Tribute to Doc Nyce 2011.10.05

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

By TOM SPIESS

As you look around you see a portion of the people whose lives were touched by Dr. Robert Nyce.  

I would imagine that we grew up knowing that physicians were special people in the lives of communities.

For the older generation the names of Doctor Evers, Stotzer, Murbach, Reed, Diccion, Neal, Ebersole, Whitehouse, Elliot, Vogle, Davis and Mertif, conjure up images of the communities that they practiced in.

Robert.nyceI would also guess that if you were from one of those communities, you knew exactly where each of those physicians lived.  

You see, in the America of the mid- Twentieth Century, physicians, like teachers, pastors, and Main Street merchants, were expected to live in their community and participate in the life of their town.

In Fayette, we not only knew where Doc and Ruth lived, many of us were frequent guests.  We were welcomed into their home and into their lives.

Once inside we learned about Buck’s County, Pa., (Doc’s home) and Holme’s County, Ohio, (Ruth’s home), Goshen College, Ocean City, salt-water taffy, Haggi Candy, something called scrapple, and ground cherry pie. (The latter were not Doc’s favorite.) 

We also learned about the importance of family. Biological families, church families and the family of community.

Keep in mind, it was less than 60 feet from their back door to the back door of his office. And there you found the “family room” under the emergency room of the office. 

It was common for the staff to run over to the house to search for Doc, to share receipts, check schedules and anything else that was important on that day.  

Lines became blurred; patients, staff, neighborhood kids, family, friends, the Women’s Club, theater buffs, they could all be found at the Nyce home.  

It was not unusual to stop by the house long after office hours and catch Doc, with his back to the door and the phone within arms reach eating a late supper.  Nor was it unexpected to hear him say, “Ruth, get a piece of…” whatever dessert Ruth had made that day.  “They look hungry!” 

Over four decades, Doc became an integral part of the Fayette community. 

Noted social scientist Arnold Toynbee said that great civilizations arise when its citizens acknowledge and successfully respond to challenges.  

Doc with his friends and fellow citizens adopted that theory for Fayette. 

Here are few examples:

• When the county school board transferred Fayette School District to Archbold in the early 1970s, Doc reminded us that the quality of the school is best indicated by the success of its graduates, not the scope of its curricular or extra-curricular offerings.

• When local citizens complained that a swimming pool was too expensive for a small community to support, Doc & Keith and friends set out to prove the opposite. Not by landing large donations or grants, but rather by engaging friends and neighbors. 

• When Fayette needed a pharmacy, Doc’s efforts helped secure one.

• and when the Opera House needed a hand and a public supporter, Robert Nyce stepped up.

Some might wonder if it was all worth it, if the successes and failures justified the efforts.

That would be your call.  But, consider this:

• In 2008 the Fayette School District received recognition by US News and World Report.

• For nearly four decades, thousands enjoyed and took pride in the community swimming pool.

• While the pharmacy was acquired by a major chain and closed several years ago, you can still purchase flowers and gifts from a locally owned business.

• Two weeks ago a Canadian Organist brought an appreciative audience to its feet with a concert on our rare and vintage Mason & Hamlin Reed Organ and in two weeks we will open of our 39th annual Fayette Artist Series.

Over the years, Fayette honored our Doctor in many ways. We even named a street after him.  

Doc graciously accepted the honors and appreciated those efforts, but I believe what really counted in Doc’s life was the willingness of his Fayette Family to join him in responding to the challenges that faced our community.  

Doc was a part of us, just as we were a part of him. 

That mutual close relationship manifested itself in many ways, but the one that stands out in my mind is Jay’s story.  

You remember that the Fayette and Franklin school buildings were not equipped with elevators to help Jay get to his classes. While we were deficient in elevators and lifts, we did have arms.  

And it was in the arms of Jay’s friends and classmates that a young boy earned an education and grew into a young man who knew that a community cared about him.

Doc and his family profoundly appreciated that.

A while back, Doc reminded me that Fayette would continue long after he passed from this world. While certainly true, we have all been influenced by his life, and his time among us.  

Like George Bailey and Bedford Falls in the 1946 movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, can you imagine what Fayette would be like if Dr. Robert Nyce had never graced this place?

Last Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011, Doc quietly slipped away.

We can choose to fondly remember this special person from time to time, to bring his name up when we need to find comfort in “the good old days.” Or we can choose to get off the sidelines and support those community institutions that improve the quality of our lives and make this place an interesting place to call home. It’s our choice. We can elect to turn off the TV or laptop and go to a concert, or support a community benefit, or share an idea or vision, or to go to church, to love your…or not.  Our choice.

The first option is simply a memory, the latter is a legacy.

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