Grace Hospital - History of Our Physicians - (back to History Wall Main Page)
FROM 1907 ANNUAL REPORT
In 1918, during World War I, Dr. Kirksey served in the Army Medical Corps. In 1922, Dr. Jim, as he was known, returned to Morganton to begin private practice. He and Dr. W.H. Kibler opened the first practices in the area centered more on well-organized, well-equipped offices rather than house calls. With the improvement in roads and cars, more sophisticated medical equipment and an increase in industrial accidents, the trend toward office visits and hospital care had begun. Dr. Kirksey practiced medicine for more than 30 years. During that time he served his turn as Chief of Staff at Grace Hospital.
On Nov. 24, 1925, Dr. Kirksey married Dorothy Alderman of Wagram, N.C. They had two daughters: Dorothy Alderman Kirksey and Anne Frances Kirksey (Ervin). Dr. Kirksey died of a heart attack on May 16, 1953, as he was leaving his office at the end of his workday. Dr. Kirksey’s nephew, Jackson (Jack) Bristol Kirksey, served on the Grace Hospital Board of Directors.
COST OF HAVING A BABY IN 1926
Dr. Walton married Anna Warren Lawrence of Granville, N.C., in 1925. The couple had three children: Cyrus Leslie Walton, Jr., Eleanor W. Walton and Mary C. Walton. After his first wife’s death in 1958, Dr. Walton remarried to Loma Lail. Dr. Walton died in 1971.
In 1938, she married Jesse Otho Barbour. The couple had three children. Dr. Barbour died on Feb.10, 1987.
Dr. Ervin married Dorothy
They had two children: Dorothy Kimball Ervin and John Witherspoon Ervin. Dr. Ervin died on March 27, 1973.
Dr. Hairfield served a term as president of the North Carolina Surgical Association. He served on the Grace Hospital Board of Directors and a term as Medical Chief of Staff.
In 1949, Dr. Hairfield married Elizabeth Sue Gaston, daughter of J. Henry Gaston who served on Grace Hospital’s first board of directors. Mrs. Hairfield also served on the hospital’s board.
JACKIE DORN PRUETT
Joseph Mazzola, DO, becomes the first-ever Director of Medical Education at Grace. The residents are able to take two training paths – family medicine or internal medicine. The first class graduated in June 2014. In 2013, GME launched a gastroenterology fellowship program.
Dr. Phifer Set the Standard for Those Following in His Footsteps
Edward William Phifer was born in Lincolnton, N.C., on Sept. 12, 1876. In 1887, his family moved to Burke County when his father became treasurer of North Carolina School for the Deaf.
Dr. Phifer was educated at Davidson College and North Carolina Medical College with further studies at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.
The Hughsons were searching for a physician to collaborate with them in “building an institution of medical service and mercy.
They selected Edward William Phifer, MD, a young man whom they considered of high character and pure motives, and a clear idea of service to humanity.”
Dr. Phifer returned to Morganton to practice medicine and became the first chief of staff at Grace Hospital when it opened in 1906, a position he held until his death in 1939.
Dr. Phifer also served as President of the Grace Hospital Board of Trustees and medical director. He taught anatomy and other clinical classes at the Grace Hospital School of Nursing, and prompted the administration to provide more clinical education and to follow state and national accreditation standards.
In addition to his medical practice, Dr. Phifer was deeply involved in the life of his community. His business interests included serving as President of the Board of Directors of Morganton Hosiery Mills, Vice President and Director of Alpine Cotton Mill and Director of Table Rock Furniture Company (which later merged with Drexel Furniture Company), Morganton Building and Loan and Ross Fabrics Inc. He was an elder of the First Presbyterian Church.
In 1909, Dr. Phifer married Susan Elizabeth Presnell and they had two sons, Edward (Ned) William Phifer Jr. and Robert Presnell Phifer. Both boys followed in their father’s footsteps in their devotion to Grace Hospital.
Dr. Ned Phifer trained as a surgeon and returned to practice medicine in Burke County. As his father had, he served the hospital in numerous capacities including chief of staff, chief of surgical services and President of Burke County Medical Society. Robert Phifer served on the Grace Hospital Board of Trustees, for many years as Chairman of the Board, from 1939 until his death in 1972. He was 62.
His eulogy stated: “He held firm to the high ideals that Grace Hospital should live for service to humanity, should never turn away anyone asking for help if that help could be supplied, should not go into debt, and should keep its contact with the Divine by daily prayers. Never, at any time, did he lose sight of its original conception as an institution for the care of the sick and needy of Burke County.”
Dr. Phifer’s grandchildren continued the family tradition of service to Grace Hospital. Ned’s son, Edward William Phifer III, served on the Grace Hospital Board of Directors and Rob’s daughter, Catherine Elizabeth Phifer (Belton), served on the Grace Hospital Foundation Board and spearheaded the creation of the Phifer garden in memory of her parents.
First Surgeon Hailed from Bridgewater
Joseph Bennett Riddle was born in Yancey County on Sept. 17, 1870. He attended Washington College in Tennessee where he earned a BS degree. In 1889, he graduated second in his class at Vanderbilt University with an MD degree.
In 1899, Dr. Riddle moved to Bridgewater, his mother’s hometown, located on U.S. 70 West, more than 10 miles from Morganton. He traveled on foot or horseback to his patients, and his fee was commonly 50 cents. After completing a course in surgery at Richmond Medical School in Virginia in 1907, Dr. Riddle moved his family to Morganton to be closer to Grace Hospital where he practiced until his death.
Dr. Riddle, Dr. Edward Phifer and Dr. Charles Ellis Ross were Grace Hospital’s first doctors, and Dr. Riddle was the first surgeon. He served as chief of staff and was a trustee of Grace Hospital. He also served for a time as county physician and coroner and president of the Burke County Medical Association.
Dr. Riddle was dedicated to his patients. While on his way to attend a woman in childbirth one night in 1917, he was in a serious car wreck and lay trapped under his car for two hours. When rescued, he insisted on being taken to his patient first before being admitted to Grace Hospital where he remained in serious condition for some days.
In addition to his work in the medical community, Dr. Riddle served on the board of trustees of the Morganton Building and Loan Association, Morganton Industrial Band and Morganton Full Fashion Hosiery Mill. He was a deacon at First Baptist Church in Morganton. He was also the county coroner from 1922-1926.
After Dr. Phifer’s death, Dr. Riddle became chief of staff, and continued an active medical practice until his last years.
Dr. Riddle married Leonora Jane Ray and they had three children; Georgia Ray Riddle, Joseph Bennett Riddle II and Kathleen McRae Riddle (Kerr). Dr. Riddle died on Jan. 1, 1947.
Dr. Ross One of First to Buy Car for House Calls
Charles Ellis Ross was born on June 30, 1861, in the Steele Creek community of Mecklenburg County outside Charlotte, N.C. His father was a casualty of the Civil War. He received his MD from the University of Maryland in 1888 and did postgraduate work at Johns Hopkins and in New York.
Dr. Ross practiced in Belmont, N.C., before moving to Morganton in 1880 to work at Broughton Hospital. He and Dr. Isaac Montrose Taylor were the two physicians on staff and lived in apartments at the hospital. There he met a young nurse, Kate Lenoir Chamber, and they were married in 1891. In 1903, he resigned from Broughton and opened a practice in Morganton. Much of Dr. Ross’s practice was conducted by house call, visiting his patients on horseback or in a buggy. In 1910, he was one of the first doctors in the area to purchase an automobile for his work. In addition to his medical practice, Dr. Ross partnered with pharmacist C.P. Greyer to open the Burke Drug Company which was later sold to Cornwell Drug Company. He was appointed physician for the North Carolina School for the Deaf and served a term as Burke County Coroner.
Dr. Ross and his wife were the parents of four children: Katharine Adelaide Ross, Martha Grier Ross, Charles Hill Ross and Robert Alexander Ross, who became a doctor and noted teacher.
From Street Car Driver to Doctor, Dr. Kibler Served 50 Years
William Herbert Kibler was born in Burke County in 1884. He graduated in 1906 from the University of North Carolina where he worked as an assistant in zoology during his college years.
After working as a teacher at Durham High School, a biology teacher at Guilford College, a street car conductor and a shoe salesman, he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania from which he received his MD in 1914.
Upon his graduation, Dr. Kibler participated in research for the Rockefeller Foundation in Dutch Guiana in South America. Returning to the United States, he practiced medicine in Sevier, N.C., and served as county health officer for the North Carolina Board of Health in Nash County before moving back to Burke County.
In 1923, Dr. Kibler opened his practice in Morganton where he served his patients for 50 years. Through those years, he took a variety of postgraduate courses including classes at Harvard, Cook County Hospital in Chicago and New York Polytechnical Institute.
Dr. Kibler was a member of the Burke County Board of Health from its inception in 1937 until 1973, Chairman of the Extension Division of the University of North Carolina Medical School for Burke County and surrounding counties for 20 years, served two terms as Grace Hospital chief of staff and taught anatomy to nurses in training at Grace Hospital.
In addition, he was president of the Ninth District Medical Society, and for four years, was a member of the North Carolina Hospital Board of Controls. Dr. Kibler was honored as Burke County Physician of the Year in 1956, Morganton Man of the Year in 1959 and General Practitioner of the Year for North Carolina in 1956.
In addition to his medical work, Dr. Kibler was active in the community particularly in his church, First Methodist Church of Morganton, where he served as a life member of the board of stewards. He was Chairman of the Health Committee of the Chamber of Commerce that led the movement to obtain meat inspection in Burke County and served as President of the Morganton Rotary Club.
Dr. Kibler married Lucy Cornelia Bassett of Fort Valle, Ga., on Aug. 9, 1926. They had two daughters: Lucy Maud Kibler and Flora Louise Kibler (Luckhardt).
Grace Opens Departmentof Radiology
Luther William Fred Oehlbeck was born on June 25, 1899, in Clarkson, N.Y. He attended Hobart College in New York and finished his premedical training at Emory University in Georgia in 1926.
In 1930, he earned his MD degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in N.Y. Dr. Oehlbeck was awarded a National Council of Research Fellowship in 1930 to conduct research in pathology. In 1931 he received a second National Council of Research Fellowship for research in roentgenology, named for Wilhelm Roentgen, who discovered X-rays. During the time of his fellowships, he served as Associate Resident in Pathology and Associate Resident in Radiology at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y. He taught radiology at the Rochester Medical School from 1932-1938 while also practicing medicine at Clifton Springs Sanatorium and Clinic. Dr. Oehlbeck and his wife moved to Kinston, N.C. in 1938, where he was the radiologist at Memorial General Hospital.
In 1940, Grace Hospital opened its first Department of Radiology, made possible by the generosity of the Duke Endowment, Arthur Chaffee and Mary Kistler. Mrs. Kistler gave 100 mgms of radium, together with all the necessary accessories for its application, as a memorial to her husband, Andrew Kistler. Dr. Oehlbeck accepted the position of chief of Radiology at Grace Hospital’s newly established department.
Dr. Oehlbeck married Avis Josephine Johnson in 1923 and the couple had two children: Luther William Fred Oehlbeck Jr., who became a pathologist and taught at UNC School of Medicine, and Avis Ann Oehlbeck. Dr. Oehlbeck died on April 14, 1980.