Doctor Johannes (Joe) Myburgh died suddenly on July 22 leaving a void in the lives of many and in the community as a whole.
The late doctor was a devoted and committed member of the Sylvan Lake community. He was an advocate for extended medical services, not just in Sylvan Lake but in the surrounding communities as well.
His fight for better medical services for the area culminated in Advanced Ambulatory Care Service [AACS].
Susan Samson, chair of the Urgent Care Committee, said he and two other doctors were instrumental in getting the medical facility up and running in Sylvan Lake.
“Without them we never would have made it as far as we did,” Samson said.
“[Dr. Joe] was always calm and passionate about the cause, he really believed in it.”
Like so many others, Samson describe Myburgh as calm, gentle, dedicated and determined.
She said the significant amount of work he put into AACS, and the manpower from his clinic to get the facility up and running while also working and caring for his patients was “nothing short of a miracle.”
His commitment to better health care stretched to other communities as well. Dr. Myburgh worked at Red Deer Regional Hospital and cared for many in the community of Eckville.
Working with residents in Eckville, Dr. Myburgh knew first-hand the community faced a shortage of doctors. As such he was determined to see Eckville and other surrounding communities, such as Benalto and Bentley, included in AACS.
Eckville Mayor Helen Posti described him as “the friendly giant… someone you could really depend on.”
Even with an incredibly busy schedule, Posti says the commitment he had for the residents in Eckville, specifically those at the Manor, was truly commendable.
“He was a great man… He would come out here to see patients at the Manor so they wouldn’t have to drive to Sylvan to see him. And, he convinced other doctors to do the same,” Posti said.
“His commitment to our community was tremendous.”
While Dr. Joe was devoted to his patients and his community, his family described him as family man.
“His children were his pride and joy,” said Susan Myburgh, Joe’s wife and high school sweetheart.
His children, Anro and Anelle, say he was an incredibly supportive father who always took the time to be with his children.
Anro says he would often watch various sports with his dad, but in particular the two were avid fans of the Calgary Flames.
“He just loved sports, and he refused to watched taped one, he had to see them live,” Susan said.
“In South Africa cricket and rugby matches are on at like two in the morning here, and he would wake up to watch them, but that was always just too much for me,” Anro said.
Anelle says she enjoyed fishing with her dad, as it was a time it was just the two of them.
“We would go fishing, it wasn’t something [Anro] really liked… We had this deal where he would handle the worms and I would handle the fish. He really didn’t like live fish…” Anelle said.
For Susan, Joe’s gentle nature and kindness, aspects that first made her notice him in high school, is what she will remember.
And his love of cooking.
“I got lucky… He was an excellent cook, he loved making things,” she said, adding, “I would be able to make the sides, but I have no idea what to do with meat.”
The family says Dr. Myburgh loved his work and his patients, and enjoyed talking about his day at the Sylvan Medical Centre to his family.
And, he would always have stories about his family to share.
“He would see someone in, like Wal-Mart and stop and talk with them like they were old friends, and they would always know about us,” said Anelle.
Those he worked with at the Sylvan Medical Centre were just as much family to Dr. Myburgh as those who lived in his house. He loved working with the staff at the clinic, his children say he treated all those he worked with like a member of his family.
The Myburghs say they see all of Dr. Myburgh’s coworkers as family and are grateful to have they support.
Moving from South Africa in 2000, Susan says they just fell in love with the town and community. Anro added it was his father’s dream to build his dream house in the area, which he did in Jarvis Bay.
While the family knew Dr. Myburgh had an impact on his community, it wasn’t until his passing that they came to realize how big of an impact he truly had.
A celebration of life was held at the Alliance Community Church on July 25. The service was live streamed and a drive-through memorial was had.
The live streamed service was viewed by over 3,000 people, and more than 100 people came to the drive-through memorial.
“We are so touched and overwhelmed by the kindness everyone has shown us,” said Susan.
“The cards we have received, the comments on Facebook or from the funeral home have all meant so much,” Anro said.
In a written statement the family said: “We are truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in our lives. We are overjoyed that Joe had such a tremendous impact on so many people’s lives.”
Samson said through tears that Sylvan Lake was blessed to have Dr. Myburgh as a family physician. She continued to say many of the qualities he had he shares with the other doctors in town.
“I don’t know how those shoes will ever be filled. I’m not sure they ever will,” Samson said.