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William Carter, revered Atwater doctor, dies

Dr. William Carter never retired from doing what he loved most.

The 82-year-old was still treating patients and touching their lives, even during the last days of his life.

Last month, he received the top award from Mercy Medical Center for his 51 years of service to the local community, said Kim Carter, his wife of 31 years. "He would never quit," she said. "He genuinely cared about people. He had a very big heart."

Carter, who started a solo private practice in Atwater in the early 1960s, and in 1975 co-founded the Atwater Medical Group, died Monday at his Atwater home. His wife and several patients hope he will be remembered as the intelligent, humble adventurist, the funny and caring person that he was.

He had been experiencing shortness of breath and needed a valve replaced in his heart, Kim Carter said. "I think his heart gave out," she said.

Although his heart gave up on him, he never gave up on his patients.

He will be remembered by all those patients he remained loyal to, such as Carrie Harkreader. Carter had been Harkreader's primary doctor for 35 years, and he had been her family's doctor for four generations. "He was a great man," she said.

Everyone knew Carter, she said. "He was always there, even to deliver the bad news," she said. "He treated you like you were the only person in the world."

He was not the usual doctor, his wife said. "He was not the kind (of doctor) who went in the room and saw the patient," she said. "He would sit down and talk to them. He comforted everybody, he made a big difference."

He also captured the attention of many with his bright personality. "(Carter) had an amazing sense of humor," Harkreader said.

His wife agreed. "He was just a real fun guy to be with," she said.

Laura Austin, who has lived in the Los Banos and Atwater areas for 35 years, said she and two of her sisters were delivered by Carter. "My mother started going to him in 1962," she said. "He's been my doctor since I was born."

He was an approachable doctor, she said. "He would just talk to you about what was going on in the world," Austin continued. "I think he will be greatly missed. He had a lot of patients."

Dr. Eric Disbrow, who co-founded the Atwater Medical Group with Carter, said Carter was very knowledgeable in medicine. He also was always very accommodating and compassionate. "Working together, you have to trust the doctors who work with you, and (hope) that they'll take care of patients in your absence," he said.

Carter was one of them. "He was just a great partner and a great man," he said.

He was originally from Philadelphia and came to Merced in the early 1960s.

A memorial service to celebrate his life will take place June 25 at the First Baptist Church of Merced, 500 Buena Vista Drive. The serv-ice is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507 or yamaro@mercedsun-star.com.

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