Georgia’s famed Dr. Denmark dies at 114

Legendary Georgia pediatrician Dr. Leila Denmark died Sunday in Athens at age 114.

Denmark lived with her daughter, Mary Hutcherson, who told GHN last year that Denmark “has a lot of fans who keep up with her.’’

The pediatrician, who practiced until she was 103, was known far beyond Georgia’s borders long before her age became a newsworthy item. She was known for her energy, her advice to parents and her work in developing an important vaccine.

She was born Leila Daughtry in the tiny Bulloch County town of Portal in 1898. Thirty years later, she graduated from medical school at the Medical College of Georgia, married John Denmark and began practicing medicine in Atlanta.

Denmark became the first physician on staff at Henrietta Egleston Hospital, a children’s hospital on the Emory University campus.

She began volunteering at a free clinic operated at the Central Presbyterian Church across the street from the state Capitol. At the clinic in the 1930s, she helped develop a vaccine for whooping cough, a potentially deadly ailment.

Denmark eventually moved her practice from the Virginia-Highland area to Sandy Springs and then to the greater Alpharetta area in Forsyth County.

“I don’t make appointments,’’ she explained to the Atlanta Business Chronicle in 1998. “You never know when a child’s going to get sick.”

Denmark wrote a book on children called ”Every Child Should Have a Chance’’ in 1971. And Madia Bowman, who had taken all her 11 children to Denmark, wrote a follow-up book in 1998 on Denmark’s teachings, titled “Dr. Denmark Said It!”

Denmark treated generations of the same family, and the patients called themselves Denmarkers.

The legendary physician helped raise children in Gina Booth’s family for four generations, the Athens Banner-Herald reported. Booth, herself a Denmark patient, took nine children to Denmark.

“When you walked away from your visit, you felt like you were doing the greatest job on Earth,” Booth told the Banner-Herald. “Dr. Denmark had a way of making you feel so special being a mom.”

Denmark, whose husband died in 1990, kept up her medical practice until 2001, retiring after a compression fracture and the deterioration of her eyesight.

She moved to Athens to live with Hutcherson in 2004, and required around-the-clock care.

Yet Denmark was still very active three years ago, Hutcherson told GHN. At her 110th birthday, ‘‘she had a gala time,’’ her daughter recalled.

The secret to her longevity?

Hutcherson said Denmark’s credo was “Love what you do and eat right.’’ Eating right meant avoiding sugar – even birthday cake.

She recalled her mother saying, “I’ve never worked a day in my life.’’

‘’She wanted to help children.’’

(Living just about 25 miles from Athens is Besse Cooper, 115, the world’s oldest person, who resides in a Monroe nursing home.)

The Banner-Herald reported that Denmark is survived by her daughter, two grandsons and two great-grandchildren.

Funeral services are set for Thursday at 1 p.m. at Athens’ First United Methodist Church, with burial at Portal Cemetery on Friday at 11 a.m. The family will receive friends from 6-9 p.m. Wednesday at Lord & Stephens Funeral Home East.