That's The Point
Dr. John F. (Jack) Lynch
Dr. John Franklin "Jack" Lynch, Jr. has been a life-long friend. Our roots are intertwined in the Coastal Plains of North Carolina. We were compatible and cherished partners in medical practice for a quarter of a century in the Carolina Piedmont yet we were never really intimate personal companions.
Our mothers, Mary Lucy Dupree and Essie Whichard, were both from families that had settled in Pitt County in colonial times. They were raised in adjacent blocks in Greenville and throughout their lives remained the best of friends, though as adults they saw one another only occasionally.
Both attended East Carolina Teachers Training School when it first opened its doors shortly after the turn of the century -- Mother to drop out on account of health, but Mary Lucy to finish and teach for a number of years.
While teaching, Mary Lucy met John F. Lynch, a middle manager for the Erwin Cotton Mills of Durham satellite plant near Dunn in a village named for the company.
It was in Erwin that Jack and his two brothers were born and raised.
He came along about a year before I did in Greenville.
So though we actually spent scant time together while growing up we have ever considered each other much more than just acquaintances.
Jack went from high school to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He started medical school at Chapel Hill, which at the time was a two-year program, and he completed his training at Thomas Jefferson College in Philadelphia.
Finishing medical school after the start of World War II, he enlisted in the Navy and spent several years as a medical officer aboard a destroyer.
After the war, he took pediatric training in St. Louis and at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and then returned to North Carolina and joined Drs. "Brick" Saunders and Kenneth Geddie at The Infant and Child Clinic in High Point.
There he met Betty Simmons, niece of the widow in whose home he roomed, and they married.
Betty was from Rocky Mount, also an alumnus of UNC Chapel Hill, and the daughter of an eastern Carolina gentleman-farmer with large land holdings -- Betty was his only child.
Through his largesse, both before and after his death, Jack and Betty enjoyed a degree of financial independence that few of us depending on a pediatrician's income could match.
Contrariwise I went into the Navy just before World War II started, served almost six years as a line officer in aviation and then went to Duke University School of Medicine after the war.
I went back into the Navy to intern and then stayed in five more years as a Flight Surgeon and aviator during the Korean War.
After the Korean War, I too studied pediatrics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and afterward stayed on their staff for another six years before heading back to the Tar Heel state to practice.
In my search for a practice site, I stopped by High Point to get Jack's advice and he and his partners invited me to join their practice, which I did.
So though we were roughly of the same age and shared long-standing roots, Jack had actually been part of the practice in High Point for eighteen years before my arrival.
As he moved into middle-age, Jack became a courtly southern gentleman of the old school.
Betty, with her beauty, charm and affluence was his ideal help-mate and the epitome of the southern belle.
Rest her soul, she died several years ago at what seemed an early age, but in their halcyon days they made a striking couple.
They enjoyed an active and upper-drawer social life which Edie and I were unable to share by temperament or wherewithal.
We know well their friends but simply couldn't and didn't swim in the same circle.
But Jack and Betty were folk of many parts.
They converted some of their eastern farm holdings to beach real estate, both residential and rental, and ultimately had a palatial second home at Wrightsville Beach.
They were both very active in UNC alumnae affairs, which involved a different set of people and had a life of its own.
In addition, Jack was a sportsman and belonged to a coterie of High Point physicians who particularly enjoyed bird hunting.
And it's this past-time, which brings us to the point of this piece.
Dr. James Gillam, gone now, was a urologist and an active member of the High Point community.
He was also one of the movers and shakers among the physician nimrods.
He had been raised on a farm in adjacent Alamance County that he still owned and helped work the land.
Like many surgeons, he was a work-a-holic and several times a week, after a full day's work in the office and operating room, he drove the forty-or-so miles to his family homestead and would plow until midnight, his fields lit by the headlights of his tractor.
Like many farmers he kept his lands stocked with game birds, and loved to have his friends hunt with him.
Jack Lynch was a regular guest for such shoots.
One day I was making rounds on the pediatric ward when I ran into Jim Gillam, likewise employed.
When he saw me he started laughing, almost convulsively, and said he had a story to tell about one of my partners.
The afternoon before he had held one of his hunting outings and Jack Lynch had been along.
Unobserved by his companions, Jim had seen a covey of quail settle on the far side of a field across which they were walking.
As they approached the spot where the birds were down Jim suddenly froze in mid-stride, pointed one hand at the birds' position and raised one leg behind as in the "pointing" pose of a hunting dog.
The others obviously thought he was putting them on until he lunged forward and flushed the covey.
All were so surprised that none of their several shots brought down a quail.
Jim, of course, threw a tizzy of glee, and telling about it set him off again.
Later that day I asked Jack about yesterday's hunting trip and he just smiled sheepishly and mumbled.
It just goes to show you -- an old dog can teach you new tricks!
May 25, 1996
Back to Medicine index