In 1982, set to begin his career as an ophthalmologist, Dr. Stephen Farkas heard from a cousin that the Gainesville area was a “great place to raise a family.”
Four inches of snow blanketed Gainesville when he arrived in town, fresh out of residency at the Medical College of Georgia, to check the area out for himself.
Farkas decided to stay, founding Gainesville Eye Associates.
On Thursday, it was time to say goodbye.
Co-workers and friends threw a retirement party for Farkas, 65, presenting him with plaques, showering him with well wishes and sharing in a food buffet in the waiting room of the practice’s surgery center.
“Thirty-five years is a good round number,” Farkas said, explaining his decision to retire.
“It felt about right. I didn’t want to be a burden or have someone tell me I had to retire. I wanted to leave on my own terms.
“And plus, I have just got so much else going on — hobbies, family, travel, that sort of thing.”
He said he expects to take the summer off, “then I’ll look for part-time or volunteer work.”
Still, looking back, Farkas said he is proud how his practice has grown over the years.
It started with himself and another employee. Today, Gainesville Eye Associates has locations in Gainesville, Braselton and Cornelia, as well as four physicians, two optometrists and 54 employees.
“It’s grown with the area,” Farkas said.
Two of his employees, Connie Blackburn and Dyann McGarry, both surgery center technicians, have worked for Farkas some 30 years.
“It’s bittersweet,” they said, almost in unison, of Farkas’ last day.
“I’m happy for him,” McGarry said.
Carlyle Cox hasn’t just been a patient for 30-plus years but also a golfing partner.
He recalled how Farkas once told him at the golf course, after doing cataract surgery on him in the 1990s, “Now, watch where my ball goes. I can’t see as good as you can.”
“He is just a super person,” Cox said. “He is a very thoughtful and caring person. And … he
looks too young to retire.”
One thing that has proven true for Farkas is his cousin’s words.
“It turned out to be a good choice,” he said.
His grown children “are both educators here in Hall County, so they’ve stayed,” Farkas said. “I’ve got two grandchildren who live about 5 miles from us. We’re blessed.”