Healing Hands

Amish healer Wickey
inspires those he has helped

Many people seek naturopathic therapies
as a popular health care alternative

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(March 2008) – For decades, stories frequently surfaced about a simple Amish man who had an amazing gift for healing sick people. But few could recall his name or where he lived. The story often said he moved from place to place until he finally died.

March 2008 Kentucky & Indiana Cover

March 2008
Kentucky & Indiana
Editions Cover

But according to his loyal followers, the stories are not myth. He is alive and well. In fact, Amish herbalist Solomon Wickey, world renown for his healing abilities, lived for almost 10 years on a farmstead on Scotts Ridge Road in Jefferson County, Ind. In November 2002, he moved to Auburn, Ind., in DeKalb County, where he remains today actively working to help people in need – at no charge.
Wickey, 70, was born in Adams County, Ind., to an Old Order Amish family on Feb. 27, 1938. The Old Order Amish community adheres to the strict literal interpretation and doctrine handed down by their Swiss ancestors of the New Testament of the Bible.
In a book, “Solomon’s Touch: The Life and Work of Solomon J. Wickey,” published in 2005 by author June Naugle, she discusses the life and work of Solomon Wickey, including the trial in which he was accused of practicing medicine in Indiana without a license. Wickey was completely vindicated in the case.
In her book, Naugle explained why Wickey appears to be elusive and hard to contact. She said because of strict Amish customs, Wickey does not use conventional communications devices, such as the telephone; therefore, people looking for him can’t just pick up the phone and call him. They must write a letter.
Because of the Amish rules, he is also not allowed to talk about himself, so he does not give out interviews to media or others. There are no pictures of him. Amish tradition does not allow photography, so he is unrecognizable to anyone unfamiliar with him.
Naugle became a friend and loyal admirer of Wickey after he helped her recover from a serious on-the-job accident in which she nearly died. Her injuries weren’t healing properly, and like others, she had heard of an Amish healer who could help her.
“Solomon has intuitiveness about what’s wrong with people,” she said in a February telephone interview. “He has many ways for discovering what is wrong.” Naugle believes Solomon is guided to the problems by God.
Naugle went regularly to visit Wickey and became friends with him. She said he is a quiet man, but yet, fun-loving. She said he also keeps very current on world affairs by reading and is very intelligent. “You can’t help but be drawn to him.”
In her book, Naugle chronicles Wickey’s incredible and rapid rise to fame. She said that as a child, Wickey had a love for gardening and a desire to help people. As he grew, so did those desires. An avid horseman, he became fascinated with the science of iridology and the benefits of treating ills with natural herbs after he unwillingly attended a lecture one evening in 1976 with his wife, Anna Mae. Wickey thought he could use iridology, in which the iris is examined to find weaknesses or illness in the body, and herbal treatments to better care for his horses.

Jerome Weber

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Jerome Weber is a naturopathic healer
who works out of Columbus, Ind., and
sees people at Miss Vivian’s Herbs
and More in Madison, Ind.

Wickey, amazed with iridology and herbs, began to practice on his wife, 13 children, friends, and coworkers in an effort to gain more experience and more knowledge about the techniques. He went to every seminar, class and conference he could on herbal healing, nutrition and natural healing. Although he put up no signs and did nothing to advertise his gift, word began to spread that he had an exceptional talent for healing people. Strangers began to simply show up at his farm looking for help. Even when he was at work, people would wait for hours for him.
Kayla Dowling, 46, is one of those people who waited in long lines for hours to see Wickey. In the late 1980s when she was in her late 20s, she had been constantly ill. She went to more than 20 doctors, including specialists, who couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. She regularly experienced light-headedness, incredible fatigue, heart problems and other ailments.
“One doctor told me to learn to live with my problems, while another told me to go to a psychiatrist,” she said. “Although I was working as a teacher in central Illinois at the time, I actually began to research disability options.”
Instead, her mother-in-law, who had been to see Wickey and had recommended him to a number of people, convinced her to give him a try. On her first visit, she waited more than three hours, and on her second visit more than four hours.
“The experience was simply fascinating, and a little hard to believe at first,” she said. “He didn’t speak much, but when he did, he was very patient, very open to questions and made it as easy to understand as possible.”
According to her, he was a great listener and never made her feel rushed or as if he had anything on his mind except for helping her. She said he used a combination of iridology, kinesiology, which is a muscle energy technique, and other physical observations to determine the best plan for her. “I wanted to keep up my visits with him because I had immediate results from the herbal supplements he suggested,” she said. “Unfortunately, the distance and time made it impossible for me to do so.”
Dowling now lives in Alabama and enjoys good health. She believes Wickey has an incredible gift for helping people improve their health. “He understands that the basis of health is nutrition; and while his methods may seem unusual to most people, they do work.”
In 1983, an Adams County, Ind., physician Dr. George Merkle filed a complaint against Wickey for practicing medicine without a license. According to Naugle, Dr. Merkle’s patients were turning to Wickey for help with their problems, and “he wanted to shut Wickey down.” The Indiana Attorney General’s office filed charges and Wickey was put on trial in the Adams County Circuit Court. Spectators filled the courthouse during the trial in which Wickey was found not guilty of the charges filed against him.
Dr. Eugene Watkins, N.D., a naturopathic doctor and nutritional expert, was the expert witness for Wickey’s defense. In a February telephone interview, Watkins said he was very nervous during the trial. “I felt like I was being mashed down to the size of a marble because Wickey’s life was on the line.”
Watkins, who resides in Michigan, is a longtime friend of Wickey’s. They met while Watkins was working as a sales person for Nature’s Sunshine, a Utah-based herb company that supplied Solomon with the herbs he suggested to people.
“Wickey has deep and abiding religious convictions,” said Watkins. “His sole intention for working is to see people get well; he is not guided by money.”

Solomna's Touch Book Cover

"Solomon's Touch:
The life & work of
Solomon J. Wickey"
by June Naugle

Watkins, who also holds degrees in biology, botany, biochemistry and plant physiology, owns Pure Herbs LTD, a company that produces liquid herbs. He sells several trademarked formulas Wickey has created. Watkins said Wickey’s immense popularity is because he truly loves people. “You can simply feel his love.”
People have traveled from as far away as Africa, China, Holland and France to see Wickey, said one of Wickey’s close friends who only goes by the name “David.”
When Wickey became ill and was unable to continue seeing people last year, David, who has worked with him for 12 years, took over Wickey’s work. “As many as 100 people a day come to see Solomon,” he said. “Even conventional medical doctors come for help from Solomon. We had an oncologist bring his wife in recently.”
David met Wickey through a friend. For 12 years, he has traveled two days a week from Louisville, Ky., to Auburn to work with Wickey. He said Wickey’s illness forced him to stop working for awhile, but he started seeing people again in January. However, he no longer sees walk-ins who just show up at his door. Instead, he only sees people by appointment on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“If you write him a letter, he will answer it,” said David. “Getting an appointment may take a while, though.”
Don Folck of Bainbridge, Ind., was diagnosed in 2001 with glioblastoma, a hemorrhaging brain tumor. Doctors told Folck that 95 percent of people with his condition die within two years, and the other 5 percent make it to the two-year mark. He went through painful rounds of radiation and chemotherapy and had surgery to remove the tumor. But the tumor always returned. Doctors then told him there was nothing more they could do except keep him alive for a while with chemotherapy and radiation. He went through aggressive chemotherapy, but then suffered a stroke.
“I prayed a lot, and I started to search for other help,” said Folck, 55. “I was desperate to live.”
Two people he talked to recommended he visit Wickey. He tried to get in touch with Wickey, but he couldn’t. Instead, Folck found natural healer Donna Perkinson, a former student of Solomon Wickey’s.
In November 2004, Folck went to see Perkinson at her North Vernon, Ind., shop, Open Minds. “I left after that visit with the one thing doctors had not been able to give me,” said Folck. “That thing was hope.”
Through her use of kinesiology, or neuromuscular sensitivity testing of the body in the presence and absence of any substance, Perkinson was able to put together a plan of action for Folck to follow.
“She put me on this strict diet to get rid of the toxins in my body,” he said. “That diet included nutrition, natural herbs and faith.” He followed her suggestions completely and went back to her four months later. She declared his cancer was gone.
Right after that, Folck decided to keep his scheduled visit with his oncologist, which included an MRI to check the status of his tumor. It was indeed gone. “We were skeptical when we first started out researching this natural healing thing, but now we know it does indeed work,” he said. “I know that only God can heal, but he does use the hands of people like Donna and Solomon to help us.”
Perkinson, 55, is just one of the many natural healers in the area. Another is Jake Schwartz, Wickey’s own nephew who sees people at his home on Scotts Ridge Road in Jefferson County, Ind.
There are a variety of techniques the healers use, including iridology, kinesiology, and energy therapies such as Reikki therapy. Some healers, including Wickey, use what is called a “release” therapy to rid people of disease or illness. In a release, which requires spirituality and a basic faith in God, hands are laid on the ill person and the affliction is “released out of the body.”
Perkinson traveled to Wickey’s home in Madison three days a week for a year to observe and learn from him. She believes naturopathic, or holistic healing, is becoming more acceptable and more popular as people become better educated about it.
“People fear what they don’t understand,” she said. “We simply believe that through proper nutrition the body can learn to heal itself.”
Jerome Weber of Columbus, Ind., is a certified naturopathic healer. He graduated from the Trinity College of Natural Health in Warsaw, Ind. Many of his teachers also taught Wickey. He works with Perkinson at her North Vernon shop and has his own facility in Columbus. He recently began offering his services at Herbs & More, located at 111 Miles Ridge Rd. in Madison. He visits the herb shop twice a month on Saturdays and offers suggestions for people looking for natural remedies. He will also perform an iridology or kinesiology test on people.
“We treat people as a whole individual,” explained Weber, 55. “Instead of treating just the symptoms like allopathic, or conventional medicine, we use symptoms as a path to say something is not working right.”
Weber believes the lifestyle in this country is poisoning people, but if people could be educated about healthier lifestyles, then the body could learn to cure itself. He said preventative health is the main goal of naturopathic medicine.
Weber believes there is resurgence in naturopathic medicine, which is widely popular outside of the United States, because people are looking for other options. “People come because they are desperate for choice.”
During the 1980s, Weber heard about the Amish healer in the area and went to visit him. He watched Wickey work over the next several years but did not become a student of his. “If we all would have been smart enough, we would have been by his side learning, like Donna did.”

Jennifer Symons & Donna Perkinson

Photo provided

Jennifer Symons, a Realtor in New
Albany, Ind., with Schuler Bauer
Real Estate , gets suggestions
from Donna Perkinson.

Gigi Straub, a licensed practical nurse, offers a variety of complementary health services at her Complementary Health, 302 Jefferson St., in Madison. While in nursing school at Ivy Tech Community College, she learned about holistic health care because it was part of the curriculum at that time. Holistic health is actually an approach to life that emphasizes the connection of mind, body and spirit. The goal of holistic health is to achieve maximum well-being where everything functions the very best way that is possible.
Straub began using her massage therapies and other relaxation techniques about 12 years ago as an additional service for recovering patients. “Emotional scars and stress can cause chronic pain,” she said. “People can become bombarded with negativity and their bodies become unwell.”
Because she believes people can use their own energy to heal themselves, she also uses several energy therapies, including Reikki and Integrated Energy Therapy. “Most people don’t believe they can have energy to heal,” she said. “But they can, and it does work.”
She believes people should look for conventional physicians that are open to holistic health care, but she cautions against “self-doctoring.”
“Talk to your doctor, and discuss any herbs you use,” she said. “Conventional medicines and herbs can interact in various ways, and sometimes those ways can be bad.”
Madison’s Tim Palmer, the pharmacist for King’s Daughters’ Hospital Home Health and Hospice Care, believes that naturopathic healing has merit but should be used in cooperation with conventional medicine. In his work with hospice, a service that provides extensive care for terminally ill patients, he has seen both positive and negative effects of naturopathic medicine.
“Many times, we get people who insisted a certain herb would cure them, and it didn’t,” he said. “On the other hand, the overuse of antibiotics by health officials is cheating the body from an opportunity to learn to heal itself.”
He said he has also seen people use faith, which plays a major role in naturopathic medicine, to recover from illness or disease. Recently, a woman who had advanced lung cancer and was referred to Hospice for care insisted God would heal her. She prayed and remained steadfast in her faith that she would recover.
“Her tumor actually shrank, and she was discharged from Hospice,” said Palmer.

• Anyone interested in visiting Solomon Wickey should write to him at:
6308 County Road 43, Auburn, IN 46706. Anyone interested in visiting Donna Perkinson at Open Minds should call (812) 346-1213. Anyone interested in visiting Jerome Weber should call (812) 371-3015 or (317) 883-1100. Anyone interested in visiting Gigi Straub of Complementary Health, should call (812) 273-8991.

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