Dr. J. Roy Guyther, St. Mary’s County physician, historian and author, died Wednesday at the age of 93 at his home in Mechanicsville.
Born in Mechanicsville in 1920, Guyther graduated from the Charlotte Hall Military Academy in 1937, an institution that lasted from 1774 to 1976, and which after retiring from his medical practice he made the subject of his first book.
He was a primary care physician for 51 years. After he ended that career in 1990, he wrote nine books, mainly about local history. His latest book, “Bits and Pieces — Reflections at Age 93,” was published last summer.
Guyther opened his practice of general medicine in Mechanicsville on Jan. 1, 1948. In 1979, he was named Family Doctor of the Year by the American Academy of Family Physicians, which earned him a trip to the White House to meet first lady Rosalynn Carter.
“I have seen many things in my 93 years,” Guyther wrote in the last chapter of his last book. “I have seen many changes. The general practice of medicine has changed significantly. Family medicine is less family oriented today, but family medicine is needed and hopefully should be here to stay for a long time. The kind, warm practitioner is not ready to be displaced.”
“He really was a touchstone, medically speaking, in our county,” said Dr. Eugene Guazzo, 84, of Chaptico. It was Guyther who talked Guazzo into moving to St. Mary’s County from Boston in 1968.
Guazzo and his wife, Shelby, had been looking at Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but Guyther told them St. Mary’s was even more rural. “I said, ‘You’re telling me you’re more rural than the Eastern Shore? And how can that be when you’re so close to Washington?’” Guazzo recounted this week.
“He said, “St. Mary’s County is a cul-de-sac,’” Eugene Guazzo said, since it is a peninsula. “What Dr. Guyther told me was absolutely true. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Guyther. There’s a lifestyle here. This is a very unique community.”
In addition, “Dr. Guyther was a very astute physician,” he said, and served on the faculty of the University of Maryland, later bringing Guazzo on as well.
After Guyther was recognized as the Family Doctor of the Year in 1979, reporters constantly asked him if he made house calls, which annoyed him, Eugene Guazzo said. “In St. Mary’s County, if you don’t make house calls, you’re not a doctor. It was really no big deal. It was normal” in those days, he said.
David Guyther noted this week that his uncle was also his doctor. “There’s no doubt he certainly lived a full life. It’s kind of remarkable when I think of all the different things he did,” he said.
As a physician, David Guyther said, “He could diagnose illnesses so well and be so accurate about it.”
When David Guyther was 16, he went to his uncle because he thought he was underweight. Roy Guyther advised him, “It’s better to be a little underweight than a little overweight.”
Guyther “had a wonderful bedside manner and he was sharp up to the very end,” said Carol Moody, archivist of the St. Mary’s County Historical Society. She said he was an authority on history in northern St. Mary’s County with his books on Mechanicsville, Charlotte Hall and the Charlotte Hall Military School.
“Thank God for the legacy of his books because whether you’re a native or someone new to the area or a lover of history, his work will endure the test of time,” said Gracie Brady, historic preservation planner for St. Mary’s County government. Guyther’s other books were “Doris, A Trail of Tragedies,” “Tales of St. Mary’s,” “Memoirs of a Country Doctor,” “Reminiscences” and “Reminiscenses II.”