Dr William James Corbett, 1921–2014

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 56, No. 10, December 2014, Page 501 Obituaries

portrait of the late Dr. Corbett
On 9 October 2014, surrounded by his family’s love, Dr William James Corbett passed away the way he lived his life—quietly and with dignity and class.

Born on 1 October 1921 in Plenty, a small town in Saskatchewan, Dr Corbett was raised on his parents’ farm until the difficulties of the Great Depression brought the three of them to Ontario.

Jim enlisted in the RCAF as soon as the Second World War erupted. He opted for an education as his demobilization indemnity, a crossroad that he felt transformed his life. He completed his medical studies at the University of Toronto in 1951 and settled in North Vancouver in 1952, where he practised general medicine until he became medical director of Lions Gate Hospital from 1974 to 1986. He received the Greater Vancouver GP Association’s GP of the Year award in 1965. He was an active member of the then-BCMA and was elected president of our provincial association in 1970.

After retiring in 1986, Dr Corbett divided his time between traveling, tending his garden, playing bridge, reading, and, most of all, caring for his family.

An avid reader and a knowledgeable historian, Dr Corbett could discuss any Canadian historical event and give all of its details, dates, and contemporary consequences. He loved crossword puzzles and only rarely would resort to Google to find a word he could not guess. His brain was sharper than those of many of his much younger fellows. He was interested in gardening, but also knew all about aviation (a remnant of his years in the RCAF) and politics—local, provincial, federal, or international. He enjoyed playing bridge and participated in weekly card-playing sessions with his friends.

As a father and patriarch of his family he never reprimanded or disapproved, but somehow he knew how to send a subliminal message pointing in the right direction. His guidance was gentle, efficient, kind, and benevolent.

Dr Corbett was, above all, a true physician. He was the type of doctor that humanity seldom encounters—fully dedicated to his patients, respectful of his colleagues, and keen to learn about any new developments in the medical field. At 93 years of age, he did a literature search to understand the hysiopathology of the anorexia he was experiencing!

My father-in-law’s life and mode of practising medicine is a model, and his death a great sadness for all of us. He was a true gentleman, doing quietly what he felt was his duty and never expecting anything in exchange since, indeed, duty does not call for rewards.

He has now rejoined his beloved wife, Vera, who predeceased him in 2011 after 60 happy years together. He is survived by his four daughters, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, all of whom will miss him dearly.

Friends are invited to honor Jim with a contribution to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation and to remember him while relaxing on the family bench—the westernmost one on the waterfront at Horseshoe Bay Park.
—Lionel Traverse, MD

Lionel Traverse, MD,. Dr William James Corbett, 1921–2014. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 10, December, 2014, Page(s) 501 - Obituaries.

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