Dr. Douglas Wayne Whetsell, Sr. of Fayetteville, NC passed away on April 7, 2022, at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center after a brief illness with his family by his side. Born July 2, 1943, in Bowman, SC, Wayne was the youngest child of Frances Louise Shuler and Joseph Edmund Whetsell. Raised on a dairy farm with his older brother and sister, Wayne left home in 1961 to pursue his undergraduate education at Wofford College. In a testament to Wayne’s intellect and relentless work ethic, he was accepted to and began studies at the Medical University of South Carolina prior to completing his undergraduate degree. He often told the story that when Wofford called to see if he would be returning for his senior year, he replied “No, just mail me my diploma,” which is indeed what they did.
Upon graduation from MUSC in 1968, Wayne joined the Air Force where he was stationed in Biloxi, MS and San Antonio, TX during the completion of his residency and fellowship. He took additional assignments in Colorado Springs, CO, and Washington, DC, before retiring from Air Force active duty. Further proving Wayne’s industrious nature, he rose from the rank of 2nd Lieutenant to Lt. Colonel in roughly 10 years, a virtually unheard of feat. After brief stops in Ft. Smith, AR and Orangeburg, SC, he moved to Fayetteville, NC in the early 1980s. After settling in Fayetteville, he retired from the Air Force to focus on his private practice medical career. He later rejoined the military as an Army Reservist and cared for many patients at Ft. Bragg during the Gulf War era. He retired from the service permanently in 1996, with the final rank of full Colonel.
While he was proud of his military service, Wayne was first and foremost a physician, in part because he loved the work and intellectual exercise, but also because, according to him, he “had to work harder for it.” He was a practicing critical care pulmonologist for fifty years until his retirement in 2017. He was immensely proud of and committed to his work, his patients, and the myriad of professional colleagues and friends he made along the way. He took satisfaction in working alongside and developing a rapport with many accomplished physicians of note throughout the years. He was a partner of Lafayette Clinic medical practice for many years, and then went to work at Cape Fear Family Medical Care for his good friend Dr. Ray Gaskins. Even upon his retirement, Wayne continued to keep abreast of evolving medical research and literature due to his nature as a voracious reader.
Wayne was a fierce proponent of education, intellectual pursuit, and all manner of knowledge. He understood well and believed strongly in the impact that education could have on a person’s life. He was deeply proud of his time at Wofford as well as of the educational accomplishments of his children. Wayne was an avid gardener and spent many hours tending to his thriving, varied, and beautiful garden. He delighted in sharing photos of his bounty and more recently attempting to impart his love of horticulture on his young grandchildren. Wayne was a hobbyist of genealogy and spoke often to friends and acquaintances alike of the Whetsell family’s German immigrant heritage. Being a Methodist was central to Wayne’s sense of self and identity. He loved a good ball game of any type, he loved a good book, he loved to laugh, he loved his dog Maggie, and his family, particularly his grandchildren. He was also known to never say no to a bowl of ice cream.
Wayne was predeceased by his parents, his stepfather Frank Shuler, and his son, Douglas Wayne “Doug” Whetsell, Jr. He is survived by his daughter Elizabeth Louise Whetsell (Andrew) of Hillsborough, NC and son Stuart Frank Whetsell (Meredith) of Lynchburg, VA, his wife Sandra Whetsell, with whom he recently reunited, and grandchildren, Elijah Graham Whetsell of Lynchburg, VA and Viola Faye Gibson of Hillsborough, NC along with a granddaughter and a grandson to be born in the coming weeks. Additionally, he is survived by his brother Edmund Whetsell (Iris) of Kingstree, SC and sister Joanne Whetsell Rust (Allan) of Irmo, SC along with four nephews, one niece, and numerous cousins.
A memorial service will be held in Fayetteville, North Carolina at Haymount United Methodist Church at 3PM on Thursday, April 14. 2022 with the Reverend Dr. John Tyson officiating. The family will receive friends in the Commons Room prior to the service from 1:30pm until 2:45pm. Wayne will be interred at a private burial at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Bowman, SC at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that if so moved, memorial contributions be made to the American Lung Association in his name.