A Shepperd of men: Doctor's legacy remembered

By Savanna Gregg

Burnet Bulletin

The memory of Marble Falls resident and well-respected physician Dr. Ivan Shepperd will forever hold a spot in the hearts of the members of the community he impacted for 61 years.

Dr. Shepperd was born in 1927 and raised in Liberty Hill, the youngest of six children. During the early 1940s, Dr. Shepperd attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he met his future wife, Virginia Wirtz. The two then moved to Galveston, where Shepperd studied at the University of Texas Medical School while the two started growing their family.

Because of the efforts during World War II, individuals were being rushed through medical school as the country saw a need for more medical professionals, but Shepperd completed his schooling and graduated after the end of the war. After he obtained his degree, Dr. Shepperd, Virginia, and their young family moved to Marble Falls and opened his practice in 1948.

The sixth of Dr. Shepperd's children and his namesake, Ivan Shepperd, a software developer in Dallas, reflected on his father's life and accomplishments throughout the 61 years he practiced in Marble Falls while he and Virginia raised their family.

“He didn't take any breaks and finished school in three years,” Ivan Shepperd said. “When he opened his practice in Marble Falls, he said people were a little skeptical of him because he looked so young.”

The community soon accepted him as their doctor, and Dr. Shepperd spent his mornings making his rounds at the Shepperd Memorial Hospital in Burnet, which was opened by his two brothers, Ray and Joe. The remainder of his days were spent in his Marble Falls clinic and making house calls.

“Back in those days doctors still did house calls and we would go with him as kids,” Ivan Shepperd said. “I remember all of the patients had dirt floors in their houses.”

Ivan Shepperd described many things which have changed over the years like house calls, dirt floors, and technology.

“Back then, if you needed to check hemoglobin levels, you took the blood, put it on a slide under the microscope, and counted the cells to extrapolate the levels,” Ivan Shepperd said.

Shepperd also recounted a time, as he worked a summer in the clinic, he watched his father repair a boy's complexly broken nose at no charge.

“It was cool to watch him do that, and he did it as a 'gimme',” Shepperd said. “He understood that sometimes people could not pay.”

While Ivan Shepperd worked for his father that summer, keeping the waiting room clean, giving shots, and doing lab work, he got a real taste of how much time and effort the profession required.

“Even though it was an indoor, white collar job, at the end of the day I was exhausted,” Ivan Shepperd said. “A lot of the times he was the only doctor in town so it was very busy sometimes.”

Though Dr. Shepperd had a very busy, demanding career, his efforts to heal his many patients was enough to keep him going — he never even took a sick day. During his 61 years at the practice, Dr. Shepperd had the opportunity to care for many an interesting patient. It was not uncommon for him to have a patient who would come into the clinic smelling of WD-40.

“He said the old-timers would spray it on their joints under the impression it would help them,” Ivan Shepperd said. “In the hardware store down the street, he was talking to the employee and told them about the WD-40 and the employee said, 'Oh yeah, a lot of people buy it like that. But we don't prescribe it!'”

Dr. Shepperd and his brothers were known to have delivered many babies in Burnet County.

“I used to have people come up to me and tell me my dad delivered them or their kids,” Ivan Shepperd said.

In his free time, Dr. Shepperd enjoyed raising and showing bulldogs, camping, bird watching, gardening, music, dancing — from ball room to square — and photography.

“My favorite photos of his were those from the fair in Dallas and the ones he took of old cars and people,” Ivan Shepperd said. “He had his own dark room so he could develop his pictures.”

Dr. Shepperd was also well-known for helping start the Rotary Club in Marble Falls in 1950, and assisting with the Burnet club later on. Though Dr. Shepperd was raised a Baptist, Virginia was strong in the Episcopalian faith, and he accepted that as well; the two and their big family became prominent members of Trinity Episcopal Church in Marble Falls after they made the town their home.

Dr. Shepperd retired in 2009, and spent the remainder of his life enjoying his family and hobbies until he passed away on Saturday, July 21, at the age of 93. A memorial service for Dr. Shepperd will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Marble Falls.

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