WHITTLE: Dr. Reuhland ultimate volunteer

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They came from all walks of life as family, lawmen, physicians, patients, and friends, to say farewell to a man who left a vast foot print on his community…to wit…the Volunteer State. Dr. Leon Reuhland was the ultimate Tennessee "volunteer," with imprints of his life left in the highest mountains in East Tennessee to the lowest flatlands of West Tennessee.

Thankfully, his most profound legacy live on in his beloved Middle Tennessee that he called "home" with residences in Cannon and Rutherford counties. More about him being the "ultimate volunteer" with a heart to serve the peoples he befriended while residing the last 50 years of his life in the geographic heart of Tennessee: 

For nearly 30 years, without compensation, the good medical doctor served as "coroner" of Cannon County, where he first hung his shingle in the basement of Woodbury's old Good Samaritan Hospital.

In this venue, the doctor built associations throughout Tennessee law enforcement circles, as evidenced by retired TBI Director Arzo Carson who gave a very touching eulogy at Dr. Reuhland's recent memorial service.

 That meant, Dr. Reuhland was "on call" not only to this patients 24/7, he was on call round-the-clock anytime law enforcement personnel needed him on murders, car crashes, suicides…virtually any tragedy that occurred in his home communities. This was the unsalaried "private side" of Dr. Reuhland's "public service" life.

"Cannon County's modern jail's construction started in the early 1990s with Sheriff Robert Simpson, after an inmate had filed a lawsuit against the community, charging inhumane conditions in the previous jail that served more than a century on Woodbury Public Square," noted retired Cannon Courier publisher Andy Bryson. "Doc" Reuhland met with the late Sheriff Simpson and other members of the Law Enforcement Committee, including (the late) County Commissioner James B. Jernigan," Bryson traced back in time. "We toured multiple modern jails, including Rutherford and Coffee counties. "Doc took the lead on the project, over-seeing early construction, making many recommendations to the contractor and architect," Bryson concluded.

Perhaps Dr. Reuhland's most impactful "volunteerism effort" came in the mid-1990s, when it was rumored Nashville's Hospital Corporation of America was to close Woodbury's Stone's River Hospital. Retired HCA attorney Greg Tucker recently appeared on WGNS Radio's hour-long "Truman Jones' Show" with Bryson and this writer to pay tribute to the multi-talented Good Samaritan physician.

"I met with a group of doctors initially, to consider a game plan to explore the purchase of Stone's River Hospital when as HCA was already moving services to their HCA-owned facility in McMinnville," Tucker noted.

 "There was one doctor there, who sat and listened quietly…and after the meeting, Dr. Reuhland approached me, saying he didn't know how to go about purchasing and running a hospital, but that he would listen and learn. "I thought about my meeting this Dr. Reuhland, approached HCA, and told them they were to get credit for helping save the Stone's River Hospital in Woodbury, by selling it to a group, headed by Dr. Reuhland and his good name," Tucker added. "It probably saved us a million dollars or more, when I advised HCA Dr. Reuhland would be the front person, with his reputation and good name, and within two years of taking out the loan with (now retired) Mr. Bill Smith's (former) bank in Woodbury, we'd paid off our indebtedness…

"At that time, Stone's River was the only debt-free hospital operating in Tennessee," Tucker accounted. I first met Dr. Reuhland when he called my newspaper in 1990, asking if I would accompany him to York VA Medical Center where a military veteran patient had been refused treatment. After his impassioned plea, York VA officials never again refused medical treatment to one of his veteran patients.

A very touching final tribute came at Doc Reuhland's final resting place, Woodbury's beautiful Riverside Garden cemetery, where Cannon Sheriff's Deputy Steve McMillan stood at the end of the casket, holding a portable radio, when a call for Unit 330 (Reuhland's call number) from 911 Dispatcher Koni Graves was broadcast…after brief radio silence, the dispatcher confirmed: "Unit 330 is now 10-7"…the universal code that "Unit 330" is "out of service." 

That was the perfect "end" to Dr. Leon Reuhland's "volunteer servant" life that spanned 77 years, until his death on Oct. 4, 2012.


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