Stephen F. Austin State University

An Old Country Doctor and his nurse (September 2018)

An Old Country Doctor and his nurse

by Jonnie Miller

Doctor William Richard Worthy was born on September 23rd, 1874. He began his practice with another doctor in Tyler, Texas in 1901 with only a rope and a pony. His main job at that time was to bring in the livestock for the old doctor in exchange for medical services rendered. Money was scarce so people paid with what they had - livestock, potatoes, peas, shotguns, even a flock of geese were a few methods of payment.

The doctor married Bertha Celesta Shepherd from Tyler County and she soon became his nurse as well as his wife. Bertha had attended San Antonio Normal College for two years before her marriage to Dr. Worthy. To help him in his profession she attended Texas Medical in Fort Worth.

Due to her training and her keen intellect and interest, it was said of that she had greater knowledge than many licensed physicians of her day. During WWI, the Worthy's lived in Jasper and Mr. W. was appointed administrator of surgical dressing rooms in the county as part of her Red Cross work. The rooms were prepared for the wounded in France.

The Beaumont Enterprise recounts a story about the first time she saw a plane. She was on the third floor of a building and was so excited to see it she started to run down two flights of stairs to get a closer look as it landed. In such a hurry, she tripped and tumbles down both flights, finally landing on her head on the cement sidewalk. She never even hesitated but jumped up and dashed on to complete her quest.

Dr. and Mrs. Worthy practiced in Call at least 20 of their 40 years of practice with Kirby Lumber Company. The maintained an office and the drug store in a box car-many times delivering babies deep in east Texas timberlands. His wife, Bertha, once cut off a Mexican laborer's leg that had been mashed in an accident. It had to be amputated to save the man's life. Doc Worthy was on another case and couldn't be there so she had to step up. Bertha often helped by delivering at least 200 babies and often was the one who offered the solace when a death occurred. The doctor sometimes drove a wagon to the general store to purchase a coffin for the diseased. The doc worked in all the area Kirby holdings over the years-Old Call Front, Woodmeyer, Evadale, Voth, Steeple Creek, Village Mills, Bon Wier, Silsbee, and Call.

His wife was the "Town Mother" -always there for those who need her help and the doctor was also the counselor and friend to all.

The doctor died on July 2nd, 1957 at the age of 82 and his wife, Bertha, died on October 9, 1972 at the age of 83. They left one son, Truman, who was born in 1910. The Worthy's are buried in Fairview Cemetery, Town Bluff, Tyler, Texas.