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Dr. George L. Sheppard Jr. 1938-2012

Dr. George L. Sheppard Jr.

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July 16, 2018

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July 16, 2018

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December 31, 2012
I found a way to honor my brother George in a column I write called, "Havin' My Cotton-Pickin' Say." He'd appreciate being remembered. And like an old oak, he'd want his roots exposed. For all that George became, and all that I am and ever hope to be, we owe to the resourceful, spirited, God-fearing Ridgeland sharecroppers who were our ancestors.
One legacy they left us is their adventurous nature. Therefore, I dedicated the first column to Sheppard spunk.
Here's George's account, which was recorded in Winchester during the huge snowstorm surrounding Valentine's Day 2003. I paraphrased the story somewhat:
Granny and I had caught crawdads to go fishing with. We cut strong cane poles and made some professional looking gear, then walked to this swampy spot. Granny threw her line in hoping to catch a big one, but quicker than hell can scorch a feather a hungry four-foot alligator hiding in the bushes slithered into the water and pounced on that crawdad. When she jerked the line, it was already too late.
The alligator thrashed and dove. The more she pulled, the more the gator reared back like a wild horse, almost causing her to lose her footing. Must've been a 100 lb. test line on that pole because it never broke! But they say luck favors the prepared… and we were always lucky.
Well, Granny just pointed the pole straight at that gator and backed up until she drug the sucker clean out the water and up the bank.
Then she told me to high-tail it home and bring Uncle Johnny back. I gave her this ten-year-old's words of wisdom, “If you get any slack in that line, Granny, you better drop the pole and RUN like the devil's after you!”
She said, “No, I ain't neither! I'm not about to give up this good pole.”
‘Bout that time, the gator whipped his tail around and hissed at her. She sounded like Forrest Gump's girlfriend yelling, “Run, George, Run!”
And I did, too--like a scalded dog--to get my strong Tarzan-type uncle, who pounced on that gator like the gator had pounced on the crawdad. Ahead of his time, he came prepared with duct tape. I helped him wrap the tape around that guy's mouth a few times so he couldn't open his jaw.
Still straddling the alligator, Uncle Johnny motioned to me to get a big ol' rock he'd spied. It took all my strength to pick it up, but when he told me to bash the gator in the head, I DID it. I hit the blame thing so hard I smashed his skull in. With one solid blow, we made The Crocodile Rock famous before Elton John sang about it!
Needle-nose pliers rescued Granny's hook, line, and cork. (Gotcha. Thought I was gonna say sinker, didn't you?)
Phew-wee! After that ordeal I knew I never wanted to wrestle one of those puppies. I did pitch a fit to take him home, though.
Once convinced, Granny grabbed the croaker sack we'd brought to tote home anything we might catch or pick along the way. We maneuvered that sack over the alligator's head and down past his hind legs, then secured him by wrapping the fishing line all around his mouth and body and darned if we didn't drag that thing home for supper.
It's a delicacy now in the finest restaurants on Hilton Head Island, but I'm positive no better tasting gator ever crawled out of Great Swamp than the one we caught and fought, hog-tied and deep-fried on that hot August night in '48.
----------- Long before Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, drew a breath, George, Granny and Uncle Johnny set the pace. How glad I am to have that kind of gumption swimming around in the gene pool to tackle the gators in my life.
January 16, 2012
Dr. Sheppard was the greatest doctor I ever met. He truly cared for his patients.
January 15, 2012
Margie's Renaissance Man

Henry Ward Beecher said, “The great men of earth are the shadow men, who, having lived and died, now live again and forever through their undying thoughts. Thus living, though their footfalls are heard no more, their voices are louder than the thunder, and unceasing as the flow of tides or air.” If you knew George, you know this statement is true.

How do I encapsulate a lifetime of brotherly love? Being fifteen years my senior, George crossed the line many times bordering on fatherly love. He reprimanded this baby sister quite regularly and sent me to the corner to sit in Daddy's big chair. “The Chair” punishment convinced me that, among other things, George invented the time out.

Then as the years passed and our Dad died, George persuaded me to attend college in Virginia so he could “keep an eye on me.” He believed that the eye was the “window to the soul.” Right, as usual, because when I goofed up, he saw through my eyes and through my lies all the way to my soul. Simply no pulling the wool over that guy's baby blue “windows to the soul!” Oh, the sermons he delivered during my liberal thinking, beer drinking, buck-naked streaking Sweet Briar days.

And yet… George was my “Google” before the Internet, my confidante before I had wise friends, and my best cheerleader, whatever my endeavor. He showed me the meaning of perseverance, resourcefulness, mercy, kindness, integrity, temperance, humility, humor, hope, and happiness. As the twig is bent, the tree's inclined, and so it was with me. I learned to love and enjoy life to the best of my ability from his book, the one he lived, The Joy of George.

I loved my big brother the moment I was born, and I love him now and every minute in between. He gave a meaning to my life that I had no right to expect, that no one can ever diminish. And he gave me a sister whom I adore.

Margie calls George her Renaissance Man. And she is right on the mark. He was a cultured man who acquired profound knowledge and proficiency not only in medicine, but also in a wide variety of fields including hunting, fishing, cabinetry, brick masonry, and dancing. He even took up golf after retirement and, of course, won first place in the old Geezer tournament. I bet you didn't know this, but in certain circles, George is known as The Canasta Masta. He and my husband took great delight in stomping Margie and me during our semiannual grand championship tournaments at Hilton Head Island and Chesapeake Bay.

Because of the years and the distance between us, I cherished my George time. His words were filled with instruction, encouragement, and wisdom. He made every occasion more special with his presence and with his words. I feel his presence now and I hear him saying these words, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” But I also hear George exclaiming, “I left at the top of my game, Janet, just like I wanted… with my boots on. I couldn't ask for more.”

The love of my life until he gave me to my husband, George assumed the role of grandfather to our children, because he knew the importance of that influence… and of influence, in general.

Today I see George Sheppard in the role of George Bailey. Being able to know the difference he has made in all of us as he sojourned on earth. Being told by the Almighty, “You see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
January 13, 2012
Margie-we feel so blessed to have known George-however briefly. We grieve with you and your daughters. We will miss George's laughter, and you, on Feb.5 Lisle & Jack Hooper
(Jackson, WY)
January 11, 2012
Joan and George Hanna send our prayers and deepest sympathy to your whole family. We keep and cherish many fond memories of your Charlottesville days.
January 10, 2012
Thinking of your whole family on this memorial service day as you go through this difficult time together. I have good memories of the 60s and 70s in Winchester that include your family, and the good memories are the ones that rise to the top to stay. Have peace in your hearts and give thanks for George Sheppard.
January 09, 2012
Mrs. Sheppard my heart goes out to you and your girls and their families. Memories live on forever!
January 08, 2012
Margie, there are no words to express the sorrow I feel for you and your wonderful family. John and my thoughts and prayers are with you at this most difficult time.
January 08, 2012
My thoughts and prayers are with Dr Sheppards family. I worked with him for over 10 yrs at WNC. He was truely a devoted Dr and wonderful and irony man.
January 08, 2012
Dr. Sheppard was a wonderful person & doctor. My Dad was a patient of his in 1985. I know my Dad wouldn`t have made it if God hadn`t sent him to WMC & Dr. Sheppard. My thoughts & prayers for your Family at this difficult time may God comfort each.

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