Dr. Phillip "Phil" Harris Vardiman, DVM, 1915-1968

Chariton & Jefferson County, Missouri



Age: 52

Nickname: Doc

Large Animal Veterinarian

State: Missouri

# of Children: 8 (6 lived)

See below for narratives.
Click on any photo to enlarge.


"Mollie's first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage of a little girl. She kept dressing their youngest son, Phil, in dresses until he was old enough to say, "Am I a boy or a girl?" She wanted a small family since she had been raised in a large family with nine siblings."
Family story passed down to
Michelle Vardiman Fansler by Louise,
Phil's wife

About 1915-1916

Phil (b. 1915) & Ross (b. 1913)


Ross & Phil

Farm Boys

Cornelia & John Thomas Vardiman at far right had
11 children.
Photo taken before 1921 at Richard Henry (Dick) & Callie's

Left Side:
Molly & Miles Standish holding two children (may be Ross and Phil, or some of Richard Henry's children not sure of date)

Middle: Luella May touching shoulders of boy in front, John Peter peeking from back between Lizzie & Fannie

Right Side: John Thomas (beard) & Cornelia (far back white hair)

Rest probably Richard Henry & Callie's family based on writing under photo in Luetta's scrapbook

Miles, John Peter, Richard Henry, Lizzie & Fannie were 5 of 11 Vardiman siblings

Luella May & Callie Smith were sisters who married Vardiman brothers, John Peter and Richard Henry

Miles in his Model T with
Ross and Phil in front

If you recognize anyone please email me: michelle@fansler.us

Phil with dog, Billie, and Ross with guns

Ross, Phil and dog, Billie

Phil graduated high school ~1933

Phil attended Manhattan Veterinary School

Louise and Phil

Louise & Phil Vardiman Wedding Day
15 August 1940

1940 - Left to Right: Louise & Phil, Molly & Miles, Emily & Ross holding June

Phillip Vardiman (1915-1968)

Salisbury, Missouri

Childhood to Marriage (1915 - 1940)

Phillip (Phil) Harris Vardiman was born on 11 May 1915 in Salisbury, Missouri.  World War I was raging overseas the year he was born but the United States had not joined in yet. Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States. 

Phil Vardiman had one older brother, Ross Vardiman.  Phil had a dog that he was very fond of as he was growing up on the farm named Billie. He even operated on Billie and the dog survived.

Phil's grandparents (John Thomas and Cornelia Vardiman) on his father's side were both alive at his birth but they both passed away in the early 1920's when Phil was six and eight years old.

Phil's parent's farm was next to the Carter farm and he knew the kids next door but didn't really spend much time with them.  He was two years older than his future wife and neighbor, Frances Louise Carter (goes by Louise).   They weren't in the same grade in school so they were only aware of each other but that was about it.  Phil went to Manhattan Veterinary School for about five to six years to become a Veterinarian of large animals such as cows and horses.

Phil liked to fish.  His hobbies were fishing and jack rabbit hunting.  He was also very handy and was constantly making changes in every house they lived in.  Louise remembers Phil’s mother, Molly, coming to visit one time and noticed something was being renovated and she said, “He’s at it again.” 

Litchfield, Illinois
Veterinary Practice


House in town

123 East Union Avenue Litchfield, Illinois

Larry in front of house outside town off Route 66.

Phil and Louise Vardiman's Family:

Fargo, North Dakota (1940 - 1942)

Phil got a job working on the faculty at Fargo, North Dakota University for two years.  He worked in the veterinary department opening up dead animals to find the cause of death.  After he had been there one year he sent for Louise and they got married 15 August 1940 in the church parlor in Fargo, North Dakota.  Phil was 25 years old at the time and Louise was two weeks shy of 23. Unfortunately none of the family members could attend because of the cost to go out there.  At that time the typical salary was $75-$100 per month!  The few gifts Louise received at her wedding shower before the wedding are the most special gifts she’s ever received because the family didn’t have much money and it meant a lot to her.

(Interview of Louise Carter Vardiman Robinson 25 July 1998 by Michelle Vardiman Fansler)

Phil and Louise lived in Fargo for one year after they got married then moved to Kansas City in 1941 where Phil substituted at Kansas State University for a man who was fighting in World War II.  Phil taught, did research in veterinary science and also did a lot of autopsy's of large animals.  He was very good at diagnosing what was wrong.  A year later the man came back from his end of service in the army and took back his position. 

Litchfield, Illinois (1942 - 1949)

Phil and Louise decided to go into practice and moved to Litchfield, Illinois in 1942.  Phil was in his own veterinary practice for about nine to ten years.  "That was one of the best things we ever did." (Louise Carter Vardiman Robinson, 21 April 1997)  The family moved out of town to a small country house where Phil Vardiman had his private practice.

The Vardiman family of five lived in a relatively small house off highway 66.  They had a big yard with a cherry tree.  There was also a storm cellar for storing roots from the garden and to escape into when a tornado came.  Phil Vardiman had a large building in the back for his veterinary practice with tables and cages.  Litchfield was in a large milk producing area and much of the milk was shipped to St. Louis and Chicago.  Phil and Louise liked to go fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Phil and Louise had a total of eight children, six of which survived.  They ended up with three boys and three girls. 

Marfa, TX (1949 - 1952)

Larry & Billie in front of House in Marfa, TX

Lab in Marfa, TX

Phil at the lab

Phil with his Texas hat and fresh catch

1952 Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association

Marfa, Texas (West Texas)  (1949 - 1952)

Phil’s health was continuing to fail and the doctor said they needed to get to a warmer climate so they moved to Marfa, Texas in 1949 when Phil was 34 years old.  So Phil decided to work on his masters at Texas A&M.  He bought a hay wagon and loaded it with all the families possessions and hauled it behind their old willie station wagon for the 1500 plus mile trip from Litchfield, Illinois to West Texas. 

Phil got a job at an experimental station in Marfa, Texas while he was going to school for his masters in veterinary science at Texas A&M.  The experimental station was on an old airport.  There was a circular drive with a group of buildings, an old barn, an office which was used for the experimental station and two houses.  One house was for the Vardiman family and the other house was for Phil's assistant.

Hundreds of cattle were dying at that time and autopsy's revealed extremely hard, yellow livers. Phil did research to diagnose the problem.  He began to identify all the poisonous plants the cattle were eating out on the range as the source of the problem.  To help educate the ranchers on what the poisonous plants looked like, Phil built "Poison Hill" as he called it in a garden area in the middle of the circular drive which was about  50 feet in diameter.  He brought in dirt and built a little hill then planted all the different types of poisonous plants that he had identified in West Texas. When ranchers came over Phil would take them out to Poison Hill and show them what the plants looked like so they could better protect their Herfer and Long Horn cattle. Phil mixed up a concoction of poisonous plants and fed it to some cattle a little at a time so they eventually were inoculated so that if the cattle ate the poisonous plants on the range they wouldn't die. Phil did his master thesis on his research on the poisonous plants in West Texas.

House in St. Louis, IL
(1952 - 1956)

"Doc" - St. Louis, IL in 1955

Columbia, IL
(1956 - 1959)

St. Louis, Missouri (1952 - 1956)

In 1952 they moved the family to St. Louis, Missouri where Phil worked for Ralston Purina as a large animal veterinarian.  On their way to Missouri Louise went into labor and had to be dropped off at a hospital in Hays, Kansas where their fifth child was born.  The family lived with Louise's parents, Frank and Grace Carter, in "Kirksville, Missouri for three or four months to recover from Anne's birth in Kansas.  [Louise] had a blood clot in her leg." (Larry and Billie's comments at 2016 Family reunion in Tucson, Arizona at Anne and Ted Kurtz's house.)

Phil and Louise purchased a fantastic, beautiful house in St. Louis on Dale Avenue in Richmond Heights.  It was about one block from St. Lukes Catholic church.  They lived in that house for about three to four years.  While in St. Louis their last child was born, David.

The house was four stories including the attic and basement.  Larry has very vivid memories of the house.  It had a front porch with a big beautiful glass door with beveled edges.  Inside the door was an entranceway and to the right was a settee and a place to hang hats.  On the right beyond that was a stairway leading to the second floor.  Left of the entrance way was a sitting room with sliding mahogany doors that opened and closed like going into a drawing room.  The ceilings on both floors were 14 feet tall with very fancy wall boards on the floor and ceiling.  In the drawing room to the left was a beautiful ornate working fireplace with white enameled columns.  It had a metal cover to keep out the draft when you weren't using it.  There were also big old casement windows around the room.  Beyond that was a dining room that also had big sliding doors between the rooms to petition them off.  The dining room also had a fireplace on one end and big windows.  Off to the right of the dining room was the kitchen or you could get to the kitchen from the front door by going straight down the hallway.  It was a gigantic farm kitchen with a cupboard off to the side and white cabinets.  There was a big screened in porch in the back.

The second floor had four bedrooms and one bathroom.  The front room was a children's room that looked out onto the street where you could see traffic and buses going by.  There was a wooden window seat that lifted up for storage.  In the back was another children's room which Mom and Dad painted the walls black so the kids could write on the walls with chalk.  The other front bedroom had a fireplace as it was above the drawing room.  The back bedroom on that side had fancy cabinets and closets.  The bathroom had a big tub with a shower.  The porcelain sink was from the 1930's or 1940's and had a column as the base. 

There was a very narrow stairway with only one lightbulb from the second to third floor.  It was kind of creepy to go up the stairs but once you were in the attic it was bright with lights and windows in the front and back.  The attic had sloping ceilings and was one big room.  There was storage up there but still plenty of room to ride a tricycle around on rainy days.

The basement had a coal furnace with pipes running along the ceiling that you had to duck under at times.  There was a coal room and the floor was uneven.  There was also a back door that led outside from the basement.

"Dad often changed the houses we lived in.  Our family joked how we always lived in sawdust." (Larry Vardiman, Glimpses of My Childhood, tape #1B)  Phil didn't like eating in the dining room so he cut a hole in the wall between the kitchen and dining room about a foot high and made a table/bar situation.  Half the family would sit in the kitchen and the other half in the dining room to eat but couldn't quit see each other.  Dad did a similar thing in another house in Pacific, Missouri with a pull down table on a pulley arrangement.

Phil did the carpenter type changes in the house and Louise did more of the painting and papering on the inside.  She wanted the house to look sophisticated and wanted a patriotic theme in the front hallway.  She had Larry, who was in his upper grade school years, fifth-seventh grade, paint the ceiling light blue and use a roller with a star pattern to roll on top.  Then they painted the walls burgundy or dark red with blue stripes running vertically up the walls. We "ended up with a front hall that was very unique with a patriotic theme with stars and stripes and red, white and blue." (Larry Vardiman, Memories of My Childhood, tape #2A)

While in St. Louis, Phil worked for Ralston Purina Company.  He worked downtown at the veterinary center before going to the Ralston Purina farm full time.  He did research projects with cattle.  He got an idea from a Swedish man to operate on a cow and cut a hole in the side of the cow and into the stomach and install a pipe with a plug in it.  He could insert feed into the stomach and see how long it would take to digest food. 

"I remember occasionally helping dad when I was out on the farm when he would remove the plug from that cow.  Unfortunately the cow had built up a bit of steam from the digestion and when he would remove the plug it would squirt all kinds of nasty fluid out of the cow as well as all the gases and stinch that came with it.  Anyway that was quite an experience." (Larry Vardiman, Glimpses of My Childhood tape #1B)

Phil also drove out to the Ralston Purina farm for buckets of raw, non-pasteurized milk on Saturdays.  He would take three gallon buckets and put wax paper with a lid on top.  Some milk still spilled so the car always had a spoiled milk smell.

Columbia Illinois, (1956 - 1959)

They got tired of living in the city and decided to move out to a rustic farm in Columbia, Illinois in 1956 where Phil did a lot of fixing up of the place. The farm was on 102 acres of land.  Fifty of the acres was full of trees and sinkholes and had a creek running through it.  It wasn't possible to farm that area but it was great for rabbit hunting.  The other 50 acres were tillable and Phil and Larry put in hay and corn.  Since Phil was still working full time at Ralston Purina Larry did most of the farming.  He learned a lot about repairing farm tractors and equipment.  "It was a real neat experience.  Probably one of the formative experiences of my life to be able to work on a farm like that and to learn how to do things that you just wouldn't get if you were a city kid." (Larry Vardiman, Glimpses of My Childhood tape #1B)

                The land and two story barn were o.k. but the house was in pretty bad shape.  It was a 150 year old log cabin that someone had put electric wiring in it that ran along the ceiling and down to the switch box.  The prior owners had used the kitchen as a barn for their sheep or goats.  The "first thing we had to do was shovel out three inches of goat manure out of the kitchen.  It stunk to high heaven.  After we shoveled it out, washed it down and disinfected it then we painted it the color mom selected, pea green. It looked pretty sad but it was a gigantic kitchen with a big farm table in it." (Larry Vardiman, Glimpses of My Childhood, tape #1B)  There were only two bedrooms in the house.  Their parents used one bedroom and all six children shared the other large room.  It actually had six beds in it! 

                There was no running water or septic system.  To go to the bathroom required a walk about a block long down to the outhouse behind the barn.  Phil put in a pressure pump system for running water and a heater for hot water.  Then he built a septic system from bricks.  Larry remembers helping dig the hole in the ground and standing at the bottom laying bricks for the septic tank.  "It was kind of a strange way to live but that's the way my dad and mom did it and it worked.  They got it built into a nice home." (Larry Vardiman, Glimpses of My Childhood, tape #1B)

                When Phil and Larry plowed one of the fields for the first time it was rather challenging as the weeds were over ten feet tall in one area as that field had probably not been plowed in over five years.  They used an international club tractor which was actually only a garden tractor with one plow.  Since they couldn't see from one end of the field to the other the "first time we plowed that field the way we had to do that was dad got on the tractor and started at one end of the field and I stood up on top of the tractor and looked at the trees at the other end of the field and told him which direction to head because he couldn't see even if he stood up on the tractor… So I had had to stand up on the hood of the tractor and look out across the field and see above the weeds in order to be able to plow the first furrow straight.  Once you got the first one in it was pretty easy after that." (Larry Vardiman, Glimpses of my childhood, tape #2B)

                It typically took Larry about a month to plow ten acres of land with the small tractor.  There was a steep hill behind the barn and the tractor didn't have enough power for hauling large loads of hay and would buck up in front or slip in the mud.  "Grandma Molly Vardiman was visiting one time and I was kind of showing off and I popped the clutch a little bit and the front end of the tractor went up in the air like a bucking bronco and she screamed and about scared the daylights out of me from her scream but then it settled back down and we were ok." (Larry Vardiman, Glimpses of my childhood, tape #2B)

                Phil later bought a John Deere model A tractor with a big flywheel and two pistons.  It made lots of different noises depending on what type of terrain it was on and it just kept on going.  One year rain got into the exhaust pipe and into the oil shortly after Larry had overhauled it in shop at school in Columbia.  When Phil started it up the oil was frozen and it burned up the engine.   

House in Pacific, MO
(1959 - 1968)

Ralston Purina
Research Farm

Phil & Louise Vardiman Family
about 1965

Pacific, Missouri (1959 - 1968)

Phil’s health was getting worse so Ralston Purina gave him a job transfer to a research farm near Gray Summit, Missouri.  It was too far to commute from Columbia so the family once again moved to Pacific, Missouri in 1959. 

They bought a house on a dead end street on the East side of Pacific up next to limestone cliffs.  It was close to a factory that made roofing materials, toothpaste and cleanser using ground up limestone.  It was at the edge of town and in the woods.

Phil died from heart trouble on 23 February 1968 at 53 years old.  Phil and Louise had been married a total of 27 ½ years!

Written by Michelle Vardiman Fansler compiled from interviews of Louise Carter Vardiman Robinson and Larry Vardiman's Glimpses of my childhood cassette tapes

Copyright 2017