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Weekly 150: Dr. Sidney C. Ray

The Doctor’s Doctor

By Jason Martin
Posted 9/22/20

Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, McKenzie had a selection of doctors with an array of specialties. Our family chose Dr. Sidney Ray. On more than one occasion Dr. Ray saved my father’s life. …

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Weekly 150: Dr. Sidney C. Ray

The Doctor’s Doctor

Posted

Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, McKenzie had a selection of doctors with an array of specialties. Our family chose Dr. Sidney Ray. On more than one occasion Dr. Ray saved my father’s life. Over the years and numerous visits we put our health in his hands.

In later years after his retirement, I walked up to him in a restaurant and he recognized me right away. Without missing a beat, he asked about my parents by name. I gained a greater respect for him that evening knowing we were more than just a patient’s name on a chart.

Sidney Ray was born the oldest of three children in November 1927 in Sullivan, Ohio. His father was in the construction business and ran a hardware store and restaurant. His mother was primarily a homemaker but helped with a kindergarten class.

Dr. Ray reflected on his childhood in a 1999 interview, “We had the advantage of growing up in a small town, and like Huck Finn, we always had a fishing pole in our hand and spent a lot of time at the swimming hole. If we didn’t go swimming every day we felt mistreated.”

His grandparents were farmers and it was while visiting their home he learned to drive a Model T. Ford. The old Ford did not operate like vehicles today; the three-floor pedals were the forward gear, reverse and brake. The throttle and the “spark’ were located on the steering wheel. As the car’s speed increased, the spark had to advance or the Ford would misfire. Visits with his granddad also taught the future doctor about carpentry, electrical work, plumbing and other necessities in construction.

Near the end of World War II, Sidney joined the Navy where he served as a radarman aboard the U.S.S. Hyades. His tour on the vessel took him to China and then to occupied Japan before returning to the states.

As the conflict in Korea took hold, Sidney found himself back in the Asian Theatre. During his two years in Korea, he decided about his future career following a friend’s ruptured appendix.

When he returned stateside, he went to college in the evenings for five years. After earning his degree with majors in science, English and economics, he applied to medical school. He selected the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis, the oldest public medical school in Tennessee.

After medical school, he spent a year as an intern in Roanoke, Virginia before landing in Streater, Illinois to start his first practice.

“I couldn’t take the winters,” said Dr. Ray, “I’d been in the South too long.” With his wife and three children, the Rays moved to Texas. He practiced medicine in the Lone Star State for twelve years. While in Texas, a fourth child was born. When his marriage ended, he began looking for a new area to call home.

He was familiar with Carroll County since he drove through the area numerous times on return visits to see his parents. McKenzie had just built a hospital and was advertising for doctors to move into the area. Dr. Ray was excited at the prospect of a new challenge in a new town with a new hospital. Doctors practicing in McKenzie at the time were Dr. Holmes, Dr. Robertson and Dr. Walker. At age 47, Dr. Ray was the youngest doctor in the county.

His first office was a house trailer attached to the hospital, with the clinic being built the following year. At the time the medical community operated on what Dr. Ray termed “Circuit Rider Medicine.” In McKenzie, he had to schedule certain procedures for the days in which hospital staff would be available; radiology was available on Tuesdays and Fridays; pathology was open on Wednesdays.

In his first year of practice in McKenzie, Dr. Ray met a young radiology technologist, Sharon, who became his wife. With her two children from a previous marriage, the combined number of children grew to six.

In 1983, having a 13-year Naval career and lacking seven years for military retirement, Dr. Ray joined the Tennessee National Guard. In the beginning, he was part of the State Area Command in Nashville, he transferred to the Engineering Division in Martin, then became commanding officer of the Millington Field Hospital in Millington. He later became attached to the McKenzie unit, meeting guard members in Lavinia for physicals.

Dr. Ray retired from the National Guard in 1994, after eleven years of service. Through his affliction with the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, he traveled to diverse locations in California, Texas, Nevada, and other places he would have never visited on his own.

Following in his grandfather and father’s footsteps, Dr. Ray’s long time hobby has been carpentry. Over the years, he renovated his garage into a family room while building a free-standing garage on his property along with a rec room in the basement. He later constructed a home for his parents on his adjoining property.

In later years, he developed a passion for antiques. Their home is accented with antiques that include pieces and lighting accessories from a historical landmark in Ohio along with a carved oaken door from the structure.

He had his grandfather’s bicycle with its wood spokes, cork hand grips and his tools. His pride and joy was a Model A Ford he restored.

During his medical practice, he found a fondness for industrial medicine; he enjoyed trauma surgery where he could take an injured patient and patch him up as good as new.

His former receptionist, Linda Reed, and nurse, Patty Foster, sang his praises for the 20-plus year careers they served with the doctor. They noted Dr. Ray came to town when there was a need for a new doctor. He became the “doctor’s doctor” providing care for the ailing Dr. Holmes and Dr. Robertson. They remembered how he was always even-tempered and did his very best to comfort his patients, even making house calls long after it was no longer common.

In the beginning, he worked many days after being on call the night before, working in the emergency room and delivering babies. Evenings at the clinic sometimes didn’t end until late into the night. He didn’t complain about the hours or the work, he was compassionate and was there to help his patients. Even in retirement, Dr. Ray gave his medical advice to those in need.

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Bill Hargrove

What a nice article about a great man. I was fortunate to have worked with him and his wife Sharon. Sharon was a friend to my mother June Hargrove. So nice to read about them.

Tuesday, October 13