Longtime pediatrician Dr. Charles Isbell has died. He will be remembered as a Christian man who dearly loved Fort Payne, his family, his church and worked tirelessly to make his community better. The first board-certified specialist to come to Fort Payne, he held both medical and pharmaceutical licenses for well over 50 years. As a pediatrician, he delivered more than 3,000 babies.
Isbell’s older brother, Dr. John B., died May 15 of this year. They were in an OB/GYN/Pediatric practice together for decades in Fort Payne, eventually seeing their children follow them into the medical profession, as well as two grandchildren. All seven graduated from Auburn University and the University of Alabama School of Medicine at UAB. In July 1960, Dr. John Isbell opened Isbell Clinic and was joined by Dr. Charles in 1965. They offered healthcare to thousands of local families over the decades, evolving into Isbell Medical Group in 2000.
According to his son, Chuck, Isbell’s quick wit, memorable stories and jokes made him a popular choice to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for countless events over the years including banquets, meetings, plays, fundraisers and educational conferences. A longtime cast member in the Krazy Kudzu Follies, he was quoted as saying, "one does not need true talent; only a true sense of humor. The time given to the performances is a way of giving one's self back to the community."
Isbell’s wife of 63 years, Barbara, died in September 2018. The couple first met at church as preschoolers and loved singing in the church choir. Both taught Sunday School and made daily Bible readings and devotion part of each day. He was a church deacon. Isbell was actually born in a house that stood on the grounds where the church was later built.
Isbell was an ROTC military graduate and commissioned lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps, where he served as pharmacy officer at Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, then transferred to Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania. Isbell remained on Army Reserve for six years after leaving for medical school.
Recalling those days in a past interview for DeKalb Living magazine, Isbell said, “Medical school was hard and demanding but extremely enjoyable. Barbara worked and when I received my medical degree, she received a PHT (Putting Hubby Through) degree. I thought that was cute.”
Isbell served as an adjunct instructor for the University of Alabama School of Primary Medical Care in Huntsville and was on the board of trustees of Judson College, remaining active in continuing education for both medicine and pharmacy across the southeast.
Daughter Karen said her father never missed a day of work due to illness or any other reason during his entire practice lifetime. However, he did savor spending quality time with family at their cabin on the Tennessee River.
He loved playing table tennis, taught himself to play the organ without a single piano lesson and was a gentleman farmer with several head of cattle and horses, earning enough money off the livestock trade to put his children through college. He also officially owned the state’s largest willow tree.
He loved automobiles and owned well over 100 of them during his lifetime. He could recall details about each one. He saved enough money to buy each of his grandchildren a new car when they turned 16 years old.
He also served on the board of directors of the Fort Payne Waterworks Board, among many other contributions. After retiring, the Isbells enjoyed traveling the country on group tours and the couple could often be found working out at SportsFirst, where he was a charter member and logged more hours at the center than anyone in its history. Logging his 4,500th visit in early 2018, he was his alma mater’s VIP in the annual Auburn vs Alabama contest among members awarding points based on hours spent there working out.
In a Sunday Facebook post, daughter Laura Patterson shared that he had passed away in his sleep after leading carol singing on Christmas Day. She wrote, “He was loved by many and was a blessing to everyone he met. He had an amazing full life and is now rejoicing with his Savior and our Mom in heaven!”