Residents of Altona and area had a chance to express their appreciation to a local physician who serviced the community for over 30 years.

A come and go appreciation evening was held on Friday for Dr. Dieter Bueddefeld who, after 34 years of dedicated service to the community, retired from family medicine in December.

Friday's event gave his former patients and fellow staff members a chance to say 'thanks' one last time and wish him well in his retirement.

Elfie Krahn and Marge Bergen. Nurses who worked with Dr. Bueddefeld for over 30 years

"Dr. Bueddefeld has been my doctor for just over 30 years," said Cal Funk. "He's been a very solid part of my experience, someone who has seen me through all sorts of good times and more difficult times. He was always a good shoulder to lean on through life's different events and definitely somebody I could trust."

Born and raised in Winnipeg, and a graduate of the University of Manitoba, Bueddefeld opened his medical practice in Altona in 1984, filling in for the retiring Dr. Stephen Toni. Over those three-plus decades, he worked side by side with many different staff members.

Elfrieda Krahn, who began her nursing career in Altona in 1978 and retired in 2010, said working with Dr. Bueddefeld was a very positive experience for her.

"Primarily because he was a very good teacher who had a lot of patience and was kind to, not just his patients but to the staff as well. He was very easy to work with. From my perspective, he has had a fantastic career and those of us who have spent years working with him are happy that he is able to retire and have good health."

Last spring the community of Altona honoured Dr. Bueddefeld for his years of dedication and service to the community by selecting him as Altona's 2016 Citizen of the Year.

His decades of service have also not gone unnoticed by the regional health authority. Paulette Goosen is an executive director with Southern Health RHA and attended Friday's farewell occasion. Goosen said it's unique across the region to have a physician serve one community over such a long period of time.

"We're very blessed to have had Dr. Bueddefeld for so many years ... and I know we will miss him greatly in the region and I know the community of Altona will certainly miss him. He has served his community well and his legacy will be his kindness, his kind heart, and his soft-spoken way."

Dr. Beuddefeld used his retirement gift to buy the entire Altona Panthers Special O team an afternoon out at a Manitoba Moose game coming up in FebruaryThe good doctor, who said he had always wanted to be a rural physician since he was in high school, jumped at the opportunity to begin his career in Altona. He expressed his appreciation for the support he's received over the years from the community he served for so long. He referred to Friday's come and go night as a reflection of that support.

"It has been invaluable. It has made my career enjoyable. I couldn't imagine making it this far without the support that I've had."

Bueddefeld has tasted retirement for about a month now and according to him, he's making the necessary adjustments to the new lifestyle.

"It's been going very well. I have nothing in the way of a schedule so far. I'm easing into the new role," said Bueddefeld. "I don't have much of a plan right now and I'm going to see what happens on a day to day basis and I'm sure things will fall into place. I'll just play it by ear for now."