Ojai loses another of its pillars
By Jesse Phelps
Ojai lost another luminary on
Monday when Dr. John Bee, a veterinarian in town for more than
45 years, passed away at his home after battling pulmonary fibrosis.
Doctors explained the affliction, said wife Susan Bee, as a scarring
of the lung tissues thought to be a result of growing and feeding
alfalfa and hay to horses over a period of many years.
"Throughout his lifetime, small particles of hay lodged
in his lungs and caused the scar tissue," she said. "We
didn't know what was going on for a long time and over the last
18 months it's progressed exponentially."
Bee and partner Dr. John Lyon ran the Matilija Veterinary Hospital
together for many years, until Lyon took over the practice in
1991 after Dr. Bee's retirement.
After that, said Susan Bee, the couple moved to Paso Robles to
grow walnuts and show horses. Bee loved horses, breeding champion
Morgans and Clydesdales.
But the move to Paso Robles was temporary. "In 1997,"
said Susan, "John missed his clients and his friends in
Ojai so much that we moved back."
Bee originally came to the town in 1956. A veteran of World War
II, he graduated with his doctorate from the Ohio State University
School of Veterinary Medicine in1955.
After graduation, said Susan, "he went intially to Sacramento
and worked for six to eight months and then came down looking
for a place to practice in Southern California."
The story goes that he came over Maricopa and was on the corner
of Ojai Avenue and Signal when he spotted a police officer. "He
askedthe police offficer if they had a vet in Ojai," said
Susan. "The officer told him, 'No and I just had to take
my dog to Ventura for a C-section. It would be wonderful if we
had a vet here.' So he decided to set up his practice."
Susan said her husband originally became a veterinarian because
of a childhood incident.
"His family in Ohio always had a lot of animals: dogs, cats,
goats, cows and horses," she said. "I know the story
that John told me was that when he was a young boy he ran with
the neighborhood kids and he trapped animals. But then he trapped
his own dog. He decided then and there he was never going to
trap again and he would do whatever he could to keep animals
from pain or injury. He was probably about 9 or 10 and that was
It was an epiphany that the animal-owned residents of Ojai greatly
Susan said that Dr. Bee made many fast friends over his years
in town, including those that worked for him.
"He was a wonderful employer and he built a real loyal team
out of the hospitalstaff," she said. "They came up
and visited in his last days and that was one of the most meaningful
things for him. He loved them very much."
During his time in Ojai,Bee served the community in many other
capacities, in addition to his veterinary duties, from the school
board to the Lions Club to the East Ojai Valley Association.
A remembrance for those who knew and loved him will be held at
the family residence in Upper Ojai on Saturday, Dec. 6.
The Ojai Valley News
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