By Angela Reinhardt
“Joe was someone who projected the most extraordinary warmth, and he was able to do that within the context and timeframe of a short medical interview, and that’s something to be envied,” said Dr. John Spitznagel, one of the physicians who helped found Pickens’ free clinic with Dr. Wilber nearly a decade ago.
“We are all grieving,” Dr. Spitznagel added, “I can certainly tell you that.”
Just one week after Good Samaritan Health & Wellness Center hosted a tribute for their founding physicians, the beloved Dr. Joe Wilber lost his battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, passing away Sunday, April 3.
People who knew Dr. Wilber speak of his unwavering compassion and kindness and his unique ability to connect with patients, family, friends and strangers.
They speak of his dedication to public health and his desire to help those not receiving proper medical care, and they marvel at his calm demeanor and warm presence.
“It was easy living with him because he brought those same qualities home,” said Pat, Dr. Wilber’s wife of nearly 60 years. “He never lost his cool, and he was a wonderful example for our children. One of our sons said last night, ‘You know, he never told us what to do. He taught us by example.’ I never realized that,” she said laughing. “I guess I was the one who told them what to do.”
Ellen Holty has gone through the unthinkable. She buried her three-year-old son.
Holty told her story last week at the county senior center as part of the ongoing series taking an in-depth look at end-of-life decisions organized through Affinis Hospice.
A decade ago, Holty, now a Big Canoe resident, had three children––the youngest just 18 months––when her middle child, a son named Pablo, began falling often. So often, she said, that he had what seemed like a permanent welt on his forehead. Following a series of doctors’ visits, her son was diagnosed with a 5-centimeter tumor on his brain stem.
“It was a death sentence. It was terminal. Inoperable,” Holty told the group of 20 attending the series last Wednesday at the senior center on Stegall Drive.
Doctors told her Pablo had six months to live if they opted for radiation treatments, three months without them. With treatment, however, the family would be forced to relocate to a different city, and Pablo would spend many of his remaining days in a hospital.
No significant damage was reported here in Monday night's storm that left destruction across many areas of the southeastern United States.
“We slipped through without any major problems,” said Pickens Fire Chief Bob Howard. “We had a few power lines down. But no injuries or structural damage was reported.”
Howard said they responded to one call of downed power lines on a house that were sparking, but it didn’t start a blaze.
Reports on Tuesday morning were of some areas around Pickens County still without power and lines down in a few locations.
However Chief Howard said the 911 center reported serious “gridlock” from non-emergency calls.
“In Pickens County we did pretty good with the weather, but we did have one problem, residents who wanted to call 911 gridlocked the system. They wanted information on power outages, and even called to ask if we knew anything about Gilmer County,” the chief said.
Howard stressed that 911 is the number to call to report emergencies and nothing else. Power outages, unless you are on medical equipment with no backup, finding out whether a tornado hit Gilmer County or not or generally wanting to know what conditions are like are not emergencies. He termed these “nonsense calls.”
Howard said they logged at least a half-dozen calls of people here seeking information on Gilmer County conditions.
With four dispatchers, Howard said they don’t have time to take power outage calls and provide further information on Code Reds -- the automated phone warning system.
“Last night we got through okay because there weren’t any real emergency calls,” he said. “But if we had a real event, I can see someone dying because they couldn’t get through if we had that many people calling and gridlocking the system.”
Workers arrived Tuesday morning with heavy equipment, prepared to move Bill Sunderland's "Learning is Fun" sculpture from the Pickens Courthouse lawn. The heavy marble statue is headed to the county library to make room for courthouse renovations planned later this year. Lifting the large sculpture proved more challenging than expected that morning. County workers returned later in the day with larger equipment to see the sculpture safely off to the library.
Members of the school board will meet Friday and Saturday to begin interviews of superintendent candidates.
The board is expected to meet both days in closed sessions to interview candidates for the top post in the Pickens school system. They will meet at 4 p.m. on Friday and then re-convene Saturday at 9 a.m. at their conference center on D.B. Carroll Street.
School Board chair Wendy Lowe said Monday they had 7-10 people they plan to interview in the first round. She said they hadn’t really eliminated anyone who applied, but were going to start interviewing with an initial group later this week. She said they may have to extend initial interviews into next week depending on the availability of the candidates.
Lowe said they hope to conduct follow-up interviews the next week and be ready to make a selection by the end of April. She said they still have a goal of having a new superintendent hired by the end of April, but this could be delayed depending on the contract negotiations.
Open meetings law allows public groups to conduct job searches in private until they have narrowed their list of potential candidates down to three, at which time the names of the applicants become a public record.
When asked if she was satisfied with the quality of the applicants, she said, “Absolutely. Any one of them would be well qualified. The challenge will be to find who will do the best.”