By Sherri Coner
Life along Emerson Avenue in Beech Grove was very different 42 years ago when Dr. Gary Billingsley’s office was under construction.
“There was hardly anything else around,” he said. “Most of it was all cornfields.”
In 1984, he was an ambitious 27-year-old chiropractor with a clear picture in his head about the type of office he wanted to provide for patients.
“I wanted it to be comfortable. I wanted it to feel like being at home,” Dr. Billingsley said.
Completed, the waiting area of the uniquely designed building sported wood accents and one wall covered with river rock.
Once the sign was added at the entrance, Billingsley Chiropractic Center, “I felt pretty good that day. Building my own office was my goal.”
While growing up on Prospect Street and participating in several sports while attending Howe High School, a frightening experience shaped his future.
“I woke up one morning and I couldn’t stand up straight,” Billingsley said.
His mother rushed him to the family doctor and a blur of tests followed.
However, no one in the medical community could identify what was going on with the barely 18-year-old high school senior.
“Someone suggested to my mom that she take me to a chiropractor,” Billingsley said. “I was pretty well amazed after the first adjustment. It was fascinating.”
With the decision immediately made about his future, Billingsley graduated from high school and packed some clothes. His destination was Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. Opened in 1897, it is the first chiropractic university in the world.
Once his studies were completed, Billingsley returned to the Southside and leased office space in 1981. The first three years of his career began in that space located on Southeastern Avenue near Arlington.
Meanwhile, Billingsley and his wife, Tammy pinched pennies while planning the office building they hoped to construct on Emerson Avenue.
Proudly, Billingsley still calls 4940 E. Emerson Ave. the location of his office.
Through the years, the couple raised four children, Aaron Hartwell, Kristen Hortrauser, Brookley Billingsley and Bethany Billingsley.
Following in Dad’s professional footprints, Kristen and Brookley also studied chiropractors and went to work with their dad in the Beech Grove office.
When Kristen married and moved, she opened an office of her own on the Northside.
Brookley continues to practice in Beech Grove.
And we can’t leave out the fact that a December birth will bring Dr. Billingsley an even dozen grandchildren.
He limits work hours these days to three days weekly but can’t yet see himself completely retired from the practice he has been so passionate about for more than four decades.
“It’s rewarding to help people feel better,” Dr. Billingsley said. “That’s why I keep doing what I’m doing. I enjoy seeing people feel better.”