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Doctor, historian Bing dies at 92
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Dr. John P. Bing, a retired physician and medical examiner who became an expert on local history, died Monday at Stanleytown Health and Rehabilitative Center. He was 92.
Bing “could light up a room. To me, he was the Bob Hope of this area. He had so much talent at what he did and so much humor,” said Doug Stegall, who was among Bing’s closest friends. “He was a true professional, an author, a historian and a giver. He was a wonderful, wonderful person.”
Bing spent 41 years as a medical examiner, more than half that time for Henry and Pittsylvania counties and the cities of Martinsville and Danville, according to a story written on his retirement on Dec. 31, 2002.
He also practiced medicine for several years and worked in the emergency room of a local hospital; was an accomplished author (he wrote “The Hands, A History of Hospitals in Martinsville and Henry County, Virginia”); and was a local historian, according to Stegall and previous reports.
A native of Hope, W.Va., “the first call he had after he got here was to deliver a baby” in a remote section of Henry County, Stegall said. Bing had never heard of the place, but he found it and delivered the infant, Stegall said, chuckling.
Bing tended to leave an impression, said Stegall, who last visited his friend about a week ago.
In Bassett, particularly, “you could just mention his name and people would smile. Everybody there had a ‘Dr. Bing story,’” Stegall said. Years ago, Stegall added, Bing often rode his bike around Bassett, and many merchants “would open the front door for him” to enter, go through the store and then out of the back door — all while seated on his bike.
Pat Ross, director of the Bassett Historical Center, called Bing “an extraordinary man. He was one of a kind, and there will never be anyone on this earth like him. He was not born here and he was not raised here, but he certainly was part of this community and knew everybody.”
“I was one of his young patients” when Bing practiced medicine, Ross said. “I learned that he was interested in history just from talking to him. Little did I know he would teach me” about local history.
Later, when she started working at the Bassett Public Library (the current location of the historical center), Bing sometimes “would bring in a piece of paper — and many, many times, he would bring in several pieces of paper” or prescription pads with information about his patients and their families, Ross said. The notes were added to family files, or new ones were made if needed, she said.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Bing was both the “first and only president of the Martinsville and Henry County Historical Society as long as it remained active,” she said, and added that organization differs from the one that currently exists.
But it was similar and “was made up of people from all over the county who were interested in preserving history,” Ross said. Among the tasks undertaken by Bing’s group was to chronicle the cemeteries — and families — in the county. Two books, titled “Follow the Periwinkle,” Vols. I and II, were compiled and written by the group, she said.
The books are “the way a lot of people find where” their ancestors are buried, Ross said. “And even after those two books were published, he (Bing) would still bring me notes” on other cemeteries that he had found that were not included in either of the books, she said.
“He was a good friend to the center. He brought us historical items to display that people had given him over the years,” she said. Bing “absolutely will be missed. Everybody knew him. We shall miss him at the center and we shall miss him as our friend.”
Wayne Eanes, a former patient, said Bing “was a real unique man. The first time I ever went to see him, I was working at Bassett Industries” and ended up with an eye injury.
Bing treated Eanes, and as Eanes got up to leave, the doctor asked, “Where are you going?” Eanes recalled. He explained that he was returning to work, but Bing told him just to lie down and take a nap. “I’ll wake you up at 10 minutes” before quitting time, Eanes recalled him saying. He “was a real character. ... He had a different perspective on things. He was a pioneer.”
Irving Groves Jr. said he and Bing shared “a business/social relationship” that “tended to revolve around Henry County and things that had gone on in the past.”
Bing “was an authority on that subject. My ancestors came from the Bassett area, and he was always trying to give me a test” on ancestry details, Groves said.
Bing studied at Marshall College, earned a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of West Virginia and a medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia. A past member of the Patrick Henry Medical Society, Paleopathology Association and Clan Ferguson Society of North America, he also was an after care physician for the former Patrick Henry Mental Hygiene Clinic and medical adviser for the former Martinsville and Henry County Rescue Squad. Bing served in the Air Force from 1947-1949 as a flight surgeon.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Bassett Funeral Service.