Each year the arrival of Christmas evokes memories of individuals who have done good deeds during their passage through this world. Here in the Northern Neck this Christmas, my thoughts turn to the extraordinary contribution of Dr. Richard Baylor, whose energy, vision, and drive over the last three decades have made the lives of thousands of those in need of health care better by his efforts on their behalf.
Dick Baylor, who died last month, was the founder of the Northern Neck-Middlesex Free Health Clinic in Kilmarnock. After an illustrious career practicing internal medicine in Richmond, he retired to the Northern Neck—he said to play golf, but in reality, to transform the quality of life for the underprivileged and uninsured population.
He recognized the needs of the community, and he began the process of establishing a facility that would enrich the lives of those who had no other resource available to them in seeking medical care. Nearly three decades ago, along with others, he opened an office one night a week in a room at the Lancaster County Health Department to serve those who had no other means of seeking professional consultation and treatment.
From that inauspicious beginning, the clinic has grown into the eminently successful operation it is today, attending to the medical and dental needs of a large part of the populace that otherwise would be going untreated. As a dedicated physician, Dick looked to the total care of his patients, which, as the clinic grew, led to the addition of dental and mental health treatment for the patients.
The clinic has received numerous awards from health care professional organizations, as well as civic and political agencies. In that course, Dick also received many personal tributes and accolades, but his innate modesty always led him to focus on the work of the countless volunteers who have made his vision turn into reality.
Dick was a native of Richmond. After his graduation from the University of Richmond, he matriculated at the Medical College of Virginia, completing his course of studies in three years. He spent several years with the Army of Occupation in Japan, and upon returning, began his practice of internal medicine in Richmond and in Suffolk, the tenure of which lasted 51 years.
After retirement, he moved to live on the water outside Kilmarnock. Throughout his career, he wanted to help those in need of care. He was a great physician, and he exhibited a love of his patients and a profound desire to see them cared for as well as possible. For 17 years, he saw to the needs of those coming to the clinic, blissfully happy to being doing the good deeds that left his many admirers in awe, but never seeing himself as the exceptional human being he was.
Pages would be needed to list Dick’s honors and awards, but the one that is most notable at our local level was the donation by Jones and Connie Felvey of a five-acre tract in Kilmarnock to be a town park named in Dick’s honor. He hoped people would use the park for exercise along the nature trail, and for enjoying the social gatherings that its venue affords.
After the death of his first wife, Nancy, Dick married Betty Wachter, whose late husband, Elmer, also had been an active proponent of the community. Together, Dick and Betty continued to work for the clinic, until he retired at 85 in 2008.
Today the clinic is a bustling, happy place, one that reflects the joy and enthusiasm of its founder in working for better lives for all people. The clinic stands as a monument to the kind and gentle visionary whose tireless labors have made many people able to lead healthier and more productive lives.
Richard Norton Baylor, 1923 – November 11, 2020. R.I.P.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All, with my thanks for the kind comments in letters, calls and texts across the months of this challenging year.