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W.Va. bridge named for doctor who fought for it

June 21, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - As the sign naming the bridge over Interstate 81 at City Hospital for Dr. C. Vincent Townsend Sr. was unveiled Friday afternoon, the veteran physician said he truly was humbled by the gesture.

"I am honored beyond words," Townsend, 85, said to multiple standing ovations. But he hastened to add that many of the 150-plus who attended the event also played a role in securing the shortcut to Martinsburg's only hospital eight years ago.

Detached from the interstate it abuts, City Hospital had been accessible only by narrow back roads. Townsend and his wife, Sarah, live off Old Mill Road, which had been the main route to the hospital from the south before the bridge was opened in 2000.

"The bridge takes us from sickness to health," said Roger M. Eitelman, president and CEO of West Virginia University Hospitals-East.

Eitelman added that more than 50 physicians have come to the hospital since the merger of City Hospital and Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., into WVUH-East.

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"They crossed the bridge to come here," Eitelman said.

Townsend said the bridge was absolutely necessary.

"It was the right thing to do," he said, stressing it was his role as medical director of the EMS in the region to lead the quest.

Letters were sent to U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and John Rockefeller urging them to see the need for the bridge.

"They probably got sick of me," Townsend said.

Keith McIntosh, Byrd's administrative assistant, read a letter from the senator praising Townsend for putting so much effort into the bridge at Exit 14.

Now retired after more than 40 years as a physician, Townsend said City Hospital never would have qualified as a trauma center without the bridge.

Among the guests were the Townsends' three sons and their families. The audience was sprinkled with physicians, current and retired, along with hospital personnel and friends.

Frank Woodruff Buckles, 107, a Jefferson County resident and the last known surviving American World War I veteran, was in the audience to honor his friend.

Elder son C. Vincent Townsend Jr., speaking for the Townsend family, said his father would have been happier sitting way back in the audience at an event such as Friday's dedication.

"Dad is not just from this place, he is of this place," Townsend said of his father, a lifelong Martinsburg resident.

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