Obituary describing the life of a local doctor / 851 words / The Columbia Missourian
When you talk to people who knew Dr. George William Nordholtz Eggers Jr., you can tell how they knew him by the different names they call him.
He is “Dr. Eggers” or “Bill” in the medical community. “Billy” to the crowd he grew up with in Galveston, Texas. “Doc” to his poker-playing buddies. “Dad” and “Grandpa” to his family.
Dr. Eggers died Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, at University Hospital in Columbia. He was 82.
“This was his home,” said Scott McCord, who worked for Dr. Eggers as a medical student in 1962. “He’s one of the reasons I stayed around.”
McCord would sometimes give Dr. Eggers rides to doctor’s appointments if he wasn’t able to drive himself. But that came later.
Dr. Eggers was born Feb. 22, 1929, in Galveston to Edith (Sykes) Eggers and George William Nordholtz Eggers, an orthopedist who invented the Eggers plate for internal fixation of fractures.
Dr. Eggers was educated at the Rice Institute in Houston and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. His first residency and internship were at Philadelphia General Hospital. There, he met a resident named Mary Futrell from a neighboring hospital.
He had worked a 48-hour shift when an emergency brought the staff from the two hospitals together. Mary saw how tired Bill was and let him sleep at her apartment so he wouldn’t drive home exhausted. They were married in December 1955 and remained together until she died in 2000.
After coming to Columbia in 1961, the couple stayed to raise their family.
Dr. Eggers served as chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at the MU School of Medicine from 1970 to 1994. He continued working as an emeritus professor until 2001
In addition to his long chairmanship at MU, Dr. Eggers became involved with the American Society of Anesthesiologists. He was elected president in 1990 and helped shape the profession’s best practices nationwide. He even testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, his son, Will, said.
Dr. Eggers supported his children in their pursuits of art.
“He was incredibly supportive of everything I did,” his son said. He described his father as encouraging but never demanding. His memories are more about experiences than stories, like the time he was 12 and his father took him to Hawaii. One day, they rode on horseback into the jungle and stopped at a waterfall to have lunch. Many times they simply went for long walks. Dr. Eggers made a special trip twice a year to Connecticut to sing in Will’s choir.
“He was a presence,” his son said. “When we announced him, people knew who he was.”
Dr. Eggers loved astronomy. “I remember him waking me up to see remarkable things in his telescope, and he would call every year before the Pleiades showers came so we could wake up the girls,” his son said. He described his father’s curiosity as voracious.
Dr. Eggers’s friends described him as charming, a wealth of knowledge, modest, gentle and skilled.
Guy Long played poker with Dr. Eggers twice a week for eight years.
“You thought you’d heard it all, and there was always another thing he’d done or known or cared about,” Long said. “For example, he saw the Hindenberg. Really! He didn’t see it burn, but he saw it.”
Long said Dr. Eggers was going to rock ‘n’ roll concerts before the term “rock ‘n’ roll” was even invented. Dr. Eggers told Long about seeing Bill Haley and His Comets perform in Philadelphia in the 1950s. His love of music did not wane, and it kept pace with the times: Radiohead was one of Dr. Eggers’s favorite bands.
“He was very attuned to music of all types,” Long said.
And to magic.
Dr. Eggers traveled to Las Vegas every year for a magic conference, where he learned new tricks to bring home to kids and adults alike. Dr. Eggers did one trick of turning a piece of paper into a $20 bill.
“And he’d give me the money,” his granddaughter, Olivia, said. “So that was my favorite.”
Dr. Eggers never taught Olivia the secrets of his magic tricks, but he did teach her to play poker. He once played in Las Vegas at the World Series of Poker.
“He could always be seen wearing his World Series of Poker baseball cap,” said Finny Aronson, with whom Dr. Eggers played poker for 15 years.”He did play with some of the best players in the world, and he took great pride in that.”
“Playing poker with somebody, you get to see them at their best, and at their worst,” Aronson said.” And playing with Doc, after 15 years, I only saw him at his best.”
He is survived by two children, daughter Carol Eggers of San Francisco, Calif., her husband Dan Gruzd and their children Zach and Katie, and son G. W. N. (Will) Eggers III, of Tolland, Conn., his wife, Polly Painter, and their daughters Olivia and Cate.
Services will be held at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1115 Locust St., in early January. For further information, visit Memorial Funeral Home’s website at memorialfuneralhomeandcemetery.com.