OBITUARY of WILLIAM ORMISTON
Dr. William Ormiston was born in Bovina, Delaware Co., New York 14 March 1866, the son of James Graham Ormiston and Rebecca McFarland Ormiston. William died 31 March 1932 in Delhi. This obituary is not dated, nor is the name of the newspaper available, but the funeral service was held at the Second Presbyterian Church on a Saturday afternoon, probably 2 April 1932.
Newspaper article from Allan Davidson, Lowell, Michigan; transcription by Mary Curtis, Kirkland, Washington, February 2002.
Dr. Ormiston was a great uncle of Allan Davidson and a first cousin three-times-removed of Mary Curtis.
Doctor Ormiston's Death Saddens Whole Community
After every means which medical and surgical skill could suggest had been exhausted, supplemented with scientific hospital treatment and faithful nursing, Dr. William Ormiston of this village, yielded to disease contracted no doubt in line of his professional duties, and passed to his eternal reward early in the morning of March 31st.
Multiplying words will not increase the credit to which he is entitled for self-sacrificing devotlon to suffering humanity throughout this whole region. His career was conspicuously successful in acute diseases, where prompt and often heroic measures were necessary to wrest patients from the clutch of death and restore them to health. He was generally right in distinguishing between a "grunter" and a really sick person and applied the appropriate remedy-either ready advice or strenuous treatment. In the case of serious illness his untiring devotion never yielded to personal discomfort or fatigue. He has been known to rise from his comfortable bed in the early hours of day to answer calls which necessitated such haste that he rushed to the distant bedside of a stricken person in the dead of winter with nothing for his personal protection except his night-clothing, overcoat and slippers, driving his own car or horse as occasion required. Many a person critically ill with pneumonia or suffering a relapse after temporary relief from acute attack of this or other disease has been brought back to health through his praise-worthy efforts.
Doctor Ormiston was born in the town of Bovina March 14, 1866, a son of James G. and Rebecca McFarland Ormiston. He attended the Walton High School and completed his education at New York University.
After receiving his medical degrees he located at Bloomville and continued residence there for one year, in 1889, since which time, covering a period of 42 years, his life work has won for him lasting gratitude.
Doctor Ormiston did not stop for rocky roads, hills or storm-swollen streams; snow or ice, mud or dust; but traveling on foot, by wheel, sleigh, or gasoline vehicle-having narrow escapes from imminent death from accidents-he verily gave his life for the benefit of his neighbors and friends-for his patients were all his friends.
Very fortunate in winning for his help-meet, Miss Della St. John, a former Downville girl, they were married October 14, 1896. Two children, Robert St. John and Miss Wilmot came to complete the home circle, all surviving him, together with one brother, James L. Ormiston of Oneonta; one sister Mrs. Jane O. Scott of Patterson, N.Y., several nieces and nephews, and one grandson, William St. John Ormiston.
Doctor Ormiston was honored with many responsible positions, including the presidency of the county medical society, physician to the county jail, the county alms house, the county T-B sanatorium; he was a director of the Delaware National Bank; and always actively interested in all enterprises looking to the betterment of public affairs, despising deceit and hypocrisy, giving expression to his distaste for sham in no uncertain terms, thus exerting an influence more effective than much speaking.
Not alone in his professional practice nor in his social contacts did Doctor Ormiston win respect, but he was an outstanding lover of nature-flowers and the trees of the field were a source of joy to him-not superficially but they were a means of diversion as he studied them from the standpoint of a botanist. So also was his insight into the habits and instincts of dumb animals. Like the late John Burroughs, he understood the birds and beasts of the fields and woods. He made pets of horses, dogs, cats, squirrels, pigeons, pheasants, and other game life, and even established a "trysting place" with an untamable partridge a few years ago-it knew his voice, came from the bushes and accepted food from his hand from time to time as he drove along the country highway. He was especially skillful as a trout fisherman and active in the local fish and game club.
The electro-photograph herewith produced (not included in this online version) is from the most recent likeness of Doctor Ormiston in possession of the family. It is a characteristic pose when he was happy with his pets, and therefore indicates his pleasure when relaxation was taking his mind from the strain and stress of intensive care of patients. To his intimate friends this picture is "true to nature," as he was a real admirer of the lovely things of nature. [Note: The photo shows Dr. Ormiston with a bushel of puppies.]
The funeral services were conducted Saturday afternoon at three o'clock from the Second Presbyterian Church, the pastor, Rev. Orville O. Bosley, officiating. An attendance of nearly 400 persons at the service and a profusion of beautiful floral tributes gave evidence of the universal esteem in which the doctor was held. The body was placed in Woodland vault to await interment.
Among those in attendance at the funeral were several members of the medical profession from both Delaware and Otsego counties, relatives and friends from many nearby places, including Wendell Ormiston of Monticello, and Dr. Ralph Scott of New York, both nephews of the deceased.
The following poem by Edith Tatum, entitled "Country Doctor," was handed to us by an admirer of Dr. Ormiston:
He calls no hour of day or night his own.
Through heat or cold he goes his rounds alone;
Here, bring some mortal into being,
There, to ease some soul that must be fleeing.
He listens earnestly to tales of grief,
Forgets himself that he may give relief
To bodies suffering, or tortured minds;
In service to all men his pleasure finds.
May God forever bless him with His grace,
For when he goes, oh, who will take his place?
The funeral sermon by Mr. Bosley is reproduced below:
In the general make-up of the socia1 life of every community there is much that reminds one of a beautiful tapestry of skillful weaving. The weaver takes a number of scattered and unrelated threads, deftly weaves them in and out, across and under, and puts them together according to his design plan. He brings a finely wrought tapestry which has a definite outline, clear-cut figure, and so tells a story to him who chances to look at it. What gives meaning and significance to the design in this piece of weaving is the presence of a few important threads, and the way the weaver uses them. These few threads are seen to be central and outstanding; they bind the rest into a unity and hold them in place. They run through every part of weaving, they underlie and form the framework of the whole pattern. Around them the weaver gathers his lesser threads to complete his design. If one of these central threads is torn out of the tapestry, immediately the entire piece of weaving suffers; its pattern is disfigured; its design is marred, and its beauty destroyed.
The life of people in every community resembles this piece of weaving. Every social group put together in some kind of pattern. And the threads that go into its weaving are the men and women who live within the boundaries of that group. Their lives, like threads in the tapestry, cross and re-cross, go out and in, and so form an intricate net-work of relationships. And, always it is true, some men stand out with marked prominence and in bold relief; their personality is felt in every part of the social fabric. They are the central units around which the rest of the community life is organized. They touch the lives of their fellows with such directness and power that their lives become identified with the life of the community. Because of the quality of their work and. their high degree of usefulness these few men become so intimately bound up with the life of their social group that this group cannot be thought of apart from them. When one of these men is removed said taken away, the entire community feels the loss; the whole group suffers, and the pattern of that social life is torn arid disfigured. Everyone knows of his going, and feels the loss to be personal. For, his going is not just one more person dropping out-his removal affects the lives of every home he has touched. A vast, empty space is left in the life of that community.
Dr. William Ormiston was such a man in Delhi and in Delaware county. Not long after his graduation from medical college, Dr. Ormiston came to Delhi and began his career as a practicing physician. This was forty-two years ago. He applied untiring industry and eagerness to the work of his profession, and soon became known as one of the most reliable and trustworthy in his noble calling. His chosen work in life, the work of restoring physical life and of healing the human body, was to him something more than a matter of daily routine it was an art, and to its furtherance he gave all that exclusive devotion and sacrifice of self which is demanded by any art. During the space of over four decades, Dr. Ormiston went in and out among the people of this community and throughout the whole of Delaware county, ministering to the sick and diseased, bringing relief to the infirm and aged. He has been in almost every home in this community, almost every family in this neighborhood has at some time or other known the touch of his personality. His life was like a connecting thread running from home to home. He slowly, but steadily, worked himself into the very inmost heart of this people, he became a vital part in this net-work of social relationships. He became intertwined with the deepest life that moved in the people of this county. He is known far and wide in these valleys in the Catskills; he occupies a high place in our esteem. And now that Dr. Ormiston has left us, the entire community feels the weight of his absence. The sorrow of his passing is not limited to a small company of relatives and friends, but it is general and wide-spread. Hundreds of people have learned of his death with as much sorrow and pain as though one of the family had taken.
Shortly after he was stricken with the illness from which he did not recover, I called to see Dr. Ormiston at his home. For more than an hour I sat with him in his sick-room; our conversation was about many things in a more or less general fashion. Finally, I said to him, "Dr. Ormiston, I wish you would tell me some of your experiences as a young doctor in this county in the days when you were beginning your work." Then, without hesitation or affectation, the Doctor began to tell me some of the trials and hardships he had gone through during the course of his long life as a physician. I listened with intense eagerness and admiration. He unfolded to. me one of the most beautiful stories I have ever heard; he uncovered to me a life that was touched with the heroic. How he had walked miles over muddy roads to see a patient dangerously ill; how he had driven by horse-and-buggy among these hills visiting his sick friends; of the times he had ridden horse-back through rain and flood to see that a patient was mending, or to be present at the bed-side of a man who was fighting for his very life with disease. These were the incidents that the Doctor told me about. Through all kinds of weather and by means of all manner of conveyance, the young doctor made his way to the places which needed him.
As Dr. Ormiston went on, relating to me these and other incidents of his experience, there came to my mind one of the most splendid verses in the New Testament. This verse is a part of the sermon Peter preaches on Jesus. In this sermon Peter says, referring to the life of his Master as He had lived Palestine, He was a man "who went about doing good." This verse fits the life of Dr. Ormiston. It is the most apt characterization, the best summary, of his life. It is the most fitting tribute to his life. He, too, was a man who went about doing good.
This is why the people of this community love and honor Dr. Ormiston; he was one of these rare and occasional men who have the capacity to give their lives in utter service for the good of others. Whatever human interest or need appeared in this neighborhood was pretty sure to receive attention. To consider and spare himself never became instinctive. But swift responsiveness and a kind of spend-thrift generosity were two most beautiful faults. His deepest satisfaction was to employ all his years adding to the joy and happiness of others.
All of you here in this audience can bear testimony to the truth of these statements. You have known Dr. Ormiston in your homes as a worthy physician and as a true friend. You can speak from experience that this is so. He has come to your home to give medicine to a sick child, or perhaps to set a broken limb, or to quiet a raging fever. Through the driving rain and sleet, he makes his way to the bedside of one of your loved ones who is critically ill; he gives him treatment, and then he remains to watch the, crisis out. In the cold hours of the winter's night he hastens to the room of another stricken with pneumonia, that he may help stay off the approaches of death: Unmindful of his own comfort and disregarding his own feelings, not thinking of his personal inconvenience, he came at your call, and was within reach of any who had need of his services. He did all this not counting the cost to himself, and he did it without show or display, or that others might notice it. His was an "out-going, giving-out" life. He poured out his own life's blood for the sake of others.
The life of Dr. Ormiston I say, was the life of one who went about doing good He waged relentless war against the forces of disease and death, against all that brings physical pain and suffering to the bodies of men. His one interest, his supreme joy, was to release a man from the torture of pain and from the anxiety of dread and anguish. He was ever in the front line of the battle defending men and women and little children from the hurts and wounds that flesh is heir to. He spent the whole of his life banishing sickness and driving out those forces that make for physical misery.
And now he has been taken from us. His life has removed from our midst. All of us mourn his passing, we grieve at his going. But why shouldn't we mourn? To see a beloved friend stricken down and taken away from us is sufficient cause for sadness. Dr. Ormiston still lives in our memories and imaginations. We can still see him going in and out among us. We remember his instinctive kindness and quick sympathy, issuing from a tender heart eager to relieve distress and to ease pain. We remember his alert responsiveness to all suffering, his genial patience and good humor when beset with irritating circumstances. We think of him as a friend who was interested in our need. He truly was "a friend-at-large." And to know that he is gone leaves an aching void in our hearts.
But if we knew that his life ended with physical death, what a real cause for grief we would have! If we knew that his life had ceased forever, what a reason we would have for genuine mourning! If we were convinced that all human life comes to a conclusion at the gates of physical death, what a hollow mockery and what a brutal jest our world would become! But our religious nature, our faith in the Christ of God, knows that death does not end all. To the Christian, to the person whose trust is placed in the redeeming love of God, death is but the door that opens from this world into the next. He is persuaded, with the Apostle Paul, that a life of such high usefulness, as was that of Dr. Ormiston, cannot be holden by the power of death. Death cannot bring down such a life in humiliation and defeat. The Christian is saddened by the loss of his friend and companion, but his sorrow is softened and his grief is assuaged by his faith in the promises of the Christ of Israel. His bereavement is made bearable, his loss is lightened, because he knows that in the hands of the Blessed God there are no mistakes, and that in Him, all as made pure. A worthy life does not perish. In spite of incertitude and fear, there is a part of our nature that knows this: somewhere out beyond mortality's frontier human life goes on. Our friend lives on in that world of spirit which is beyond the confines of time and space.
The person who is acquainted with the infinite love of God remembers these words from the lips of the Lord of Life: "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." And again, Jesus said, "Because, I live, ye shall live also. I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever believeth in Me shall never die."
To the one whose life is rooted and grounded in the love of God, these verses of Scripture are not merely beautiful words strung along together; they are something more than lovely poetry. They are the very words of life itself. And the Christian is persuaded of their lasting truth. All fine and useful living goes on forever in that greater life of God.