Long before there was Medicaid for the poor, and decades before politicians began arguing over the Affordable Care Act, there were two places in York where anybody who was sick could see a doctor.
There was the office of Dr. Greer “Bill” Hiott, And there was the cramped basement of First Presbyterian Church, where “Doc” – who survived the horrors of World War II combat, along with his nurse wife, Jeane – set up a well-baby clinic right across the hall from the church gymnasium.
So it seemed fitting that Monday’s memorial service for Hiott, who died Friday at 89, took place in that church gym.
The place was filled with the people of York who remembered when Hiott was the town doctor. Hiott was the doctor for sick kids at the York Place home for boys, for the well-to-do – and everybody in between.
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But Hiott was not just a doctor until his retirement about 20 years ago. He was the guy who, during segregation, treated whites and blacks the same when so many tried to keep the races apart.
Daughter Eunice Hiott Blain told the crowd about how her father understood “the injustices of segregation” after surviving World War II, and forever after would treat all people with the same love and care.
“My daddy treated everybody in his practice,” she said. “He pushed against the boundaries of injustice, which was not easy in a small town.”
She spoke those words in the church that her father so loved, and where he treated the poorest mothers and children who had no other place to turn.
For two decades – the turbulent 1960s and ’70s, before there were “social services” to help the neediest and the rural poor – Hiott and his wife and the church’s clothing and food ministries, staffed by other volunteers, were York’s social services.
Hiott was the doctor who treated the poor, farmers and mill workers who did not have money to pay him.
The Rev. George Chapman recalled that when some proud and tough father or mother told Hiott that there was no money for treatment, “Doc” would just say, “Jeane and I have all we need.”
He treated bar-fight fractures and mill-machine maulings. He set broken arms and more. He even fixed a lot of broken hearts.
When York had tiny Divine Saviour hospital decades ago, Hiott served on the board of directors and helped with patients. If somebody was sick anywhere west of Rock Hill among the rural York County backroads in a time before highways and health insurance, Hiott found them and helped them.
He was lauded Monday for service to the community.
Blain, said it plainly and wonderfully: “My father believed in being just in all things to all people. He believed it was his duty and his honor to make people feel better.”