By Alice Faye Bragg

My private care doctor had a request to make of me, and I said I’d do it if I can. He wanted me to send a farewell message to the readers of my column that I wrote for years in The Charleston Gazette and Gazette-Mail.

To sidetrack just a little bit, I want to say that my doctor is a person dedicated to his medical practice, and I am blessed to have him as my personal care physician. He not only cares for my physical needs, but also is concerned for my mental state and personal cares.

He is one of the old-time doctors who goes beyond the second mile. I wish everyone could have a doctor such as he is, so they could fully trust and depend upon him. We’ve had country doctors in our lifetime that were dedicated and gave themselves completely to their patients, but the way of the old-time doctors seem to be mostly in the past. Dr. James Griffith, I salute you!

There was a doctor in Clendenin that stands out in my memory — Dr. O.M. Harper. He was always there for us, and many older folks have good memories of him. One time, my Daddy went to him for something (many years ago) and he charged him fifty cents. Daddy didn’t have it, so Dr. Harper gave him fifty cents to buy himself something to eat!

Dr. A.A. Smith is a legend. There are babies that he delivered who are named “Arthur” or “Archibald,” and he delivered hundreds of babies in this era. He was such a gentle, caring person. I know personally because he delivered two of mine in his little clinic at Clay. With just a whiff of chloroform, it was almost like having one at home. In fact, a mother could go home in two hours if there were no complications!

When my mother was in labor with me, they called Dr. Smith and he was delivering a baby across the county. Poor, tired Dr. Smith! He came on down to Big Laurel Creek anyway, but remarked to someone with him, “I’m afraid that baby will get there before I do!” He was right — my Grandma O’Dell delivered me before he got there. He was in practice while my children were growing up, and I remember taking Mike to him when he rode his bicycle off the bridge and cut his scalp open.

Dr. Smith prepared his instruments to sew up his head, and Mike was standing up, waiting on him. I said, “Mike, you can sit down.” Dr. Smith drawled, “Yes, sit down, Mike. You won’t have so far to fall!” Clay County is full of stories about Dr. Smith, who treated you even if you couldn’t pay him.

I was intending to write a farewell message to my readers, but wanted to express my gratitude to the medical profession, and the dedicated doctors who are there. I’ve had other doctors also who are special to me, namely Dr. Leela Patel, who was not only a doctor but a precious friend. Dr. Ward Maxson, who is retired, was another one. (Dr. David Ede, you are special too!) There are more, but I can’t name them all. I have good memories of all of them.

To get back to saying “farewell,” it is hard to do to all the friends that I have made all these years. I started writing for the Gazette more than 30 years ago, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

When the past editor, Don Marsh, asked me to send my columns to them, I hesitated. I had been writing for the Clay County Free Press for years, and I told him my writing was so “country” and not suitable for city folk. He replied, “Let me be the judge of that.”

To my surprise, the column became popular, and I received much mail concerning it. I have made many friends that I would never have met otherwise, and I value each one of them. In fact, there are some that I have never met, but we still correspond and I feel very close to them.

There comes a time, however, when it is best to lay things down while you are ahead, and age hasn’t taken its toll on your mind. I will be 85 in a few days, and it is time.

I want to tell all my friends and readers that I appreciate their loyalty to me, and to thank them for the emails, cards and letters that I have received. I hope to meet them in a better place, where there is no pain, tears or farewells. God bless all of you.