Richard J. Spurlin
Published 4:05 pm Friday, February 17, 2023
Richard J. Spurlin passed away on February 16, 2023, at the age of 86 after a long and well-lived life. He was born on January 16, 1937 to Ollie J Spurlin and Exa Ellis Spurlin. The youngest of four children and the only boy, he grew up in the small town of Opp, Alabama. Four days after Richard was born, his father died. Richard and his three sisters were then raised by his mother and a maternal aunt, Billie Sue Ellis. He graduated from Opp High School in 1955 as the valedictorian of his class. While at OHS, he also served as the president of the student government association. Following high school, he attended The University of Alabama where he majored in bacteriology. After graduating from UA in 1959, he attended the University of Alabama School of Medicine, graduating in 1963.
In the summer of 1959, Richard worked in the lab at Andalusia Hospital. It was there that he met Sarah Ann Merrill, a nursing student at St. Margaret’s School of Nursing and a native of Dozier, Alabama. Like Richard, Sarah was working a summer job between her medical studies. Richard and Sarah married on September 3, 1960 at Searight Baptist Church in Dozier, Alabama. They recently celebrated 62 years of marriage.
After Richard graduated from medical school, he completed his medical internship at the Air Force Hospital in San Antonio, Texas in 1964. The Air Force then moved Richard and Sarah to Patrick Air Force base in Cocoa Beach, Florida. While they were stationed at Patrick AFB, their oldest daughter Karla was welcomed into the family. While Karla was still a baby, Richard was sent to serve in the Vietnam War where he worked for the state department as a civilian physician in a Vietnam hospital.
After completing his military service, Dr. Spurlin returned to his hometown in 1967 to practice family medicine. He shared office space with Dr. J.G. Dunn and Dr. E.R. MacLennan until he opened the Spurlin Clinic in 1972. Dr. Spurlin served the community in family medicine, which included general surgery, obstetrics, and pediatrics. In the first six years after returning to Opp, Richard and Sarah had three more children: Jill, Melanie, and Jay. In his later working years, Dr. Spurlin served as a rural medicine preceptor, giving personal instruction, training, and supervision to third and fourth year medical students from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Dr. Spurlin worked at Spurlin Clinic from 1972 until he retired in 1999.
After retiring from his full-time practice of family medicine, Dr. Spurlin volunteered his time as a physician for Crossover Ministries and for Opp High School Bobcat Athletics. He also worked part-time at Crenshaw Community Hospital in Luverne, Alabama, and at the Opp Cancer Center before he finally hung up his stethoscope. He was inducted into the Opp Hall of Fame by The Opp Chamber of Commerce on May 10, 2010.
Richard also served in various leadership roles at First Baptist Church Opp. He served as a deacon for over 30 years and he taught a men’s Sunday School class for over 20 years. In addition, he and Sarah participated in several missions trips with Carpenters for Christ.
In his spare time, Richard’s hobbies included woodworking, reading, and writing. During retirement, he added traveling to his list of hobbies. In 2015, he self-published an autobiography entitled From Poor Farm Boy to Physician: An American Success Story. His autobiography is the story of his experiences practicing medicine in a small, rural town as well as some anecdotes about his post-retirement travels.
Richard was preceded in death by both his parents, Exa and Ollie J Spurlin, his aunt Billie Sue Ellis, and his sisters Darcene Phillips and Juanita Antonini. He is survived by his wife, Sarah along with their four children, Karla (Matthew) Bundy of Auburn, Dr. Sharon “Jill” Spurlin of Enterprise, Melanie (Reed) Howard of Hoover, and Richard J “Jay” (Shannan) Spurlin, Jr. of Opp as well as his sister, Jean Everage of Opp. He is also survived by his 6 grandsons and one granddaughter who affectionately knew him as “PawPaw”: Richard J “Trey” Spurlin, III, Joshua Bundy, Walt Spurlin, Jacob Bundy, Matthew Howard, Levi Howard, and Sarah Bell Howard.
The family will greet friends from 12:30 -2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 19, 2023 at Wyatt Funeral Home in Opp, Alabama. At the conclusion of visitation, a funeral service will be held at 2:00 p.m. The eulogy will be given by Reverend Chris Weide and Reverend Brian Smith will be officiating. A graveside service will follow with Reverend Wayne Sharpe officiating. Cory Spurlin, Neal Presley, and Richard’s six grandsons will serve as pallbearers. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to First Baptist Church Opp or Mizell Memorial Hospital Foundation.