The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

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April 9, 2012

Medical, educational communities remark on the life of Dr. Eddins

Monday, April 9, 2012 — To the younger generations, he may have simply been known as the man with glasses and a bow tie, the one they saw at graduations, scholarship dinners and other affairs — one who helped with their college education.

To older residents, he was known as a man who cared about his community — one who made a mark medically and philanthropically.

Dr. George E. Eddins Jr. was often all of these things and more to the people he came in contact with during his 90 years on Earth. For some of his closest friends and colleagues, their voices were a bit shaky following his passing on Wednesday, but they offered encouraging words about his many contributions to the Stanly County community.

Although his parents were North Carolina natives, father from Palmerville and mother from Kinston, Eddins was born in New York, his father being an investment banker.

Eddins — whose grandfather was Professor E.F. Eddins, an educator who ran the Yadkin Mineral Springs Academy at Palmerville — graduated from Wake Forest University in 1942 and received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. At Cornell, Eddins studied under Dr. George Papanicalaou, inventor of the Pap smear, a test for the detection and prevention of cervical cancer.

Following years of service in the U.S. Navy, post graduate work in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine and his wedding to Elizabeth Matt Eddins, he began his medical practice in Albemarle. It was 1951, one year after Stanly County Hospital opened.

He established the coronary care unit for Stanly County Hospital, began the Pap smear program in Stanly County, helped begin the Stanly County Unit of the American Heart Association and served as medical advisor to the local cancer society for more than 40 years. He began cardio-pulmonary resuscitation training in 1968 and became an instructor and instructor trainer in basic and advanced cardiac life support in 1980, the same year he was named Citizen of the Year by Albemarle Civitans.

Eddins had a nearly 40-year career in Albemarle. He founded Albemarle Medical Clinic, where Dr. Rufus Lefler III continues to practice internal medicine.

Lefler worked with him from 1981 until Eddins’ retirement from Stanly Memorial Hospital’s medical staff in 1989.

“He was a wonderful mentor. I was just out of training. It was the first practice I had ever been with. I really learned a lot from him,” Lefler said.

In a statement released by Stanly Regional Medical Center (SRMC), Al Taylor, president and CEO of SRMC, said Eddins was a “wonderful physician who dedicated much of his career to our hospital and the patients of Stanly County.”

“We cherish the contributions he made during the hospital’s 61-year history,” Taylor said.

Albemarle Mayor Elbert L. “Whit” Whitley has been chairman of the Stanly Community College (SCC) board of trustees for decades. He saw firsthand what Eddins meant to the college and its students.

“Dr. Eddins was the No. 1 ambassador for the community college,” said Whitley, who believes Eddins had a deep appreciation for education and the role SCC was playing.

“He has probably been the single most important person in the scholarship program in moving it forward through the years,” Whitley said.

“He was so valuable to the scholarship program. He contributed many scholarships to Stanly Community College and in doing so he inspired a lot of people to join in and do the same.

“He was always there and always positive and very active, encouraging students, encouraging people to become involved.”

Dr. Michael Taylor was president of SCC for about 15 years and witnessed Eddins’ contributions to the college through his funding and time.  

“The college named a building after him and we also named one of our highest student awards in his honor. But frankly, there was nothing we could do to begin to repay what he gave to our students, the college and the community,” Taylor said.

“The lasting tribute to Dr. Eddins will be what all those students who benefitted from his scholarships — and there are literally hundreds — do in this community and the many others where they live across the piedmont of North Carolina.”

The Eddins Building was dedicated May 18, 1997. The first scholarship at SCC offered by Eddins was in 1989. The college now offers 16 scholarships through Eddins’ generosity, and 196 students have benefitted from these awards, according to Pam Brafford.

Brafford worked closely with Eddins through the scholarship program when she was executive director of the college foundation. She called Eddins a “a very, very special friend.”

“He believed in helping others and supported this community in many ways,” said Brafford, calling him “an outstanding citizen to this community.”

“He shared his life with many of our students at Stanly Community College through our Stanly Heritage Endowed Scholarship Program. It was a joy for me to be with him, as he always had a story to share regarding his family history.

“Today is a very sad day for our college and for Stanly County.”

In addition to his medical practice and interests in education, Eddins served the community through Meals on Wheels, Metrolina Association for the Blind and other organizations.

He also shared his love of horses by providing horseback riding and day camp activities at his farm for children with disabilities.

“He enjoyed having young people and other people come ride the horses,” Whitley said.

“That was just another love that he had.”

In the 1960s, he and his wife donated a 45-acre farm to the Girl Scouts to create Camp Tarheelia.

In 2009, he was recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, one of North Carolina’s highest civilian honors, for his service to the community and state.

Upon his retirement in 1989, Eddins recalled how he has saved a woman’s life by performing CPR.

Eddins said “it was nothing more than knowing what to do, and having the desire to do it” that saved the woman’s life.

Famous for making house calls, Eddins commented, “I have made house calls by boat, motorcycle, airplane, automobile, and even horse.”

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