Over the course of the last 35 years, Dr. Steven Glessner has been a mainstay of the Northern Neck medical community. As a physician, he has been a model of caring, compassion and professionalism in treating his numerous patients. Last Saturday Steve died at the age of 71, a man greatly mourned by all who knew him.
Two weeks ago, I spoke with him in a casual conversation at the grocery store. He said he had enjoyed being retired the past five years, adding that he had devoted much of his time to the Northern Neck-Middlesex County Free Health Clinic in Kilmarnock. His comments were typical of his nature. Quite simply, he had to be helping people, whether striving to make them well, or comforting them in their final days. Some patients came to see him as more than merely being their doctor, entrusting their financial and estate matters to his careful supervision and scrutiny as well.
As a physician, Steve never gave up on any patient. An elderly friend of our family went through years of many health problems, all the while thinking of him as giving her the best possible quality of life. She made it to 94, thanking him for every step of the way across the span of her later years. At Bay Internists, where he practiced, at the hospital, at the free health clinic and in passing in the public square, his patients uniformly came first.
Steve grew up in Warsaw and graduated from The College of William and Mary with a major in biology. He then matriculated at The University of Virginia Medical School, where he graduated in 1977. He did his residency in Internal Medicine at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, and spend 10 years in the U.S. Navy, during which time, he often liked to say, as a battalion surgeon, he spent a total of one week onboard a ship. When he left the service in 1987, he joined Bay Internists in Kilmarnock where he remained until retiring in 2017.
When not caring for his patients, reading was one of Steve’s favorite pastimes. He especially like non-fiction; enjoying learning more about what had happened in history to him was pure fascination. He remembered everything he read, precisely as he could recall every nuance of a medical situation. He was one who never stopped the learning process. I told him that he had become somewhat patriarchal in his retirement appearance, letting his beard grow longer, making him all the more looking like the sage that we all knew him to be.
In retirement, traveling became a big part of his life. He joined the Extra-Milers Club, an organization of members who shared the common goal of visiting every county in the United States. He knew the number of counties in each state, and methodically set about to see as many as he could, checking them off as he went. He also became interested and dedicated to the care of injured wild animals. He volunteered to drive damaged wild animals to the Virginia Wildlife Center in Waynesboro and liked to follow up on their progress toward recovery.
Steve’s passing from this world is another of the ironies of life. This man, who gave himself totally to the nurturing of peoples’ health, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack without drawing on the concerns of others for his own healthcare and well-being. His was a remarkable journey, leading by example and inspiring by his lifetime of doing good deeds. Through it all, he was continually happy.
Steven Frederick Glessner, M.D., August 16, 1951- June 18, 2022. R.I.P.