Dr. George Wallace Brown, beloved family physician of Waynesville, North Carolina, for more than 55 years, who would stop at nothing to treat patients in the more rural sections of his mountain community, even when that required traveling on horseback, died Saturday, July 19, at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital from complications following open heart surgery. He was 85.
Dr. Brown was the epitome of a family doctor and good neighbor. His service to his community spanned medicine and extended to his efforts to provide housing though the Waynesville Housing Authority.
Asked once about community medicine, he said, “The thing about family practice is that it is a celebration of the relationships I have with families I have treated. I am treating their second, third generation of the same family, and I have found this truly satisfying in my career.”
Dr. Brown also campaigned with his father for a $14.5-million bond referendum in the early 70s to build the county’s current hospital facility. He was determined that the community would have a state-of-the-art facility. In 2008 when the hospital lost certification, he was very active in the “save the hospital campaign.”
He and his wife, Meghan, moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 2000 to be closer to the ocean and family members. Even after he retired, despite the distance he continued to stay in touch with his patients.
Dr. Brown was born Jan. 27, 1929, in Waynesville, North Carolina. He attended Mars Hill College, and graduated from Wake Forest College, cum laude. He graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in 1954 in the medical school’s first four-year graduating class, and completed his residency in City Hospital in Akron, Ohio, in 1955.
As a student he would often babysit for his mentor Dr. Isaac Taylor, father of the singer James Taylor. The doctor’s instructions he recalled years later were, “whatever you do, don’t let James out of his bedroom.”
After serving in the U.S. Navy in Japan as a regimental surgeon, in 1957 he returned home to Hazelwood where for more than 53 years he practiced medicine as a family physician. He was instrumental in pioneering the medical practice of delivering babies with an epidural and using anesthesia instead of the traditional ether OB-GYN method in Haywood County. This was a skill he learned serving on the obstetrical staff of the Family Hospital in Camp Lejeune. By practicing this method, he was convinced babies were more responsive and better shaped than babies whose mothers were sedated with ether. He was often considered one of the premier diagnosticians in the area by his patients.
Dr. Brown was appointed as interim chairman of the Haywood County Health Department in 1957, and was charged with dispensing 10,000 units of polio vaccine, ensuring every child was vaccinated.
Making numerous house calls, in the early years of practice he accepted cured hams or vegetables for service. A country doctor, he was also an accomplished cattle farmer. Dr. Brown enjoyed treating second and third generations of the same family over the span of his practice in Hazelwood. In 2002, his son, Dr. Michael A. Brown, joined the practice that exists today as Hazelwood Family Medicine.
Dr. Brown was a tireless servant to the community and to the state of North Carolina. He served on numerous boards and worked passionately to provide adequate housing for Haywood County residents. He was instrumental in the creation of the Waynesville Housing Authority and served as its chairman for 44 years.
He served twice as president of North Carolina Academy of Family Practice, vice president of Haywood County Medical Society for the State of N.C., and he was a delegate to American Academy of Family Medicine, chief of staff of Haywood County Hospital, chief of obstetrics, and served on the Governor’s Council Health Planning Council, the board of directors at UNC-Asheville and the UNC Board of Governors.
He was a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine recognizing his service to the state awarded by Governor JIm Hunt. He was also a lover of history and antiques.
Dr. Brown is survived by his devoted wife, Meghan Ellis Brown, of Martha’s Vineyard, Meghan’s son, Lee Eisenhauer, and her daughter, Elizabeth Eisenhauer, and her husband, Paul Caval, and Meghan’s four grandchildren: Lauren Thomas, Ryan Ropero, Hugh Holborn and Christopher Ropero. By a previous marriage to Eunice Fisher Brown, he is survived by three sons and three daughters and their children.
A memorial service and celebration of life was held at First United Methodist Church of Waynesville on July 26. A memorial service on Martha’s Vineyard will be held at a later date this summer.