Medical 05

Luther Ernest Barnhardt

September 8, 1933 ~ March 10, 2024 (age 90) 90 Years Old

Luther Barnhardt Obituary

Luther Ernest Barnhardt, Jr., M.D., F. A. C. R., age 90, died on March 10, 2024, at the Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community in Asheville, NC after a brief illness.  Luther was preceded in death 363 days before on March 13, 2023, by his twin sister, Phoebe Barnhardt Satterwhite of Winston-Salem, NC.  They were the first children of the late former Lieutenant Governor of NC Luther Ernest Barnhardt, Sr. and the late Burvelle MacFarland Barnhardt, formerly of Concord, NC.

As twins, Phoebe was the first to talk, and Luther, the first to walk.  Hence, Phoebe would tell Luther what to do and he would do it.  That pattern did not last long!  They and their two younger siblings, the late John MacFarland Barnhardt and the late Ann Barnhardt Ridenhour, grew up in a musical household, which meant often singing for church services, accompanied by their mother, Burvelle, the church organist.

Luther’s childhood hero was their neighbor and family physician, Dr. Fred Kettner.  When only 5 years old, Luther announced to his mother, “Mother, I want to be a doctor like Dr. Kettner.”  When she asked him why, he said, “Because he makes sick people well.”  His mother never forgot it.

Upon completing public schools in Concord, NC, Luther received an Angier B. Duke Scholarship to attend Duke University where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  At Duke he shared zoology class with a Tenafly, NJ native named Ruth Elaine Westcott who caught his eye and his heart.  They married at the Presbyterian Church of Tenafly on December 22, 1956.  Luther entered Duke University Medical School after his junior year, graduating with his M.D. in 1958.

Planning to be a surgeon, Luther took a surgical internship at Duke, followed by a year of orthopedic surgery and pathology at Duke Medical Center.  A career change led him to enter a  radiology residency program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, during which he enrolled in special training at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.

Upon completion of the three-year residency program, Luther joined the Asheville Radiology Group in December 1963.  The American Board of Radiology certified him in 1964 and the American Board of Nuclear Medicine in 1972.  Dr. Barnhardt was instrumental in bringing the new discoveries of nuclear medicine to patients in western North Carolina.  During these years Luther also served as a captain in the US Army Reserves.

In 1967 Luther left Asheville Radiology Group to found Western Carolina Radiology, limiting his practice to St. Joseph’s Hospital at the invitation of the Sisters of Mercy to be their first full-time radiologist.  Luther served as chairman of their radiology department from 1967-1982 and as president of Western Carolina Radiology from 1967-1986.

In 1986, Luther became the first full-time radiologist in McDowell County after resigning from Western Carolina Radiology and founding McDowell Radiology in Marion, NC.  There he practiced until his retirement in 1998.  He was a diplomate of the American Board of Radiology, the American Board of Nuclear Medicine, and an officer of the NC Chapter of the American College of Radiology.

In retirement Luther served on the board of the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater in Mars Hill and on the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he was also active in the Center for Creative Retirement.

Luther’s hobbies and interests outside of medicine were legion.  For many years he was an avid alpine skier, tennis player, runner of marathons, cyclist, fisherman, and gardener.  Growing plants outside and inside were his passion; he was never happier than when spreading mulch or weeding his vegetable garden.  He raised and bred English Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Siberian Huskies.  He threw pots, built terraria, tied fishing flies, built and played mountain dulcimers, dabbled in watercolors, and later in life, mastered the art of turning wooden bowls and playing croquet.  Luther was a gifted vocalist and musician, a patron of the theater and symphony, and a lifelong student of a broad array of subjects.  He has been a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Asheville since the mid-1960s.  He served the church in the music program, stewardship leadership, and, most recently, in the Saturday Sanctuary making sandwiches.

In retirement Luther joined the Rotary Club Asheville-Biltmore where he inspired a club connection with KIVA, an international non-profit organization dedicated to micro-loan promotion in underserved communities.  All his life, from medical school through retirement, Luther was a passionate and vocal advocate of opportunity, education, and equality for underserved people and communities, inclusive of all ethnicities, religions, classes, and ages.

Luther was preceded in death by his parents, his sisters, Phoebe and Ann, and his brother, John.

Luther is survived by his wife of 67 years, Ruth, son Lee (Luther E. III) Barnhardt (Annie), daughter, Karen Barnhardt Hefron (Mike), daughter Susan Barnhardt Williams (Simon), 9 grandchildren, 3 step-grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and 6 step-great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Asheville, 40 Church Street, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at 2:00 p.m., the Rev. Patrick Johnson officiating, with a reception immediately following.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to The Community Foundation Western N.C., 4 Vanderbilt Park Dr., Suite 300, Asheville, NC 28803 (Luther and Ruth Barnhardt Scholarship Fund) or for KIVA, (checks made out to RCAP Foundation with notation in the memo line “KIVA, in honor of Luther”, mailed to Rotary Club Asheville-Biltmore, 1617 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC, 28803).

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Memorial Service
March 19, 2024

2:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church of Asheville
40 Church Street
Asheville, NC 28801


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