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William Joseph "Bil" Firth III, PhD., MD

Obituary
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Firth, William (Bil) Joseph III, PhD., MD.
Bil, a kind and introspective man, passed away on January 11, 2014 after completing his stride to the top of Thunderbird Mountain, a hike he frequently trekked. He spent the final moments of his life doing what he loved. Bil was a dedicated and beloved physician, husband, father, son and brother and will be remembered in the hearts of many. Bil was born on April 24, 1951 to William Firth and Audrea Phillips Firth in Baldwin, NY, the 2nd of five children. He lived the first 14 years of his life in Northport, NY and then moved with his family to Phoenix, AZ in 1965. Bil attended high school at Brophy College Preparatory and then went on to Arizona State University, eventually to receive his B.A. in French after a year abroad. In his junior year of college, Bil spent a year studying French language and culture at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, where he refined his tastes in pastries, baguettes and espresso, appreciated the fine wines and cheeses of France and met the love of his life, Anne Gwin. After receiving his degree from ASU, Bil felt the need to serve humanity. He chose to do this by answering the call of President John F. Kennedy and volunteered for the Peace Corps. He served in Niger, West Africa as a professor of agriculture, teaching locals, in French, the basics of wood and metalworking necessary for high crop production. This experience was truly a defining moment in Bil's life. He saw first hand the difference between the haves and the have-nots, and from then on, dedicated himself to the service of others. In 1976, soon after his return from West Africa, Bil married Anne Gwin and some years later had three beautiful children whom he loved dearly and was so proud. He literally beamed whenever he spoke of them and admitted privately to a bit of bragging. Bil's intellectual curiosity combined with his compassion for the suffering, lead him to a Ph.D in Biochemistry in 1984 and an M.D. in 1987 from the University of South Alabama. But it wasn't easy. Initially Bil approached the biochemistry chairperson about applying for the Ph.D fellowship. His qualifications: a BA in French and a few pre-med courses. Said chairperson almost literally laughed him out of the office, only to invite him to accept the fellowship a year later, all expenses paid and then some. He did accept, and over the next four years published numerous papers in respected biochemistry journals, many as first author. Unexpectedly the spouse of his major professor accepted a promotion that meant relocation. To entice Bil to also relocate, he was offered the opportunity to be the first Ph.D, M.D. candidate for the university, all expenses paid. Yet again Bil distinguished himself, being inducted into the Medical Honor Society Alpha Omega Alpha, elected President of his senior class, delivering the graduation address, receiving the award for best internal medicine student, and graduating among the top of his class. Following medical school, Bil completed his residency in internal medicine at St. Joseph's Hospital in 1990. Afterwards he opened a medical practice in Wickenburg, and continued to provide medical care for the Wickenburg community until his last days. Bil had a special love for the people of Wickenburg and many of his patients were beloved friends. Everyone who knew him saw him as the kind, patient and compassionate doctor that he was. He always strived to provide the very best care modern medicine could provide, but he also knew the meaning and importance to patient care of bedside manner. As a member of the faculty of the University of Arizona Medical School, he tried very hard to pass this along to the students and residents he trained. Over the course of Bil's medical career he received numerous awards, among them awards for outstanding community service and the Training Director's Award in 2013 for outstanding contribution to residency education, University of Arizona College of Medicine, South Campus. Although Bil may have held back his words, he never held back his love. His parents, wife, three children, four siblings and the rest of the Firth Clan were in his heart always. His curious and gentle approach to his family, medicine and life's questions will be greatly missed. Bil is survived by his wife of 37 years, Anne, children Peter Alexander Firth, Lexi Gwin Firth and William Joseph Firth IV, mother Audrea Firth, siblings Gary Firth (Angela), Tom Firth (Susan), Deborah Scannell (Patrick) and Paul Firth (Joelle), nieces and nephews Erik, Nicholas, Matthew, Brennan, Regina, Caitlyn, Branwen and John. He is predeceased by his father William Joseph Firth Jr. Visitation will be from 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm, Thursday, January 16 at Heritage Funeral Chapel, 6830 W Thunderbird Rd, Peoria, AZ. Scripture reading at 7:30 pm. Funeral Mass will be in the Brophy Chapel, 3:00 pm, Friday, January 17, 2014, located at 4701 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ. Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Dr. William Joseph Firth III Rural Medicine Scholarship at Wickenburg Hospital. Contributions may be sent in the memorial scholarship fund's name to the Wickenburg Community Hospital Foundation, 520 Rose Lane, Wickenburg, AZ 85390

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Published in The Arizona Republic from Jan. 15 to Jan. 16, 2014
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