The following article by David Strange was originally published on 2 Aug 2015. It has been updated to include both Dr. Hamilton's obituary, and that of his wife, Helen.
Dr. Bruce Hamilton is a long-time icon of medical care in Bullitt County. I think of him every time I look at his medical kit on display at the Bullitt County History Museum.
Raised on a farm on Cedar Grove Road, Hamilton decided as a sophomore in high school to either be a farmer or a doctor. He liked both occupations, he says, mostly because neither occupation had someone always telling him what to do. He was further influenced by Doctor Ridgway, who had delivered him, and who always had little cinnamon pills to give him when he was a child. A group of doctors also came out to his parents' farm occasionally to hunt quail and their friendly conversations affected him. Hamilton studied at UK and briefly played basketball for Adolph Rupp (but he quickly adds that he was soon cut from the team). He worked as a county agent while going full-time to college. He went into the military service and came back home dedicated to become a doctor.
Bruce Hamilton also married at that time and remains so to this day. "My wife has been totally supportive through the years." he says of Helen. "I couldn't have done it otherwise." Hamilton obtained his BA and MA at the University of Kentucky and then his MD at UL, becoming a doctor in July 1954 and starting practice that year in Bullitt County. Dr. Jim Willoughby was a doctor at the time and thinking of leaving the county and going in the Army. Dr. Hamilton stepped into his practice, "working hours no man should do, visiting sick people in every nook and cranny in the county." It was exhausting work but he greatly enjoyed it.
The first year or two he normally got only two hours sleep a night, with house calls, etc. keeping him busy. He started his practice sharing an office with dentist Millard Cundiff in an old service station in Shepherdsville. The first day of practice saw 69 patients. When first entering his office a woman complained to him about having to sit in the waiting room next to a person with head lice. So he saw the head lice woman first. He jokes that his first case in private practice was diagnosed by another patient.
Dr. Hamilton says that he has been "Just so fortunate to have been healthy all through the years despite being in the middle of epidemics and sickness." The first big epidemic for him was a polio outbreak of summer, 1954, just when he entered practice. Proud that he never had one patient die from it, he says he was so grateful when a polio vaccine came along. Babies also kept him busy, probably delivering an average 10-12 babies a month. One night he "had four going; 2 at homes and 2 at the hospital. I went back and forth. But I got all of them in time through the night. I have probably delivered 2000 babies in my career."
"It's been a fulfilling practice. I would do it over again except maybe for the workload," he said.
There were seven doctors in his practice when he retired. His activity in KMA and St. Joseph Hospital exposed him to many doctors and he used that to find good doctors for Bullitt County. In 1966 he established a residency at his practice for new doctors.
Dr. Hamilton's biggest fame has been his graciousness and kindness. Penny Pack recalls when she was a child she became seriously ill but was determined to be in a school play that she had practiced hard for. Hamilton gently persuaded her out of it. Hamilton remembers a particular incident long ago when he went to make a call on an ill family on Tabernacle Hill. The army had taken the land where they lived for Ft. Knox but they hadn't yet moved. It was a dark and lonely road to the home. While passing a spooky old abandoned house and crossing a creek with water up to the hubcaps, he wondered what would happen if the car died. It did die in the middle of the creek. Hoping the carburetor of the old car had just temporarily flooded, he sat there and waited in the dark. He listened to the sounds and watched the flashes of Ft. Knox cannon fire not so far away. The shutters of the nearby abandoned house would rattle every time a cannon would fire. It was an eerie feeling in a dying community. Finally the car started and he moved on.
Doctor Hamilton says he "always felt the care he gave was better than 90% of Louisville doctors at the time," because he knew his patients. He had to give up house calls for the last ten years that he was in practice, saying that he just couldn't do it anymore, though he enjoyed it the most. Dr. & Mrs. Hamilton currently reside in Louisville. They have three children: Joe, Bill & Susan; all lawyers.
Good people, the Hamiltons. Dr. & Mrs. Hamilton, when you read this story, please know that you are both still remembered, and still cherished. God bless you both.
Helen M. Hamilton, age 95, passed away on December 30, 2015 at the Episcopal Church Home.
She was born in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, daughter of Russell and Helen Meno. Mrs. Hamilton served as Assistant to the Administrator at Binghamton City Hospital and attended the University of Louisville.
The wife of a very busy family physician who practiced in Shepherdsville, KY for thirty-six years, Mrs. Hamilton raised three children and was a member of Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Bellarmine University Women’s Council, The Louisville Orchestra, Bullitt County Woman’s Club, Bullitt County Public Library Board, and Audubon Country Club of Louisville (where she was especially respected for her short game and putting).
Despite being born and raised in the Northeast, Mrs. Hamilton quickly adopted the state of Kentucky after her marriage to her husband of sixty-nine years, William Bruce Hamilton, M.D. They met and married at the U. S. Army Hospital at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia while serving in the U. S. Army Medical Corps.
She will be remembered for her intelligence, quick wit, voracious reading, love of music and dance and her steadfast commitment to the University of Louisville basketball team. She was particularly proud of her family, and was deeply loved by them in turn.
Hamilton, MD, William Bruce, 95, of Louisville, passed away February 4, 2018 at the Episcopal Church Home. Dr. Hamilton was born in Bullitt County, Kentucky, son of Henry Crist and Halley Hays Hamilton. Dr. Hamilton was a veteran of World War II and served in the U. S. Army Medical Corps. He earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from the University of Kentucky and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He established a family medicine practice in Shepherdsville, Kentucky in 1955 and practiced there until his retirement in 1991.
Dr. Hamilton was a member of the Jefferson County Medical Society, the Kentucky Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians. He served on the medical staff of several area hospitals, including St. Joseph's Infirmary, where he was President of the Medical Staff. He was President of the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Division of the American Cancer Society, serving as a member of the Bullitt County chapter of that organization for over fifty years. At his retirement, he was recognized as an Honorary Member of that organization. Dr. Hamilton was a member of the Filson Club and Audubon Country Club.
Dr. Hamilton will be remembered as a family physician who deeply cared about his patients. He was true to his principles, frequently sided with the underdog, and he deeply loved, and was loved by, family and friends. He taught them many lasting values, including his unwavering commitment to treat each patient with dignity and worth, and he gave his very best every day to every patient.
Dr. Hamilton will also be vividly remembered for his love of sports and his competitiveness as a basketball player and fan, and as a golfer, fisherman, and, even, ping pong player. In golf, he was famous for his uncanny ability to make great shots with his all-purpose 7 iron.
Dr. Hamilton was preceded in death by his wife of sixty-nine years, Helen M. Hamilton. He is survived by sons William Bruce Hamilton, Jr. of Tucson, Arizona (Eugenia), Joseph L. Hamilton (Shannon), and daughter Susan L. Hamilton (Edwin Krebs), both of Louisville, grandchildren Joseph L. Hamilton, Jr., Mark W. Hamilton, William Bruce Hamilton, III, Claire E. Hamilton and Bruce J. Hamilton, four great-grandchildren Reese, Maverick, Hank and Eila, and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral Service 10 am Thursday at Beargrass Christian Church, 4100 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY. with burial to follow in Cave Hill Cemetery. Visitation 4-7 pm Wednesday at Pearson's, 149 Breckenridge Lane.
Memorial gifts in memory of Dr. Hamilton may be made to the Shepherdsville Christian Church, Beargrass Christian Church (Louisville), or the American Cancer Society.
Copyright 2015 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.