and camping as well as photography. He does a little bit of artwork, and also has an interest in computers. “I’ve got plenty of things to do that keep me busy,” he said.

Even with plenty of interests, he still has no plans to retire, stating that he enjoys his work.

“It’s been a nice trip,” he says. “It really doesn’t seem like 50 years. It seems like it just went ‘zap!’ It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Dr. Chris Sieglitz has two sons: John and Steve, both of whom live in Vevay.