|Birth: ||Sep. 5, 1932|
|Death: ||Apr. 27, 2013|
East Baton Rouge Parish
Dr. Billy Rivers "Bill" Penn has entered the greater life of peace and joy, where sorrow and pain are no more, and where our Great Shepherd receives Bill as a sheep of His own fold, a lamb of His own flock, and a sinner of His own redeeming.
Bill passed away on April 27, 2013, exactly 60 years to the day that his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Evans Penn, Jr. of McComb, MS. received a letter from Gen. Mark W. Clark, U.S.Army, saying, "I join you in your prayers of thanksgiving that your son, Billy R. Penn, has been recovered from the enemy and that he will soon be with you." It was accompanied by a letter from Gen. Clark's wife, Maurine D. Clark, who wrote: "Dear Mrs. Penn: Yesterday I had the privilege and pleasure of talking to your son, Billy, in Tokyo Army Hospital. He spoke of you and I promised to write, sending the picture which was taken. I must confess that I wanted to try to take the place of his loved ones at home and try to make him realize happy we all are that he is back with us again. I had expected to be saddened by the marks of Billy's trying experience, but instead I was deeply impressed and pleased by his good spirits. After a brief checkup here he will soon be starting the long journey which will restore him to you. Be assured that the Hospital personnel, from the commanding officer down, have placed themselves entirely at the disposal of Billy and the other returning men, and that they are all receiving the very best of care. Very shortly our lonely vigil will be ended. The magnificent courage you have shown will be a constant source of inspiration to others. Time permitting, I would ask if there was anything you would like me to do for Billy, but most probably he will be with you in the very near future. The General joins me in extending our warm good wishes. Sincerely, Maurine D. Clark (Mrs. Mark W. Clark). Outpost Vegas was manned by Marines from "H" Co., 3rd BN., 5th Marines and Weapons Co., 5th Marines. Normal platoon size on the Outpost should have consisted of riflemen from the 5th Marines, Artillery/Forward Observers from the 11th Marines and Heavy Weapons (machine gun/mortar) from the 5th Marines plus a Navy Corpsman. Bits and pieces of information from published research indicate 40 plus Marines and One Navy Corpsman were on Vegas on 26 March 1953. Some survivors indicate the total from 40-49 Marines, against several thousand enemy, both Chinese and North Koreans, who had tunneled under our MLR. Official documents received from Headquarters Marine Corps - unit diaries - are not precise, as the date on the diaries are from the end of March, 1953. Casualty reports from the initial battle on Vegas 26 March 1953. Additional assault casualties following retake of Vegas are not clear. Marines were taken from different platoons, squads, and fire teams prior to and on 26 March, 1953, date of initial engagement. This has been verified from survivors. The belief was, "all killed or missing on Vegas outpost." However, there were a few Marines and One Navy Corpsman who survived and became prisoners of the Chinese. Billy Rivers Penn was the one Navy Corpsman. He endured weeks of physical and mental torture, the withholding of food and water for days at a time, freezing conditions with little clothing, and was placed in a large hole in the ground which proved to be the camp's latrine. During hand-to-hand combat, he had received five wounds, and lost his right eye during the battle. General Robert Barrow, former Commandant of the Marine Corps, asked Bill to write his P.O.W. experiences for the Archives at L.S.U. His story is housed in the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History at L.S.U. Every night for the 42 years of our marriage, Bill has endured nightmares, and the suffering that accompanies Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It has been the defining moment in Bill's life. The ordeal of being a captive of a Country that had never heard of the Geneva Convention, nor shown any signs of basic respect for human life left Bill damaged in many ways, but he relied on his Christian Faith, and it evoked a deep compassion for those who are suffering and in pain, which was reflected in his medical practice.
Bill was born September 5, 1932 in McComb, MS., graduated from McComb High School, in 1950. He was an Eagle Scout with Silver Palm and Order of the Arrow. He served in the U.S. Navy as a Medical Corpsman, assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps. As described above, during the Korean War, he was wounded in action and taken Prisoner of War by the Chinese. He was Repatriated in the exchange of sick and wounded prisoners in 1953. After completing four years in the Navy, he attended L.S.U., receiving a B.S. in Chemistry in two and one-half years. He received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Mississippi in 1962, and a rotating Internship and Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baroness Erlanger Hospital, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
He returned to Baton Rouge and entered private practice with Drs. Jack Jones, Henry Miller and Joe Presley at The Women's Clinic, in 1966. He loved living in Baton Rouge, he said, as he loved the food, the football, and the fishing! He became a member of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1969, became a Fellow in the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1976. He was one of the Founding Members of the Gynecologic Laser Society, and a Fellow in the American Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, 1979. He served as Chief of the Medical Staff of Woman's Hospital in 1981. When Dr. Penn arrived in Baton Rouge, he introduced the Epidural Anesthetic, bringing pain-free labor and delivery to women. He spent countless hours in the basment of the Baton Rouge General Hospital on Florida Blvd., crafting needles, catheters, and caudal equipment to fit individual epidural spaces in any woman who desired a pain-free childbirth. Later, Epidural Kits were made by medical supply companies, but in 1966, Dr. Penn went to all the hospitals in Baton Rouge relieving pain.
Additionally, in the 1970's Dr. Penn became interested in the Laser for treatment using a Colposcope to enlarge tissue visually in order to burn off suspicious areas, and save patients major surgery. He went to medical meetings in Canada, The Bahamas, Arizona, and Texas and was successful in having Woman's Hospital, and his own office, Women's Clinic, purchase Lasers for use in protecting the health of women by using Laser Surgery when appropriate, instead of general surgery. Dr. Penn also was among the first Gynecologists to observe the increase in venereal diseases among very young women, diagnosing serious diseases in younger teen-agers, at alarming rates. He, along with other gynecologists planned large forums for high school students in Baton Rouge, in order to educate them to the grave dangers which result from promiscuity and unprotected sex. When he retired in 1997, he was, and still is, fearful for the youth of our Nation as numbers continue to rise in diseases which once were seen in small percentages, but now are common and spreading.
Dr. Penn was a quiet, soft-spoken man, who cared deeply for the between 11,000 and 12,000 babies he delivered, and for the parents whose lives he was privileged to share. He never delivered a baby without observing to those close by, that God had created another miracle. He was proud to be a member of several military organizations, among them: The American Ex-Prisoners of War, Red-Stick Chapter; the Marine Corps League of Baton Rouge; and the Korean War Veterans Asso. Chapter 230, which changed its name in 2009 to the "Billy Rivers Penn, M.D. Korean War Veterans Association, Chapter 230" to honor Penn, since he had been a prisoner during the war. He received many awards, one from the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, named the DAR Medal of Honor Award, which was presented to him at the 120th Continental Congress July 2, 2011 in Washington, D. C. for promoting knowledge, loyalty and love of country in the hearts and minds of Americans to one who has made lasting and unusual contributions to America by giving of himself to his fellow man, community and Country. Bill's military service and research in women's health led the Alexander Stirling Chapter of the DAR to sponsor him for the Award. He has been a member of the Baptist faith since his youth, attending University Baptist Church, but also attended St. James Episcopal Church for the last 40 plus years with his wife, Nancy, where he was active in the Wednesday Morning Bible Study. Bill spoke at many military events and banquets, Memorial Day at the U.S.S.Kidd, Marine Corps Anniversary Balls in Austin, Tx. and Baton Rouge, and many high schools. He was intent on the youth of America understanding that "Freedom Is Not Free." Thousands of people have paid the ultimate price to allow us to live in this blessed Country. We must never, ever take it for granted, never forget our Founding Fathers or our Veterans, and pray that people who are elected for office respect our Military Services, and our Flag. Most importantly, Bill spoke of the importance of praying for God's guidance in our lives, and pressed that point to the students in attendance.
He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Nancy Barnett Penn, also of McComb, MS. and her two children, whom he loved and cared for as his own, The Rev. Melissa Hollerith, her husband, The Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith and their two children, Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Jr. and Elizabeth Barnett Hollerith, all of Richmond, VA. and Elizabeth Forman Foster (Jiggs), and her husband, Richard Todd Foster, and their three children, Elizabeth Barnett Foster, Richard Todd Foster, Jr. (Jack), and William Forman Foster all of Dallas, TX. Bill's four children from his former marriage and their families are Patrician Len Penn of Castle, OK., Robert Stephen Penn, his wife Catherine, and their two children, James Robert Penn, and Mary Adelaide Penn, all of Houston, TX., Polly Ann Penn Garrett, her husband Geoffrey Reynolds Garrett, and her son, Cameron Lee Stevens, and William Rivers Penn, of Kingman, AZ. and his two daughters, Mary Catherine Penn and Emalyn Canada Penn, both of Chapel Hill, N.C. and their mother, Ann Canada Penn of Wilmington, N.C. Bill was a loving husband, father, and grand-father who greatly enjoyed being with "all his children" especially the eight trips to Disneyworld.....it ties with fishing as his favorite place!! Bill is also survived by two brothers, Robert Evans Penn, III of Houston, TX. and Robin Brown Penn of Monticello, MS.
The family would like to thank the Firemen of the St. George Fire Dept. Station 62 on Jeff. Hwy. for their years of assistance during Bill's illness, and the B.R.General Hospital, Bluebonnet Blvd. Intensive Care Employees for their many kindnesses.
As Bill requested, there will be a private family service followed by Interment at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, Bill asked that those wishing to make a remembrance in his name, to please consider: Disabled American Veterans, P.O.Box 14301, Cincinnati, Ohio 45250-0301; or, American Bible Society, 1865 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10023; or Louisiana Baptist Children's Home, Ruston, LA.
Obituary published in The (Baton Rouge, LA) Advocate from May 10 to May 12, 2013.
Arlington National Cemetery
Plot: SECTION 64, GRAVE 5929
Created by: Rita Graves
Record added: May 16, 2013
Find A Grave Memorial# 110660622
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