Beloved family physician and neighbor dies at 94


Pediatrician and family physician Dr. William “Bill” Mebane III, who practiced for years at Chestnut Hill Hospital and was a long-time resident of Chestnut Hill and Wyndmoor, died Oct. 1 while visiting relatives in Salida, Colorado. He was 94.

In addition to being affiliated with the local hospital, now named Temple Health Chestnut Hill, Mebane held faculty positions at Jefferson Medical College and the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He was also an elder of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, where he had a special commitment to community service.

In a prepared statement, his family members said that in the last week of his life, Mebane “biked 2.4 miles for fried okra, bounced his newest great-grandchild on his knee and celebrated his 94th birthday on a jeep tour through Aspen foliage at Camp Hale at 9,000 feet.”

They also said that “Bill’s life taught us all to enthusiastically seize the day, embrace every opportunity to learn new things and always extend a caring hand and a listening ear to dear ones and strangers alike.”

In his professional capacity, Mebane helped to establish the CHH Family Practice Residency program and was one of the initial Program Directors.

Chestnut Hill Hospital has lost a giant,” said Dr. John Scanlon, chief medical officer at Temple Health/CHH. “Dr. Mebane was a consummate leader, clinician and teacher, and his caring and compassionate nature is what set him apart from his peers. His contributions to CHH are limitless and will continue to be felt into perpetuity.”

As a practicing and busy physician, Mebane also took seriously the role of helping to mentor scores of students and residents. 

“On a personal level, Bill was extremely supportive of me as I rose through various leadership roles at the hospital, and I will miss the sage advice he often gave me,” Scanlon added. “He is one of the role models on whose shoulders I stand.”

Marc W. McKenna, a family medicine physician at CHH who succeeded Mebane as program director of the Family Medicine program in 1994 and worked directly with him for many years, described him as “the epitome of an old-time primary care doctor.” 

“He always had a twinkle in his eye, a word of encouragement and a nice thing to say to everyone,” McKenna said. “And, in addition to directly caring for so many members of our community, he also helped train and mentor the next generation of family physicians.”

A native of North Carolina, Mebane graduated from Davidson College and moved to Philadelphia in 1950 to attend the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. After receiving his M.D. in 1954, he interned at Philadelphia General Hospital. It was then that he charmed wife-to-be Marianne with his dance moves, executed with a cast on his leg from a ski accident on Mount Washington. 

The two were married in 1955 and went on a honeymoon to Fort Benning in Georgia, where Bill served in the U.S. Army as a battalion surgeon. It was there that he discovered surgery was not his niche. (He once told the Local that he learned that after suturing the colonel's dog with a running stitch.) 

He returned to Philadelphia in 1957 for a residency in pediatrics at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. In 1959, he joined the Chestnut Hill Pediatric Group and the staff of Chestnut Hill Hospital. 

He also became an integral part of his local community. 

In his work with the church, Mebane tutored Philadelphia public school children in reading. He also actively participated in building homes with Habitat for Humanity and other projects, and he and his wife volunteered with school groups at Morris Arboretum. 

On more than one occasion, he was scolded for teaching the students to roll down the grassy hills.

The Rev. Russell Sullivan, minister of visitation at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, said “Bill was one of the finest persons ever to serve” at the church, citing his work in the community and also as a volunteer in Haiti. 

“His faith shaped him to be a person of compassion, kindness and mercy, which he embodied also as a physician,” Sullivan said. “Bill was the kind of doctor we still need in the world."

Mebane enjoyed both golf and tennis and especially enjoyed the golfing fellowship of the Wayfair Club and his friends at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, where he scored a hole-in-one on the 10th hole at the age of 75. As his sight diminished, he continued this passion, thanks to the Middle Atlantic Blind Golf Association.

Mebane was predeceased by his wife and partner of 66 years, Marianne (Wehner). Bill is survived by his son William, of Falmouth, Massachusetts; daughters Jane Luceno of Yorktown Heights, New York, and Anne Gibbons, of Wenatchee, Washington, as well as seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. 

“Until the very end, he asked himself and others what we could collectively do to 'bring a little peace and justice to this old world of ours,' a favorite saying of his before a meal,” the family said in their statement. “Even during his last days, Bill never complained about his physical limitations imposed by 'too many Birthdays.' Instead, he reflected with compassion on the unjust pain millions of people are confronted with daily.” 

A memorial service will be held at Foulkeways in Gwynedd at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to and the Foundation for Health Equity, 10 East Springfield Ave., Phila., Pa., 19118 ( Len Lear can be reached at