Billy Ray Sevier was born on Jan. 3, 1941, and died on Aug. 12, 2020, at the age of 79.
He was born in and grew up in Conway, Arkansas. In junior and senior high school, he excelled at football. The two years prior to graduation he was on the all-state roster and was team captain his senior year. He attended Boy’s State his junior year and returned as a counselor the following year. After graduation he was selected to play in The Arkansas All-Star game.
Bill was offered football scholarships by The University of Arkansas and Oklahoma State. He decided on the U of A, where he played under coach Frank Broyles and roomed across the hall from Barry Switzer of OU and Dallas Cowboy fame. Also on the team was Freddy Akers, who later became the head coach at the U of Texas.
The next year, he married Catherine Pence and transferred to the University of Central Arkansas (formerly ASTC), where they were both students. They had a daughter, Julie. He once again played football and made All-AIC his junior and senior years. Majoring in biology and chemistry, he earned double degrees and was selected “Scholar Athlete of the year.” He often noted that he was proud to be the first in his family to graduate from college.
In 1962, he was accepted into the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in Little Rock. At the same time, he was invited to attend the Chicago Bears’ professional football team for a try out. He selected medicine.
With an academic scholarship, Bill made all A’s except for one course during the time he had a melanoma resected. His freshman and senior years, his classmates and faculty awarded him the Buchanon Key for most outstanding medical student.
A medical internship and three-year residency at Parkland Hospital in Dallas followed. He then returned to Little Rock for a two-year fellow/research associate position with the VA hospital.
While still in Dallas he had a son, David. After divorcing, he met and married his wife of 49 years, Vija Ozols. They had one daughter, Kimberly.
In 1972, they moved to Tulsa to join “The Diagnostic Physicians of Tulsa,” an internal medicine subspecialty group. This group later split and some of the partners started “Tulsa Internal Medicine.” He was also a Fellow in the American College of Endocrinology. In addition to practicing medicine he taught in the OU Tulsa Medical College achieving the rank of Professor of Medicine and in the Tulsa University School of Nursing as an Adjunct Clinical Professor of Medicine. Bill retired from practice in 2000.
Following many years of interest, he and a friend formed “C and B Nature Photography” and achieved modest success selling ink jet prints for about three years. Bill then turned to a community outreach program, “Neighbor for Neighbor” where he helped remodel homes for the needy.
In 2004, he pursued an interest in horticulture and completed the training to become a Tulsa County Master Gardener.
This led to a new project in 2006 when he launched a weekly column entitled, “Ask a Master Gardener” published in the “Tulsa World” newspaper. He was always passionately learning new things and loved teaching others. He voluntarily retired after 10 years and turned the project over to younger faces.
Vija also trained to become a MG enabling them to work together on many projects. The most notable of these is the establishment of “Tulsa Blooms,” the containers of pink petunias in several city locations. These were inspired by their photos of street plantings is Vernal, Utah. They loved driving trips and visited most of the national parks and many wildlife refuges to take scenic and animal photos.
Bill was proceeded in death by his parents, Galley H. Sevier and Katherine Merle (Huie); and his sister, Mary Belote (Temple, Texas).
He is survived by his wife Vija; daughters, Kimberly (spouse CJ Maico) of Tulsa and Julie (Anna Ziegler, daughter) of Fayetteville, Arkansas; son David (spouse Karen) of Little Rock, Arkansas; sisters, Gladys Watson (daughter Polly Rhodes) of Hot Springs, Arkansas and Wynetta Reed (spouse Bob); son, Mitchell Copeland; daughter, Casey Gommert and family of Temple, Texas; sister Mary’s daughters, Christi Curb (spouse Billy), Cindy Adamson (spouse Mike), Lisa Thompson (spouse Steve) and son Scott Belote (spouse Vera) of Killeen, Texas; and extended family.
The family cannot thank enough all their friends for the kind words and support. A private family service is planned. In lieu of flowers, they suggest donations to Saint Francis Hospice, Tulsa; Parkinson Foundation of Oklahoma, tulsamaster gardeners.org or the charity of choice.