Community remembers longtime local doctor

BUCKHANNON — A Buckhannon doctor who practiced medicine for more than 40 years passed away recently at age 96.

Dr. Robert L. Chamberlain died March 29 at Morgantown Health and Rehabilitation Center. Colleagues and former patients remember Chamberlain for his medical practice, his love of golf, his talented singing voice and his generosity.

Susie Talbott was employed as a nurse with Chamberlain for several years and later worked with him in the hospital setting.

“My parents were in a very, very bad car accident while I was working with him,” Talbott said. “It was back in 1974 or 1975. My parents were in the hospital from January and my dad was released in April and my mom in May. The first two to three weeks were touch and go. I was working as his office nurse, but those first two weeks I didn’t want to leave my mother’s side. She was unconscious for 17 days.”

Talbott said Chamberlain allowed her to be with her parents and she did not lose out on her paycheck.

“He came in and checked her every day, even though she wasn’t his patient,” she said. “His daughter came and filled in for me, but he had to do all the nursing duties.
I don’t know of anyone today who would do that.”

An avid golfer, who later recorded his first hole-in-one at age 88, Chamberlain would also take golf vacations twice a  year and close his office while still paying his staff.

“He said, ‘Just because I am going on vacation and want to play golf, it doesn’t mean you all have to suffer,’” Talbott said.

Dr. Joseph Reed said when he was looking for a place to practice medicine, he visited Buckhannon and met Chamberlain, Dr. Huffman and Dr. Harold Almond.

When he came to Buckhannon, he worked with all the doctors.

“We worked together, especially in OB,” he said. “Patients would come in, in labor, and the nurse would ask which one of us they wanted to take care of them. It worked out very well.”

Reed said Chamberlain took great care of his patients.

“He was very good with his patients. The only thing that might have taken precedence over patients was golf,” Reed joked.

Mildred White came to Buckhannon in 1949 — the same year that Chamberlain came to town. Chamberlain delivered White’s oldest son in 1950 and two more children to follow, Mary Jane and Paul.

“He was a good doctor,” she said. “If you called him, he tried to help you if you had any problems. He was always ready to help. Dr. Chamberlain was a vocalist and sang in the Strawberry Festival, weddings and lots of different things.

“He took care of my mother and would stop and see her sometimes when he wasn’t even called. I miss him very much.”

Talbott said Chamberlain had the patience of Job but also liked to squeeze in as much work as possible. She would often have to push him out the door for a baby delivery because he was still trying to see patients at the office.

“Years ago, when self-winding watches first came out, one of his very best friends owned a jewelry store here in town and he had to have one of those watches,” she said. “He bought one, but it wouldn’t keep time so he took it back to Charlie and Charlie checked it out but couldn’t find anything wrong with it. The second time Dr. Chamberlain took it back to him and Charlie said he would wear the watch for a week. It kept perfect time. Charlie said, ‘The only thing I know is you didn’t move fast enough.’ So he gave it up and got a regular watch.”

Another funny story Talbott recalled is that Chamberlain had forgotten to sign her paycheck. She knew where he was playing golf that day and went to the course and waited on a tree stump.

“I held my check out and he signed it as he went by,” she said. “He loved golf. We used to make fun of him because he had these florescent orange balls so he could play even when there was snow on the ground.”

Talbott said that Chamberlain was loved by all the nurses and was very highly respected and adored.

“He was just the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate doctor,” she said.

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