How McWherter Faced Death: His Physician Recalls

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Two funeral services — one in Nashville on Saturday and another in Dresden on Sunday — marked the passing of former Governor Ned McWherter, who was quietly buried in between the two observances, both attended by crowds in the thousands.

The Nashville service, held in the War Memorial Auditorium on Capitol Hill, was addressed by former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, among others.

Gore described McWherter, who died the previous week after a long battle with cancer, as the greatest governor in Tennessee history. In a speech replete with humorous recollections, Clinton recalled appearing with McWherter at an outdoor Memphis event in 1993 when a stiff wind came up, causing one or two of the other dignitaries sharing the stage to move away from the president himself to get to the other side of the large-framed McWherter for protection.

The most unique testimonial to the larger-than-life late governor may have come Sunday at the Dresden event, however — from one of McWherter’s attending physicians, Dr. F. Karl Vandevender of Nashville’s Frist Clinic, who drew animated chuckles as he related a conversation with his famous patient.

“I asked him once how he felt about death. He said, ‘I’m on good terms with the Man Upstairs — and with the Man Downstairs.’ I never really asked him what that meant. It showed that, no matter how things went, he was prepared to reach across the aisle.”

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