WAXAHACHIE — “Carpe Diem,” a compelling phrase for an admirable lifestyle that has been lived by one extraordinary Waxahachie native, who has united the community together through his legacy of virtuosity and friendship.
Titles, such as husband, father, mentor, doctor, and friend, do not merely begin to encompass the incredible man Dr. John Compton is. Balancing a beautiful family and impressive career, many can attest that his life impacted not only the people he interacted with, but every resident found within the 75165 zip code.
Attesting to the integrity and character that Dr. Compton portrayed, many volunteers stepped forward to give their personal account of the doctor, creating a domino effect of profound gratitude and kind accolades.
“I think he’s been here for 61 years and that’s a long time to be a family doctor here in town. He’s just been good for the city, that’s for sure,” said Willie “Skip” Noel, friend and patient of Dr. Compton.
“I always told everybody that I had two good men in my life – my husband and my boss. I love them both,” expressed Linda Beyer, nurse of Dr. John G. Compton General Practice.
“He had quite the humor too! You’d never hear him say a bad thing about anyone. Everybody is his friend, and I’ve never heard him say anything negative,” stated Father Jerry Hill, Priest of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church.
“He’s probably the most positive person I’ve ever met in my life – the most sharing, loving, and giving to anyone and everyone,” conveyed Graham Compton, son of Dr. Compton.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Jan. 21, 1926, Dr. John Graham Compton shook hands with determination and congeniality at an early age, charging with full force into the medical field. From graduating high school as Valedictorian to serving as an operating room tech in the United States Navy, Dr. Compton found himself at Baylor University where he met the love of his life, Evelyn Lynette Stahl, his college sweetheart.
Shortly after they were married, Dr. Compton enrolled in medical school at the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston, Texas, later interning at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Rockville, Maryland. Receiving his well-deserved medical diploma, Dr. Compton graduated in 1954, then moving to Waxahachie with a growing family and a passion for helping.
“He started his practice in 1955 at 201 Ferris, which is where he still lives. It all started there,” Compton began the story of his father’s influential career.
Not only opening his first establishment in Waxahachie, but Dr. Compton also opened his heart to the community, caring for all who crossed his path.
“Back in those days he had his office practice; he made house calls after work, he was on-call at the hospital, which he typically stayed overnight for two or three nights a week, and stayed up all night and worked. Then the next day he went through the routine again,” Compton recalled his father’s dedicated schedule, helping without excuse.
Adding to his catalog of accomplishments, Dr. Compton also served as Chief of Staff at Waxahachie Sanitarium, became the Medical Director at Renfro's Nursing Home, joined the staff of Baylor Hospital, and served as head of the Ellis County Medical Health Department.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to go with him on house calls and on his hospital rounds, which he did daily. From time to time, I got to go. It was nice that he included me with him,” Compton smiled.
Though Dr. Compton’s service is greatly admired, no one revered him more than his family.
“Family life was good, he spent time with us, so when my little sister was growing up, I was already gone, but dad and mom had always been there for me and my sister Debbie. Growing up it was just fun, really fun,” Compton recalled his childhood memories with his two sisters Debbie and Deannie.
“He’s always been a wonderful family man. In my personal situation, rather than a father and son, he’s always been like a best friend. I feel very blessed that I’ve had that since I was a little kid,” he added.
Watching his father closely, just as any child would, Compton remembers the countless moments his dad spent with him, taking advantage of every opportunity to connect with his son.
“Dad was gone a lot cause he worked during the day and made rounds in the evening and morning. He was on call for emergency service a couple of times a week, so he took Wednesday’s off, and then it just depended if he had weekends at the hospital. But when those opportunities were available, he seized those moments to be with family,” Compton explained, reflecting on a unique tradition he and his father bonded over.
“A passion that he had for many years, and it was something that he and I did together. We started hunting when I six years old, as a father and son thing. We’ve always done those things together, and it’s always been a really special opportunity for he and I to spend time together,” he expounded, reminiscing further.
“For my birthday, we would take my friends, and we would go to a relative’s cabin in East Texas and do fishing trips there. Just being outdoors and amongst all our friends and their dad’s has always been a wonderful thing,” he grinned.
Spending quality time together by the lake also wiggled its way into the daily life of the Compton practice.
“I was a typical boy, pretty accident prone,” Compton admitted with a chuckle. “And every Saturday they would wait for me at the office because they knew they’d have to stitch me up or fix a broken bone, or something like that. Dad was always there. He may not have been happy about it, but he was there.”
And the medical visits didn’t stop there as Dr. Compton continued to connect his family with his community family through his practice.
“When I used to go on house calls, he’d come home and pick me up, and we’d go wherever he needed to – he always had his doctor’s bag with him. Typically, I would sit in the car, and he would go in and treat the patient, and he’d come by, and we’d talk about things. I learned a lot about illnesses and things like that from being a kid just sitting in his car,” he said, adding that he shadowed his father on many medical visits.
“I’d go hang out and walk the hallways of the hospital, and I’d stay in the hall while he visited with the patients. Sometimes he’d ask me to come in to meet them, so it enabled me to know some of his patients and be there to put a smile on their face. That was something dad always did - he brought out smiles, tears of joy - he’s just an amazing man,” Compton esteemed his father’s sociable nature.
WORKING WITH PATIENTS
Creating life-long friendships, Dr. Compton carried his refreshing demeanor to restore the humanity aspect of a hospital visit. This was done through his incredible office and staff.
“I worked at W.C. Ternary, and I heard that Dr. Compton was going to hire a nurse for Saturday because his nurse, Merlyn, of a long time, didn’t want to work Saturday’s anymore. I basically went over there and told him I wanted that job.” Beyer laughed, knowing how great Dr. Compton’s reputation was. “I had been working for him for about 25 years, and I loved it.”
Creating an atmosphere of compassion and hospitality within the waiting room, a newcomer might think seeing Dr. Compton was a social event — rather than a dreaded hospital encounter.
“People would come in and look at you and go, ‘What’s wrong with you today? Are you mad?’ That’s if you didn’t hug them or make a big fuss about them,” she giggled. “Our patients would come in, waiting in the waiting area and tell each other their problems – that’s how comfortable they were. I mean, these people knew each other for years, so the environment was one of warmth and love.”
Experiencing first-hand the heart and soul of her boss, Beyer told her favorite memory of Dr. Compton when a very ill man walked through the front door.
“The most extraordinary thing I ever saw was a man that came in on a Saturday. I didn’t have an idea who he was, but I did know he was from out of town. Dr. Compton said, ‘Well, this man is really sick.’ And he knew he wasn’t going to get paid from the get-go, but back then we had an x-ray department and a lab and hey sent all of their patients down there. So Dr. Compton sent him down for blood work and a chest x-ray, gave him a shot of penicillin, and told him to come back to the office the next day - knowing he was not going to get paid,” Beyer explained the situation.
“Dr. Compton didn’t give him a prescription and send him on his way; he treated him with respect and dignity. He treated everybody the same. Dr. Compton still sent him for an x-ray, he still sent him for blood count, and he still gave him the injection, which came out of his own pocket, but he still treated him just like he would’ve anybody else that was paying,” her voice cracked at the sentiment.
“He used to have patients that had no ability to pay, and they might bring him eggs or something homemade – he’s always been easy to work with his patients,” Compton added to his father’s generosity.
Beyer later told that working for Dr. Compton was almost as good as being one of his patients.
“If you talk to any of his patients I think they will tell you they’re apart of our family. Dad isn’t just a doctor. I mean, when people come to see him, he just sits down, and they talk, and it’s just like sitting at the breakfast table having a conversation, and it’s always been a two-way deal. He has such a love and passion for those people that are like family,” Compton expressed.
Adding to the thought, Noel agreed, “We’re friends. I’ve been a patient of his for 45 years or better, and my mother and dad went to him,” he paused. “Doctors are different now, it’s just a different time and different breed, so I don’t think you can really compare him to anybody. He’s just friendly; he’ll talk to you. A lot of doctors just want to get you in and out to make the almighty dollar, but he wasn’t like that,” he shook his head, proud to have been his patient.
“He used to make house calls. In fact, he was going through some stuff the other day, and he found his little bag that he used to make house calls with. If you were sick, you’d call him, and he’d come to your house,” Noel added to Dr. Compton’s unbreakable neighborliness.
In addition to hospitality and medical genius, Doctor Compton was also a man of faith.
“He's my personal primary physician,” Father Hill expressed. “So I was his priest, and he was my primary physician,” he laughed.
MAN OF FAITH
Being a loyal member of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church off Ovilla Road, Dr. Compton took his practice’s joyful atmosphere and transitioned it over for Sunday mornings, welcoming the entire congregation.
“When he first came, I asked him to be a greeter at the door, greeting people as they came in on Sunday mornings. That changed the whole atmosphere at Saint Paul’s,” Father Hill confessed, after taking over the establishment in 1989.
“When I first came to Waxahachie, I took over Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, which is next door to First Baptist Church, the old one. And his wife, Lynette, attended here at Saint Paul’s, and she was kind of a lay minister to me," Father Hill described, later commenting that she had passed away in 2007.
"Lynette helped me with everything. After a couple of years, Dr. Compton came over from First Baptist and has been with the church ever since,” Father Hill chuckled, glad to have the doctor join.
“We started growing after that - just with his personality and reputation. That church has been there close over 100 years, and it’s always been a small church, but he was a special part of the growth. Being the greeter, everybody knew him, and everybody was going to get a hug from him. He’s a hugger,” Father Hill laughed.
“He’s going to hug you. If walk into his office - he’s going to hug you. If you walk into church - he’s going to hug you. He always greeted people at the church, and once Dr. Compton has greeted you - you can feel it. And it’s not just an act; the feeling comes through, he makes everyone feel welcomed,” he explained.
As most would describe, Dr. Compton was a “godsend” to Saint Paul’s, not only welcoming the guests to service but taking his compassion outside the church walls.
“He supported a food bank and every week he’d pick up food at the church and take it to the food bank, and, of course, he also contributed to them. He’s worked with Texas Baptist Home, taking care of the kids out there. He’s just always done it out of the goodness of his heart," Compton confirmed.
Among the numerous projects Dr. Compton was involved with, taking his practice overseas as part of a medical missions venture provided him the chance to extend his kindness to those without any medical benefits.
“He’s been to Honduras on medical missions probably ten plus times,” Compton stated. “He would go with an Episcopal church and see many, many patients who could not afford or receive healthcare, so that was the only way they were treated. That was a passion that he really loved.”
As several can testify to the selflessness of Dr. Compton and his extensive service to domestic and international communities alike, his humor is key to his relatability.
“I think what sets him apart is his dress,” Father Hill grinned. “He comes out in style, and he’s a great dancer. The one thing that all of us at the church get a kick out of, every time we have a special dinner or party with music you can dance to, he’s going to come in a pair of black leather pants, and an elaborate shirt. And he knows how to dance too,” he laughed, recalling the doctor enjoying the festivities over the years.
And as the old saying goes, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” That is most certainly true as time looked kindly on the doctor, fast-forwarding his practice 61 years and landing on his retirement date on Feb. 11, 2017.
“At his age, I knew it was only a matter of time for him to retire. So it did not surprise me, but it still left a void in my life in terms of a physician. I cannot tell you how many people in Waxahachie, I assume those long-time residents here; he probably delivered 50 percent of them. He’s just a classic fixture in this community,” Father Hill said with a heavy heart.
Delivering over 1,000 babies within the county and treating incalculable illnesses, the 91-year-old watched local families become healthier, and his community flourishes in ways unimaginable.
Reluctantly closing his practice, his patients celebrated his life achievements with a party filled with sincere sentiments, extraordinary stories, and tears and laughter.
“He brought us all together,” Beyer acknowledged. “We talked the other day, and he said he was finished, and it was good, but it wasn’t. He said he’s never hugged so many people and cried so much.”
“He’s a godly man who puts God first, his family second, and,” Compton paused with a lump in his throat. “There aren’t enough superlatives to say. He loves what he does, loves the people, loves the community, loves his family, loves his church, and he has made things better.”
“He’s just a gentleman. Everybody liked him, and he’s always cutting up and being funny, and he’s just good – I’m going to miss him,” Noel admitted.
“Right now, he’s worried about his patients because they are patients who have been going to him for sixty years that have never been anywhere else. And he’s concerned that they’re going to go to another doctor, who’s not going to talk to them, sit down and have a conversation - those things are important to him. And if you looked up bedside manner, it’d be dad. It’s from his heart, it truly is,” Compton expounded.
WALKING IN HIS FOOTSTEPS
Although one chapter closes, another one opens retiring Dr. Compton with a fulfilled and incomparable mantle to be passed. From first attending med school to marrying his college sweetheart, and encouraging the Ellis community in more ways than one – Dr. Compton is a true Waxahachie legend.
“I think he’s definitely leaving things better than he found them, much better than he found them. He’s been a pioneer in Waxahachie in the medical community. His legacy will always be a sharing and loving man that has given it his all every day he’s been around,” Compton stated.
“Dr. Compton treats everyone the same. It doesn’t matter about color, race, or creed –he loves, hugs, believes, cries, and laughs with them all. Not only was he my boss, but he was my doctor, my mentor, he was our friend and family – and still is. He was always there for me. The stories could go on and on.” Beyer teared up.
“I told him I wanted to buy his scales, and he said, ‘Why do you want these scales?’ I said, ‘Because I’ve been on them so many times.’” Noel chuckled. “It’s a part of my life. He's a part of my life.”
As seasons change, the bittersweet facet of retirement doesn’t exclude Dr. Compton from seizing the day with his community. In fact, it encourages it even more.
THE KEY TO THE CITY
As Dr. Compton continues to forge his path ahead in the unknown territory of retirement, seizing the day yet again, a special tribute was made to mark his remarkable legacy. Pulling the community together for one last celebration, Noel invited the city to not only celebrate a man’s exceptional service but to recognize his beloved heirloom of friendship as well.
“I was glad to get all that together,” Noel expressed. “I didn’t want it to pass him by. I just thought it needed to be done.”
An honorary ceremony was held at City Hall, Feb. 20, when Waxahachie Mayor, Kevin Strength, presented the adorned physician with an official proclamation of "Dr. John Graham Compton, Jr. Day," in front of the City Council and his loved ones.
Crammed wall to wall, the audience cheered for Dr. Compton with elation and an uproar of applause. Finishing the ceremony, Mayor Strength recalled a personal memory of Dr. Compton from his childhood.
“I went to school with his daughter, and when you’re in high school you think you can dance," he paused as everyone snickered. "So I came to the dance one time at the Methodist church, and I was all ready and had the moves down and everything. Then Dr. Compton got out there beside me — and I had to go home," he shook his head as the room erupted in laughter.
The room filled with merriment then faded into solidarity as Dr. Compton approached the podium. Accepted the gracious award of recognition from his community, he uttered his concluding remarks.
“This has been hard, so hard,” he began, surveying the many familiar faces that surrounded him. “The Lord has been so good to me and has given me the best patients any doctor in this world could ever have, and I could not make it without them.”
“I want to thank all of you for the many cards, and especially for the food you brought me, “ he laughed. “Thank you for the cards, the flowers, it’s just been so much, and I want you to know that I still love you all, and I pray every night that your next medical endeavor will love you as much as I do. I pray that our good Lord above will be in that office to take care of you and to lead you to the physician that you have. I will continue to have you in prayer. Thank you so much for a wonderful 61 years,” he nodded with a grin, “Thank you, I love you all.”
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer