Those are the words of Dr. Mervyn King when describing his life in Martinsville as he prepares to turn 90 years old on Thursday, December 14.
King first came to Martinsville in January 1964 to serve as a doctor at the old hospital where the Virginia Museum of Natural History currently is.
“I was the first anesthesiologist they had here. At that time anesthesiologists were pretty rare and there was only about seven of us outside of the University of Virginia, and you could get a job offer every day. I loved it here, and it’s been a great place” to live, he said.
During his tenure, King brought epidurals to the area from Mississippi.
“Those women loved those epidurals” when they were delivering babies, “especially about 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said with a chuckle.
King also helped set up the first intensive care room and the first recovery room in Martinsville.
At the old hospital, which he believes was built in 1955, he said there was a Tuberculosis (TB) Ward, which had windows that would open out on the side.
“We covered those windows in and enclosed them, and that was our first intensive care unit,” he said. “It worked well.”
When he moved to the new hospital, King said he had the operating room, recovery room, and the intensive care unit lined up in a row.
King practiced in Martinsville-Henry County for 29 years before he retired in 1993.
He worked for the hospital for four years before he set up his own company, MRK Associates and Inc.
“We provided anesthesia for everything that went on in the hospitals,” he said. “All types of anesthesia, deliveries, everything night and day we covered. All the anesthesia, it was no other anesthesiologist for many years, and nobody really practiced anesthesia until I retired.”
King and his wife, Virginia King, also helped create the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society.
“We had some meetings there, and there were some discussions there about the possibility of tearing the courthouse down, and we absolutely did not want that to happen,” he said.
To help protect the courthouse from demolition, King said the group sought grants to help restore the building.
“I had about $180,000, part of it was Harvest Foundation, and part of it was a federal grant. So, we started on it,” he said and recalled that “it was supposed to cost $1 million to stabilize and $1 million to restore. We got the whole thing done with money left over.”
Currently, the Kings are very active in the Historical Society and the current 13,000-square-foot expansion at the back of the courthouse.
King’s private collections will also be housed in the annex and will become the property of the Historical Society.
“We’ll have some of the most outstanding collections available in the country. We’ve been collecting things for about 56 years, and I was a picker long before they had pickers on the internet,” he said.
His collections include Native American artifacts, guns, and older toys.
King said he wants the local museums to work together considering tourism is the second largest income in Virginia.
“The more we got to see, the farther they’ll come,” he said. “The farther they come, the longer they’ll stay, and the longer they stay, the more money they spend. So, that’s what we’re looking for.”
Throughout his time in Martinsville, King said he’s enjoyed the area because there are a lot of things to do, including many walking trails, canoeing trails, and areas to hike.
“People in town don’t think there’s much to do here, but when I talk to people from out of town, they were highly impressed at how many things there were to do in Martinsville-Henry County,” he said. “I really think Martinsville has a lot of potential, and I want to help with it as long as I’m around and kicking.”
To help celebrate Mervyn King’s special day, the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society is encouraging residents to mail a card acknowledging his milestone birthday to King, 29A Jones Street, Martinsville, VA 24122. For birthday greetings via call or text, King can be reached at (276) 732-4231