A Waxahachie veterinarian is being remembered for his generosity, faith and love for his family.
Dr. Michael Gilbreath died Wednesday. He was owner and founding veterinarian of Waxahachie Veterinary Clinic. A visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday at the Wayne Boze Funeral Home. A celebration of his life will be at 2 p.m. at The Avenue Church on Saturday with David Brown and Bruce Zimmerman officiating.
“The words that best describe him are self-sacrificing, generous and neverending love,” said Gilbreath’s daughter Sarah Ackerley.
Her father taught his children to think for themselves and about others, she said.
“Though words and actions, he taught us to put others before yourself,” Ackerley said. “He lived it, spoke it.”
Gilbreath was generous and understanding with his staff and his clients, said clinic office manager Tracey Kirkland who worked for Gilbreath for 10 years.
“We have several older clients on fixed incomes with older pets who could not afford the treatments,” Kirkland said. “He would treat their pets and let them pay what they could, when they could. Often that was small amounts over a very long time. He treated that animal knowing he might not ever get paid.”
His generosity extended to the donations he made, Kirkland said.
“Any pet that passed away or was euthanized, he would make a donation to the Texas A&M pet memorial fund,” she said.
The university matched most of the donations and funds supported small animal research, she explained.
“He was a kind, humble, giving human being. He treated everyone with the same respect and dignity,” Kirkland said. “He treated the animals as if they were his own.”
The office staff have been receiving condolences from patients and community members, many of whom have been bringing their pets to the office for years, she said.
“The outpouring from the community is just a tribute to his character,” she said. “There are not many people who would receive this level of love and respect but he earned it.”
Facebook members used the hashtag #Paws4Gilbreath to share their sympathies and photos of pets Gilbreath had cared for.
“Dr. Gilbreath has taken care of Champ since he was a puppy,” Facebook user Ashley Rachelle Westmoreland posted. “Hands down the best and his office staff is amazing. I’m not sure I’ll find another to fill his shoes. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Facebook user Karen Seamayer Ross shared that Gilbreath had spent hours of his own time caring for the animals they rescued.
“Not only did he take care of them, he took care of us! He was always calm during our sad times with our furry friends. He always listened and let us cry on his shoulder. He was such a kind and gentle soul. He was always there for a hug when we needed it. We love you and will miss you Dr. G.,” she wrote.
But most of all, he loved his family, Kirkland said.
“His family was No. 1,” she said. “That is hard to do in this business because it is so demanding and draining, but he loved them dearly and they meant the world to him.”
His children knew how much he loved them, Ackerley said.
“He was very involved with us as children. He sang hymns to us every night as he tucked us in. He attended every performance and sporting event,” she said.
Gilbreath’s faith was extremely important to him, Ackerley said. He was an active supporter of Empowering Lives International Children’s Home in Kenya and a member of The Avenue Church.
“He was completely a man of God,” she said. “Everything he did was influenced by his faith.”
Gilbreath was born on July 6, 1955 in Dallas and graduated from Lamar High School in 1973. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1977 and from Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in 1980. He married Terri Turner on Dec. 17, 1977.
After veterinary school, he worked for five years in Whitehall, Wisconsin and one year in Longview before opening his practice in Waxahachie in 1986.
“He and his wife were a very good team,” Kirkland said. “They built something special here together.”
The clinic started with just one veterinarian, but had expanded to include a second, part-time veterinarian when she joined the staff, Kirkland said. There were two other veterinarians working full-time at the clinic with Gilbreath at the time of his death, she said, and the building had been expanded twice.
“He was a good leader and his reputation is what built this clinic,” Kirkland said.
Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.