If someone were to ask Ronald Szabo if his chosen profession was influenced by his upbringing, he'd likely say that's only part of the story.
While it's true, his father, Tibor, who passed way in 2006, worked as an optometrist, Ronald says he was drawn to the profession because he wanted to help people but also sought a line of work he enjoyed and would be able to provide for his family.
"I knew (being an optometrist) wasn't something that was going to make you rich but you can be comfortable," Szabo said, who has served as an optometrist since 1967 shortly after graduating from the Indiana University. Most of his professional career has been spent in Portage with the exception of about two years while he served in the Air Force.
Szabo said he briefly considered dentistry but decided to follow in his father's footsteps.
"After I thought about it, people really dread going to the dentist but the optometrist not so much, so I picked that as my profession," said Szabo, 73.
After graduating from IU in June 1967, he took his board exams in August and September of that year and after clearing that hurdle began practicing. About two years into his practice, he was drafted and entered the Air Force.
While he was serving, his father, who at the time had his own practice in Hammond, saw Ronald's patients in Portage once a week and did that until Ronald was discharged two years later.
Ronald had an office in the Portage Mall then built an office on Central Avenue with some partners. By 1979, he built his own building at 3151 Willowcreek Road in Portage.
Szabo said he could have moved his practice anywhere, but wanted to serve Portage. He said while he was in college, sales representatives from companies that sold eye wear frames, said Portage and Crown Point were two communities in Northwest Indiana that really needed more optometrists.
"I chose Portage because at that time, there was only one other optometrist in Portage," he said.
Szabo's son Dean, also decided to become an optometrist. Ronald believes his own long and successful career, influenced his son's decision to pursue the same line of work.
"I think Dean appreciates that (optometrists) can help people plus you don't have a lot of late night emergency calls," Ronald Szabo said. "He felt it would be a good fit for him too."
About 20 years ago, Dean Szabo joined Ron at his practice. Today, Dean now runs the practice his dad started.
Ronald Szabo considers himself semi-retired now. He still works a day or two a week, filling in for other private practice optometrists around the Region or seeing patients at what is now his son's office in Portage.
"It's nice to have something to do a couple of days a week," Szabo said.
Szabo said practicing optometrists must maintain 40 hours of continuing education. He completed some training recently, which means he can practice at least another two years.
Szabo is uncertain whether he will continue practicing after his latest certification is up.
"I'm already good for the next two years, so some decisions will have to be made then," he said. "For now, I'm staying busy and I'm enjoying it."