A few people may remember when doctors made house calls at all hours — day or night, rain, sleet or snow. Those times are long gone, but many folks would not be here today without the services of old-time country doctors like Edgar H. Willard.
Called Doc Willard locally, he practiced medicine in Great Cacapon and western Morgan county for much of the early 20th century.
Willard became known as "The Last of the Country Doctors." Today, his grandson, Edgar H. Willard III, carries on his medical tradition.
Doc Willard's start
The original Doc Willard was born on a farm in Frederick County, Md. in 1887. He was the son of Charles Francis Willard, a farmer and operator of the Willard Hotel in Knoxville, Md.
At 15, Willard graduated from Boys High School in Frederick. He received an athletic scholarship to Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va., and graduated in just three years. Then, he received a medical degree from University of Maryland.
Willard started medical practice in Mount Airy, Md. during the Great Flu Years. The Pandemic of 1918, for example, killed 40 million people, young and old.
As his practice prospered, he married Mary Lou Gittings. The couple had four children; Catherine (Betty), a teacher for many years; and sons Edgar, Jack and William, all of whom were pilots during World War II.
Willard eventually got an offer to be company doctor at Hazel Atlas Sand Corporation in Great Cacapon. He moved his family to a home along the Cacapon River and set up an office in Great Cacapon, where the Baptist church is today.
Doc Willard, as he was known locally, was a great sportsman who loved to hunt and fish.
During his college years, he'd been offered a contract to play professional baseball for the New York Giants, but turned it down to complete his education. In Great Cacapon, he sponsored a baseball team for years.
As a doctor, Willard's specialty was delivering babies, and he delivered hundreds of them. He is said to have never lost a mother.
$1 office visits
Unlike today's doctors, Willard never sent a bill to his patients. Those who could pay were charged $20 for delivering girls and $25 for boys. House calls cost $2 and an office visit just $1.
Willard also dispensed medicine because there were no drug stores in the area.
"I remember the little white envelopes and black pills Doc Willard used to give out to every kid that got the croup," Louise Spring recalled.
"He was rather feisty, but he was a good person," Spring said.
If someone needed him, Willard would get there any way he could. In the winter, he would ice skate to homes upstream from Dam #6 at Great Cacapon. Often in bad weather, he would ride a mule.
"He would travel anyplace, anytime. Often, he was paid with a sack of potatoes or a dozen eggs. He was like a father to me," Bill Lawyer said.
Hazel Whisner Hofe of Great Cacapon remembered that Doc Willard took care of the Whisner family at Mount Nebo.
"He came to the house all hours, day or night, and if it was late, sometimes stayed for breakfast. He was a wonderful doctor and individual," Hofe said.
Willard was also a doctor for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. He had keys to all the call boxes along the tracks. If a patient needed to be transported to a hospital in Cumberland, Brunswick or Martinsburg, he would call the dispatcher from the nearest box to have a train stopped to pick up the patient.
Louise Spring's father, Harry E. Spriggs, was struck by lightning and died in 1936. Spring said Sally Whisner, Doc Willard's granddaughter, showed her the entry in the doctor's logbook where Willard pronounced her father dead. Beside the entry was a notation —"$2.00."
Willard was very involved in the community. He was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club and later became its president.
He was one of the leaders in creating The Pines Hospital for the treatment of children with polio. The Pines later evolved into Morgan County War Memorial Hospital.
During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Willard was superintendent of Berkeley Springs State Park.
He continued to practice medicine until his death in 1953.
Dr. Willard III
One of Doc Willard's grandsons, — Edgar H. (Sparky) Willard III — is today a physician in Florida.
The son of Edgar Jr., he has been a doctor of internal medicine and cardiology at the Winter Haven Hospital for the past 27 years. He is also chairman of the board and a practicing physician at the Bond Clinic, a facility with 45 doctors serving the Winter Haven community.
Willard III's other grandparents were Opal and Gracen Heare, who lived in a house that stood between the courthouse and the old post office.
In his spare time, he likes hunting and fishing just like the first Doc.
Called Sparky by his friends, Willard III was born in 1946 in Morgantown. He graduated from West Virginia University Medical School and interned in cardiology at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
Before settling in Florida, he served two years as a doctor in Vietnam during the war.
The Mid-Florida Medical Service Foundation recently announced a philanthropic endowment in his honor. The endowment was created by Jodie D. Whitney, whose mother had been treated by Willard for 20 years.
Morgan County resident Bill Lawyer may be the only person to have been treated by both the original Doc Willard and his grandson Dr. Edgar H. Willard III.
While Lawyer was in Florida about 16 years ago, Dr. Willard III was instrumental in diagnosing and treating his cancer.
Doc Willard's spirit of dedication and service lives on today in his grandson.