ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Former Medical Director of the Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District (ATCPHD), Dr. Gary Goodnight passed away at his home September 22, at the age of 70. Though medical director was his most recent role, he has served in many capacities over his storied career. The doctor known as a true professional and friend to all he met.
“My brother was a big part of my life,” Dr. Goodnight’s younger brother, Kim told KTAB/KRBC. “My idol, my mentor, he was the person that I always looked up to and he gave me guidance, and I think that’s what I’d say is he was a leader.”
As a pole vault champion, pharmacist, long practicing doctor, pilot, and public health official, Kim Goodnight said his brother always set the standard for what heights they could achieve – although, that doesn’t mean he achieved everything he ever set out to do.
“He excelled at everything, and the only thing I could ever beat him at was in golf,” Kim described his brother.
Dr. Goodnight’s family and friends all regard him well in memory, just as they did in life. Former colleague, Annette Lerma of the ATCPHD said his true passion was in his service. No matter the group or individual he served, he always had a personable way that made you feel at ease.
“He had been in private practice for many years and loved the one-on-one interaction he had with his patients… Now in this capacity as health authority, his patient was the entire community and he was very enamored with that,” shared Lerma.
Not only a true professional in the medical field, but a gifted artist. Lerma commented on Dr. Goodnight’s reputation for creativity, known to gift his own paintings to close friends. Lerma proudly displayed a portrait he had gifted her of Abilene’s first Black doctor, Dr. William H. Butler.
In April of 2023, Dr. Goodnight was diagnosed with Melanoma. Although he did go through a treatment plan, it did not bring the desired results. His brother, Kim told KTAB/KRBC that toward the end, Dr. Goodnight displayed an acceptance and peace with his condition.
“I think it was harder for me to accept than it was for him to tell me about,” Kim revealed. “He kept saying that his soul was in a good place and that was reassuring to me.”
The weekend before his passing, Kim said he felt compelled to visit his brother – a notion he said he was glad he acted upon, as it gave him memories to cherish for the rest of his life like the short walk they went on just outside his home.
“It was an opportunity for me to be there for him, and I think for him to be there for me… He kept saying y’know, ‘I think I’m ready to go back now.’ I said, ‘well that’s probably a good thing, because I heard there was like a silver alert out for two guys that were last seen going west on Tanglewood, so we probably should go back,’ and we laughed about that,” shared Kim. “I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Dr. Goodnight’s funeral service was held September 28 at the Hamill Family Funeral Home. He is survived by his wife, Jean; their two daughters, Ashley and Lauren; and his brother, Kim.
Taylor County commissioners recently met to confirm a new director to take up in Dr. Goodnight’s place. That decision will go before Abilene City Council for final approval within the month of October.