When the hungry solider got off the train in Belen in 1943 during World War II and walked into the Harvey House for a hot meal, he never thought this town along the way to war would be his home someday.

But the memory of the Harvey House, Belen and the scenery of New Mexico stayed with Dean Marsh.

Twenty-two years after returning to New Mexico, Marsh is celebrating his years of service to the Belen community as a chiropractor and Mason.

Friends and family are honoring Marsh’s 50th anniversary of being a chiropractor with a reception Sunday afternoon at the Masonic Lodge.

While the public attitude towards chiropractic care has changed over the years and the profession’s techniques have changed, Marsh said the basic principles of helping a person be healthy through the non-medicine philosophy have not changed.

“It is all about the autonomic nervous system,” Marsh said at his office, where he still sees patients four days a week. “It’s a matter of balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.”

The sympathetic nervous system is known as the fight or flight system. When out of balance, it generates raised heart rates, increased adrenaline, and blood flow away from the digestive system.

The parasympathetic nervous system has a calming affect on the body, including the heart rate. It also is related to the health of the digestive system.

Through his knowledge of the body’s nervous, muscular and skeletal systems, Marsh has been able to help people live healthier lives.

“I very rarely use anything except my hands,” he said of his hands with such sensitive finger tips that he can read the patient’s body’s condition. “If it can’t be done with the hands, forget it.”

When a patient proclaimed, “You have just done a miracle,” Marsh recalls he said “No, I’m just the go between. I have the talent of being able to heal others.”

Marsh knows first hand how chiropractic care can help a person. During the years after World War II, Marsh discovered chiropractic care was the only treatment that gave him breathing relief from the asthmatic condition he obtained after being exposed to chemicals during the war.

At a time that such care was perceived to be quackery, Marsh entered into the training for the profession at Lincoln Chiropractic College in Indianapolis, Ind. He took a course of study which included 4,460 classroom hours during nine semesters.

“To this day, I am grateful for the outstanding education and training that taught us to help ourselves as well as our patients,” he said.

Fresh out of college in 1952, Marsh established a practice in Mercer, Penn., in the heart of Dutch Amish Country.

“I really enjoyed working with the Amish,” he said of the culture which made up 25 percent of his business. “Chiropractic care compliments with the Amish religious philosophies.”

Besides establishing a practice, Marsh also met and married his wife of 48 years, Peggy, and the couple began their family as their four children — Bradley James, Gayle, Mardene, Brian Dean and Todd Allen – were born.

When the extreme cold weather of his home state of Pennsylvania was taking a toll on Marsh’s respiratory condition, he remembered New Mexico, and his family decided to visit the area.

“We loaded up the kids and can here for a vacation,” Peggy recalled of the family trip in 1968. “As we drove from Santa Fe into Albuquerque, the setting sun was causing the Sandia Mountain to turn its beautiful colors. One of the kids said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived here?’ That’s when we decided to move here.”

When the Pennsylvania chiropractor came to town in 1968, there was only one other chiropractor, Dr. Llewelyn, in Belen. Marsh opened his office on North Main Street, then moved it to 523 N. 3rd Street.

The Marsh family was well received by the community and soon fit right in.

“Belen has been a wonderful place for our family to live,” Marsh said. “We have been treated well. Through the years we have met so many people during school and church activities and Mason Lodge.”

The Marsh family is active at the Methodist and Episcopal churches and Masons and Order of the Eastern Star.

Marsh is a past master of Beth Masonic Lodge, from 1956 to 1980, and served as De Molay Dad for many years.

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Jane Moorman