Dr. William Wortman, a passionate and dedicated traveler, departed on his last and longest trip to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns on January 6, 2020.
Bill was born August 2, 1934, in Morganton, N.C. to W.J. “Buck” Wortman and Roberta Royster Wortman. Despite a Dutch surname, he was proud of his predominantly Scotch-Irish heritage. Moving to Charlotte in 1944, Bill attended public school, graduating from Central High in 1952. He was active in the Dramatics Club, the Marching Band and Concert Band, and the Chorus. In 1956 he received his A.B. degree from Duke University, where he was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Bill was also a member of Delta Phi Alpha, the German honorary fraternity. He attended Emory University for graduate studies in psychology.
In 1957 he was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy following Naval Officer’s Candidate School and was assigned to Intelligence. He served aboard USS Leyte (CVS 32), USS Mercury (AKS 42), USS Salinan (ATF 161) and on various assignments in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean before returning to Medical School. He received his M.D. from Wake Forest University in 1964 and served his internship at the Naval Hospital in Charleston, S.C., where he was told he held the record for the fastest appendectomy by an intern in a Naval Hospital. The patient survived.
After a year’s fellowship in gynecological surgery at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle he was invited by Professor Louis Hellman, M.D., the prestigious author of the standard textbook of Obstetrics, to complete training at Kings County Hospital and the State University of New York in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he served as Chief Resident and Instructor.
Bill opened his OB-GYN practice in Charlotte in July 1969. Along with two physician friends, he introduced laparoscopy to the area in the early 1970s. An accomplished surgeon, Bill was known for his 18-minute bloodless hysterectomies. He practiced medicine and surgery until 1996 before retiring to Lake Norman.
A talented and prolific writer and poet, he published over 100 poems and numerous articles in both national magazines and professional journals. When asked to identify controversial articles of his creation he once said, “They were written and published anonymously under a nom-de-plume in order to protect me, my family, my reputation or my career from attacks by those liars, leeches, demagogues, dastards, hypocrites and humbugs about whom I wrote in the first place. Don’t ask!” Only a few confidants knew his pseudonym.
His published novel, “The Shimmering Bubble,” recounted tales of physicians he knew as well as insights into his military career. Other works were in progress.
He was a frequent contributor to newspaper opinion pages and always proudly signed his real name. He took great delight in the occasional unsigned hate mail he received in plain white envelopes with no return addresses from whom he disdainfully described as “spineless cowards whose convictions aren’t strong enough or valid enough for them to claim, much less about which I need not to be concerned. They’re lower than whale (poop) at the bottom of the ocean.” The bane of his existence were Right to Life Fanatics, Religious Zealots, Autodidactic pomposities and Neo-prohibitionists.
While in practice, Bill was a frequent guest on local radio and television stations discussing medical matters. He was once declared by a local television personality to be “the master of the 13-second sound byte” for his ability to give short, snappy and pertinent responses to questions asked. He never began a response with either “Uh” or “Well,” and never said “You know.”
He wrote by invitation the chapter on Obstetrics and Gynecology in “A Career Guide for Medical Students,” a copy of which for a number of years was given by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals to every graduating medical student in the United States.
Bill’s love of music led him from early childhood to sing in church choirs and other vocal groups. His achievements included composing numerous choral works. He joined the Opera Carolina Chorus in 1987 as a second bass and sang with them for over ten years. He also served on The Board of Directors of Opera Carolina.
One of his abiding passions was food and wine. A gourmet chef and wine connoisseur, Bill traveled the world seeking new adventures in both. He was a member of Les Chevaliers du Tastevin, the Burgundian wine society, and achieved the rank of Commandeur. He also served as the National (Etats Unis) Vice Echanson (V.P.) of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world, from which he also held the rank of Commandeur.
He served as a Trustee of the Chaîne Foundation, which provides scholarships for young chefs and sommeliers in training. As editor for six years of both the Mondiale (wine) and Turning Spit (features) sections of the Chaîne’s national publication, “Gastronome,” he wrote articles both educational and humorous.
In 2014 he was elected to the Conseil d’Honneur, the Chaîne’s second highest honorary award.
Love of wine led him to become an original investor in and an Owner/Director of Tryon Distributing, an N.C. wine and beer importer and distributor. He remained active until his death.
Bill was a member of L’Ordre Mondiale du Vin, the Acadamié Brillat-Savarin, the Statesville Country Club, a former member of the Charlotte Athletic Club, The Peninsula Club, Peninsula Yacht Club, and Carmel Country Club, as well as numerous professional organizations. His love of a good single-malt scotch and a Scottish heritage led to membership in the St. Andrew’s Society.
Bill leaves behind his wife, Andrea Denise Edwards, J.D.; his daughter Laura and husband Paul Solitario of Charlotte, N.C., and Christine of Washington, D.C., and Elizabeth of New York, N.Y.; his son, Captain (Ret.) Richard Wortman, USN, and wife Martine of Ashburn, Va., and grandsons Mitchell of Boulder, Colo., and Justin of McKeesport, Pa. He also reluctantly leaves his Schnauzer buddy, Chief, but will be interred with the ashes of former canine companions Bogie, Beamer, Grover and Benzie.
He also leaves behind many friends with whom he shared a bottle of wine. Like his father “Buck” before him, Bill’s Bar never closed. Friends were always welcome to stop by for a glass or two of their beverage of choice. The family hopes they may continue to occasionally raise a Riedel to his memory.
A memorial service will be held at Nicholson Funeral Home in Statesville, N.C., on Saturday, January 18, at 1 pm. The family will receive visitors after the service at the Statesville Country Club from 2:30 to 4 p.m.
The family requests no flowers. Memorials may be made to the Chaîne Foundation, Châine House at Fairleigh Dickinson University, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940-1099, the charity of the donor’s choice, or used to purchase a fine bottle with which to toast the memory of this unique and remarkable man.
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.nicholsonfunerals.com.
Nicholson Funeral Home is entrusted with the arrangements.