By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Doctors, staff, administrators and other people at hospitals often wear name tags at events, but on Wednesday evening around the flagpole in front of Princeton Community Hospital, everybody’s name tag said the same thing: “Thanks Bill.”
William L. “Bill” Sheppard, chief executive officer of PCH from 1972 to 1995, guided the growth of the hospital for 23 years. He passed away on Sept. 24, and while he had a funeral service, the people he worked with through the years felt it was important to remember Sheppard at the facility he loved so much and worked so hard to build.
“It’s a fact,” Robert E. “Bob” Holroyd said during the Memoriam Service. “No person had a greater impact on this hospital than Bill Sheppard. No one.”
The evening was filled with emotional memories and powerful statements of Sheppard’s incredible impact on the community hospital. Holroyd spoke of Sheppard’s commitment to the hospital, but also talked about his humor. The crowd of friends gathered for the event laughed softly at Holroyd’s mention of Sheppard’s Mercer County session proposal.
“I cannot imagine what this place would be like today if it were not for him,” Holroyd said.
Leroy Stinnett couldn’t imagine it either. “I thought when I came up here that I would remind you about what he did, but when I look around , everyone here knows what Bill Sheppard did,” he said. Sheppard hired Stinnett in 1974, when there was only a central building and a two-room emergency room. He talked about Sheppard’s expansion plans, but passed the podium to Dr. Phil Branson to explain Sheppard’s “extensive hunting trip.”
“I didn’t know I was exactly hunted,” Branson said. “Bill’s tools for recruiting were very simple — his barbecue, the fact that he talked with your wife and his jokes.” that simple plan brought Branson and several other top flight physicians to PCH.
Several times during his remarks, Branson struggled to control his emotions. “This is an example of how we’re a family at Princeton Hospital and I’m proud of you,” Branson said. “I’m deeply grateful to Bill Sheppard.” He spoke of Sheppard’s love for his country, his love for his family and his love for his job. “Bill was a good man,” Branson said.
One-by-one, several friends and staff members approached the microphone and shared their thoughts about Sheppard. Dr. Rowena Chambers said she was pregnant with her second child when Sheppard recruited her. She was anxious about telling her prospective employer about her condition, but when she did, Sheppard responded that he wanted to introduce her to an OB-GYN, and he added that PCH has a daycare center on site.
“I thought: ‘He gets it,’” Chambers said.
The reverend Larry Dyer provided both the opening and closing prayers, read the “Shepherd’s Prayer” (Psalm 23) as his scripture reading and also shared his thoughts on his friendship with the Sheppard family. James Hart, a nurse’s aide in the PCH operating room, accompanied himself on the guitar for performances of Eric Clapton’s “In Heaven,” and Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” The friends at the service joined Hart and Dyer in singing “Amazing Grace” as they held candles in memory of Sheppard.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org