Dr. Richard T.C. Wan retires after 48 years of service to Butler County
A crowd gathered at the BCHS Commons area on Friday night, December 27th, to pay tribute to a man that has become a community fixture since arriving in Butler County in 1966. Dr. Richard T.C. Wan will retire from his medical practice on January 1st. He has practiced medicine in Butler County for the past 48 years.
Dr. Wan was born in Tokyo, Japan, and graduated from the National Defense Medical School in Taipei, Formosa in 1961. He served as a resident and intern at Veteran's General Hospital in Taipei, Formosa, and at St. John's Hospital in New Brunswick, Canada. Dr. Wan arrived in Morgantown in 1966 after a pediatric fellowship at the University of Louisville hospital.
Wan was recruited to open a practice in Morgantown by the late Richard Moore, after he saw the need for another doctor in the county. According to the speakers on Friday night, Wan has far surpassed the expectations the county had for him upon his arrival.
Friday night's tribute was emceed by Shirley Allen, of Morgantown Care and Rehab, who has worked closely with Wan since his arrival in the county. Other speakers included Morgantown Mayor Linda Keown, Butler County Judge-Executive David Fields, Butler County Schools Superintendent Scott Howard, Rep. C.B. Embry, Jr., Paul Freeman Annis, David Hocker, Clara Mathews from Butler County Head Start, Iris Moore, and Donna Embry.
The opening invocation was by Brother William Sutton, Jr. Sutton blessed the gathering, and told how honored he was to take part in the celebration honoring someone who has done so much for Butler County.
Judge Fields presented Dr. Wan with a certificate of appreciation from the Butler County Fiscal Court, then shared a personal story of how Dr. Wan helped his granddaughter. Fields said that granddaughter Ashton Fields had a lingering illness as a child that would only show symptoms sporadically. According to Fields, Dr. Wan vowed to figure out what was wrong with the child, and worked tirelessly until he accomplished just that.
"He stuck with it, and got her well," said Fields, "She's in medical school now, I like to think that's part of the reason for it."
Paul Freeman Annis moved the crowd to several bursts of laughter with his stories of Dr. Wan, the Wan family, and especially Wan's brother Allen. Annis finally got serious recalling what he did for members of the Annis family.
"When my little brother got ran over all the doctors said he would die," said a tearful Annis. "Dr. Wan wouldn't give up on him, and saved him, and he lived another six years. That was six years we would have never had with him if not for Dr. Wan."
Annis also told how Dr. Wan worked to first diagnose, then treat his son when he was stricken with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Clara Mathews, from Butler County Head Start, presented Dr. Wan with a certificate of appreciation, and an application to be a foster grandparent. She then told of how valuable Dr. Wan has been to the Head Start Program.
"Our kids all love Dr. Wan," said Mathews. She said that his annual Christmas visit with Santa to Head Start was always a highlight of the year. "Every year Cindy calls in the early fall and asks how many boys and how many girls we have, and then right before Christmas they show up with all those presents."
Stories of Dr. Wan's dedication to his medical practice, his employees, and the people of Butler County filled the evening. David Hocker told of how his father, the late A.C. Hocker, used to drive Dr. Wan to make house calls throughout the county. Superintendent Scott Howard told the audience that he tried to count the number of free sports physicals Dr. Wan had given Butler County students over the years, but lost track. "It's literally in the thousands of students that Dr. Wan has helped," said Howard.
One of the lighter, but more touching speakers was Iris Moore, one of Dr. Wan's longtime employees. Moore said she had one obstacle to overcome when she went to work for Dr. Wan.
"He didn't know how to talk," said Moore, "I couldn't understand a thing he said."
Moore said that Dr. Wan worked hard to learn English after coming to Butler County, and that in very little time was able to talk to his patients and his staff.
Superintendent Howard spoke of being one of the 'clinic kids' who often went to work with his mom, Bonnie Howard, when she worked for Dr. Wan. He also told how his mom had a baby and made a profit thanks to Dr. Wan.
"When I was born my dad was in the military, so they paid for everything. When my little brother, Heath, was born Dr. Wan handled everything, and delivered the baby, and paid mom $25."
Dr. Wan's Nurse Practitioner Donna Embry was one of the final speakers of the evening, paying tribute to Dr. Wan on behalf of current and former staff members. She told how over the years Dr. Wan has become not only her boss, but a good friend and mentor. She credited him with supporting her throughout her studies to get her Masters Degree in Nursing, and then to become a Nurse Practitioner.
"He didn't get mad when I went back to school. Instead he supported me. After I became a Nurse Practitioner he taught me a lot. He would tell me things I did wrong, but never talked down to me or yelled at me," said Embry. She closed her remarks near to tears, saying that she would miss working for Dr. Wan, but mostly she would miss him as a dear friend and trusted colleague.
"Butler County is losing a wonderful doctor. I'm losing a colleague, and I will miss that," said Embry.
Dr. Wan took to the podium on Friday as the final speaker, and was met with a long standing ovation. Speaking briefly he thanked the people of Butler County for welcoming him and his family, and for supporting his practice throughout the years, and shared some facts about the Wan family in America. According to Dr. Wan his great-grandfather came to America in 1860 to work on the Union-Pacific Railroad. He said his grandfather worked in San Francisco during World Wars I and II, and his mother and father, Henry and Doris Wan, immigrated to the USA in 1956.
In closing he said, "I love you all. This retirement is just in my head, it's not in my heart. My heart will always be in Butler County. I will never forget you."
Special music was provided for the evening by the ensemble of: Mary Alice Black, Elaine Daugherty, William Sutton, Jr., and Doug and Teresa Odle. A special musical presentation was made by Dr. Wan's daughter Julia Gehringer and grandchildren Kyle, Joey, and Rachel Gehringer. Kyle performed one of Dr. Wan's favorite songs, the Elvis classic, "Love Me Tender" and was then joined by sister Rachel in performing "You'll Never Walk Alone." The Gehringers then led the audience in singing "My Old Kentucky Home."
The evening closed with more special music. David Hunt led the gathering in singing "Old Lange Syne" as a final tribute and farewell to Dr. Wan. However it was Paul Freman Annis that had the last word on the evening.
"This is not goodbye to Dr. Wan, this is just until we meet again," said Annis.
Story by Joe K. Morris, photos and video by Jeremy Hack, Beech Tree News