City servant dies

Published 10:38 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dr. William H. Higinbotham Jr., right, is inducted into the International College of Dentists. Higinbotham, who died Monday, was a well-loved dentist in Suffolk for many years.

Higinbotham remembered as a leader

A longtime servant of the city of Suffolk died Monday after an extended illness.

Dr. William H. Higinbotham Jr., 76, served for seven years on the Suffolk School Board and for eight years on City Council. He was a 1952 graduate of Suffolk High School and operated a dental practice in the city for 43 years.

“He was very dedicated to his family, his profession and his city,” his wife, Joanna Higinbotham, said Tuesday. “He loved it all.”

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Higinbotham served in at least a dozen organizations dedicated to community service, art and history, including the United Way, Suffolk Art League and Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society. He also was an active member at Main Street United Methodist Church.

In his government service, he was on the Virginia Municipal League Education Committee for six years. He also chaired the Downtown Suffolk Revitalization Committee for two years.

“He was a very good member,” said former mayor Andy Damiani, who encouraged Higinbotham to run for the post. At the time, the Suffolk borough had two representatives, and Damiani and Higinbotham shared the dual representation for a term.

“He was a good person,” Damiani said. “He didn’t make a lot of speeches, but he made the point in a very calm and deliberate way. He was delightful to work with.”

Linda Bunch, executive director of the Suffolk Art League, said the Higinbothams have been supporting the organization since before she got involved.

“They have always been very generous members,” she said.

But besides his community involvement, most people likely will remember him for the garden he kept at the corner of Broad Street and West Constance Road.

“It was just always so nice coming and going from work,” Bunch said of the garden, which generally featured lilies. “It was always so pretty and neat and bright and happy.”

Higinbotham’s daughter, Susan Conner, remembered that she and her siblings helped their father work in the garden and drop baskets of vegetables on neighbors’ back porches on the way home.

“Nobody ever said anything,” Conner said. “They just knew Daddy had brought them some vegetables.”

Joanna Higinbotham said her husband generally “ran the gamut of president, vice president and treasurer” in all of the organizations where he was involved.

“He loved his church,” she said. “He loved his dentistry. For fun, he loved the Elks Club.”

Higinbotham also enjoyed snow skiing and riding roller coasters, Conner said. His favorite was the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Her father also had a unique laugh that he would use to charm nervous children at his dental practice, she said, and he rarely stopped humming.

“He never sang, but he would hum,” she said.

Higinbotham will be buried Thursday after an 11 a.m. service in Holly Lawn Cemetery.