If I were allowed only one word to describe a man, then “courage” would be the word I would select for Dr. Ivan F. Bixby who practiced for many years in Athens. His dreams shattered by blindness in his junior year in high school, he fought on and got through college and became an osteopath. He was looked up to as an outstanding citizen and community leader during his 51 years of practice in Athens.
He was in his junior year at Canton High School when his eyes first went bad and he had difficulty in reading. He had had headaches before but never paid much attention to them.
An attempt to restore his sight through an operation in Philadelphia in 1921 was a failure and Bixby was dejected. He had little hope for the future.
Still dejected but with a determination to build a future for himself, he entered the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia. In one and a half years he had completed the three-year course. While at the school, he learned to type, play the piano, work in the machine shop and read Braille. He began to feel once again that the future might hold some promise for him.
For his senior year of school, he attended the West Philadelphia High School. He took a competitive examination there and won a scholarship to the Pennsylvania College of Osteopathy. Upon his graduation he worked for three and one-half years with Dr. Stern in Canton.
In 1931 he relocated to Athens and purchased the home and practice of Dr. Harry VanSlyke at 211 S. Main Street.
In 1933, he was the representative for the blind osteopaths at the centennial celebration of the founding of the Overbrook School.
Dr. Bixby was cheerful and optimistic in his work. He stressed the importance of giving a blind person understanding rather than sympathy.
Current affairs held a great deal of interest for the doctor and he was well informed on contemporary events. Part of his background information was gained through talking-book records which were sent to him from the library of Congress.
Dr. Bixby did not confine his literary activities to reading. He won several war bonds, a radio and several other items for limericks and jingles he created.
Through the use of a home recorder, another of his hobbies the doctor maintained a recorded history of national events. His collection included recordings of Hitler’s declaration of war; the U. S. reply; the Roosevelt funeral sermons and many others.
For his office work, the doctor had a specially designed table which he used in treatments. He had a large practice in the Valley. The doctor liked to work with his hands. He designed the table himself which he used in his office. Other products of his machine shop included porch gliders and chairs. In 1950 he did his own Christmas decorating and won honorable mention in the area.
Frederick Ivan Bixby, born June 28, 1905 in East Canton, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Fred C. and Lyllis Kyle Loomis Bixby. He married Mary Jane Smith, born April 28, 1903, died June 28, 1935. She was a nurse. He married Ruth Dyer Tozer, born October 9, 1908 in Jennings Maryland, on April 29, 1979 in Athens. Ruth was a long time Sayre High School math and science teacher and a descendant of Julius Tozer who came to the Valley in 1792 and settled on the west bank of the Chemung River in Athens Township. Ruth’s parents were Charles Murray and Sadie Ethel Dyer Tozer.
Ivan graduated from the Overbrook School for the Blind, the Philadelphia High School for Boys and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1928 with honors. He practiced for three and a half years in Canton with Dr. Harold Stern and in Athens from 1932 to 1983. He was a student of Abraham Lincoln, published a book “With Charity for All” the life of Lincoln, in verse. On May 5, 1979, Dr. and Mrs. Bixby attended the Eastern Regional Osteopathic Convention held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Dr. Bixby was an honored guest at the convention and received the Distinguished Service Award presented by the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Profession at the banquet. His award was the highest honor bestowed upon one of its members for years of devoted and untiring service in behalf of the Osteopathic profession.
Dr. Frederick Ivan Bixby died November 11, 1983.
Henry Farley is a founding member and a current board member of the Sayre Historical Society. He is also president of the Bradford County Historical Society.