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A Tribute to Doc Pettey (1922 - 1995)

'I hope Doc's somewhere between Creelsboro and Burkesville on heaven's version of his beloved Cumberland River, the sun warming his back, a gentle breeze cooling his face, a cold beer awaiting in the cooler, and a big old Joe T. "river rat" smile creasing his face. He's earned that, and a lot more.'

Twenty years ago today -- September 30, 1995 -- one of Russell County's most respected and best-loved citizens "slipped the surly bonds of earth...and touched the face of God." Dr. Joe T. Pettey, just plain Doc to most of us, was a Warren Countian by birth, an Adair Countian by heritage, and a Russell Countian by choice.

Joe began practicing in Russell Springs toward the end of 1952 and continued to do so until the day he entered the hospital for the last time, a little over 43 years later. (He drove himself to the hospital, after seeing several patients that day.)

During the twoscore and three years he practiced in Russell Springs, Doc treated uncounted thousands of patients: some by way of prescriptions, some with healing hands, and all of them with compassion and a great deal of humor. If he couldn't elicit a laugh or at least a smile, no matter how sick you were or how much you hurt, it was time to call Kenneth, Edwin, or Buck, pure and simple.

Behind Doc's facade of country doctor and his laughing, prankster persona lay one of the sharpest minds and most compassionate hearts I've ever encountered. He did much for Russell County in his long-time role as a medical professional, but he quietly (frequently anonymously, always generously) gave of his time and resources in other ways as well, considerably more so than most ever knew.

I hope Doc's somewhere between Creelsboro and Burkesville on heaven's version of his beloved Cumberland River, the sun warming his back, a gentle breeze cooling his face, a cold beer awaiting in the cooler, and a big old Joe T. "river rat" smile creasing his face. He's earned that, and a lot more. We miss you, old buddy.


This story was posted on 2015-09-30 07:49:04
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