Community mourns beloved doctor
by Anna Oakes
The High Country is mourning the loss of a respected physician, student advocate and dedicated volunteer with last week's passing of Dr. William Derrick Jr.
Derrick, 75, of Whippoorwill Lane in Boone, died April 29 at Watauga Medical Center.
Known as "Buck," Derrick grew up in Spartanburg, S.C., where he met and married Liz, his high school sweetheart, according to his obituary. He graduated from Wofford College and then the Medical University of South Carolina in 1965. He served as a captain in the U.S. Army and as a flight surgeon in Japan.
Derrick and his family relocated to Boone in 1968, where he was only the fourth doctor practicing in Watauga County at that time. He served as a general practitioner in private practice for eight years, and in 1976, he was hired as a physician with Appalachian State University's Student Health Services, later becoming its director until his retirement in 2001.
He also served as the team physician for many ASU athletic teams, and for 25 years he helped his wife teach sign language to ASU students, the obituary stated.
"He really set the standard for providing health care to the students and making the students the top priority," said Dr. Bob Ellison, the current director of Student Health Services and a longtime friend of the Derricks. "He truly loved Appalachian in every aspect."
Throughout his ASU career, Derrick was honored as a fellow of the American College Health Association, was presented the Charles Bohman Award (the highest award bestowed by the Southern College Health Association), was awarded the Plemmons Medallion Award at ASU (the highest award in student development) and also received the Alpha Chi Outstanding Service Award (the highest honor given by students).
Upon his retirement, Appalachian State University awarded him emeritus status.
"He truly had a heart of gold. He had a real heart for students at Appalachian," said Dr. Patricia Geiger, who served as Student Health Services director after Derrick and prior to Ellison.
Derrick also had a passion for helping the deaf and special needs populations. Derrick served six terms as the physician to the United States Team for the Deaflympics, caring for deaf athletes all over the world for 24 years. He frequently volunteered as a physician for Special Olympics, gave many free physicals to young athletes in Watauga County as needed and was a medical consultant to the Watauga County Center for Exceptional Children, Mountain Care Rest Home, the Cannon Center and Watauga County Health Department.
He was a member of the Watauga Opportunities board of directors for 25 years and worked with deaf inmates at the Watauga County Correctional Unit. He also loved serving deaf and special needs members at his home church, Mount Vernon Baptist Church of Boone.
Ellison said he and his wife once hosted the Derricks for a month in Nigeria, where they worked with the deaf in West Africa.
"They just had a tremendous impact wherever they went," he said.
Derrick is also remembered for having a keen sense of humor.
"He was good at throwing snowballs in the wintertime -- you never knew when a snowball was going to come across at you," Geiger said. "He was very lighthearted."
Derrick is survived by his wife, Liz; two daughters, three sons and 15 grandchildren.
Funeral services were held on Saturday. Memorial contributions may be made to Mount Vernon Baptist Church or to the Lottie Moon International Missions Fund, in care of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, 3505 Bamboo Road, Boone, NC 28607.
"Our community has lost a wonderful, wonderful friend," Ellison said. "His
impact is going to continue to mean a lot to many people for many more years."