WEST JEFFERSON — The town of West Jefferson and all of Ashe County lost a friend, neighbor and elected representative Thursday, May 16, when Dr. Brett Summey Sr. died at the age of 83.
Commonly referred to as “Doc,” the West Jefferson native returned home after attending the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and getting his dentistry degree from the University of Maryland in 1961.
During the past 58 years, Summey never swayed from his path of helping the people in his community. According to Dr. Joel Yates, who knew Summey his whole life and practiced dentistry with him for five years, Summey was always looking to make things better for his patients. Summey didn’t call dentistry his job, but his service.
“He had all sorts of little tips and tricks that would make life easier for him and for the patient. The patient was always top priority for him,” Yates said. “He was always looking for new things, too; he read all of the journals. Anytime something new would come out he would research it, see if it’s good, order some samples and try it out. We learned some new things together, and it was a lot of fun.”
Yates added that Summey was the kind of person who just wanted to know people and treat them right.
“Doc was a true southern gentleman. He was somebody who, if he knew you or he didn’t, he always took the time and was eager to meet you, shake your hand and showed true interest in meeting you,” Yates said. “Once he got to know you, he loved to tell jokes and stories, loved to talk about the Tar Heels, talk about the stock market and he loved golf. He was so young at heart and he could find something to talk about with everybody.”
Since 1991, Summey served as a member of the West Jefferson Board of Aldermen and mayor pro tempore since 1996, filling in as mayor when called upon. He also served in many roles around the county including being a member of the AppHealthCare Appalachian District Board of Health, as chairman of the Ashe County School Board and master mason with the Ashe Masonic Lodge #594.
Town Manager Brantley Price said Summey was a kind person who always focused on the needs of the town.
“Doc, he was a professional, distinguished citizen and business person in West Jefferson,” Price said. “He’s going to be deeply missed by the town board of aldermen and the citizens of West Jefferson. He had a desire to see West Jefferson do better.”
Price and Yates both said Summey’s passing is a big loss for the county.
“He was definitely a pillar of the community,” Yates said. “Every part of this county is going to feel the loss; his church is going to feel a big loss, the town of West Jefferson is going to feel a big loss. He’s one of those people that everybody knew or everybody knew of.”
With a vacant seat left on the board of aldermen, the remaining members face the decision of how to move forward. According to state laws, the seat can be left open since it would be up for election later this year. Price said there’s no rush, adding that he didn’t know what the board would do.