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Great physician celebrates 90 years with regular exercise
Dr. Billy Hardman, 90, lifts weights Monday in his Gainesville home. Hardman started his Gainesville practice as an obstetrician and gynecologist in 1948. He retired in 1987. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Dr. Billy Hardman starts his workout with a few squats, holding onto a metal bar in his living room.
He moves to the weights, the exercise bicycle and the treadmill.

He stays active, eats well and doesn't take any medication - and at his age, that's something to brag about.

Hardman, the oldest living physician in Gainesville, according to his family, celebrates his 90th birthday today. For him, the key to staying youthful is regular exercise and a positive outlook on life.

"When you get older, I don't think there's anything more important than doing some kind of exercise often and regularly," Hardman said. "I use the treadmill more than once a day, just to limber up. You feel better when you get some exercise."

Born in Gainesville, Hardman graduated from the Medical College of Georgia in 1943, and served in military hospitals during World War II. In 1948, he returned to his hometown to open an obstetrics and gynecology practice.

"I even delivered babies when I was in the service," Hardman said. "They had dependents on the base, wives, and I delivered babies then, and I hadn't even trained for ob-gyn then."

But entering that specialty wasn't always in Hardman's plans.

After the war, many medical training programs were flooded with aspiring doctors, so Hardman took "the best opening I could get" and started an unexpected career.

"It turned out to be a good fit, apparently," Hardman said. "If you had told me when I was going into medical school that I was going to be an ob-gyn, I would have thought you were crazy."

Hardman remained dedicated to the practice until he retired in 1987. He was one of the founding physicians of the former Lanier Park Hospital, and he also worked at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, serving as chief of staff for both institutions.

"He was a great physician," said Dr. Kit Walker, a longtime friend and former associate. "He had a good bedside manner, was very attentive to his patients, very nice to deal with."

And as Hardman walks around the farmer's market on Saturday mornings, bevies of friends and former patients prove how loved he is in the community.

"He loves going and seeing all the people there," said granddaughter Adelaide Hardman, who takes her grandfather to the market. "All the little old women there just crowd around him and love and adore him. They all have really good memories of him."

They remember a man who was dedicated to his practice, dedicated to hard work and dedicated to serving his community.
"Nowadays, hard work is not popular any more," Hardman said. "You go to most of the doctors' offices at 5 o'clock, and they're ready to go. We didn't do that. When I was in practice, you stayed there until you got through, even if it was 7 o'clock that evening."

Hardman practiced a work ethic he learned in high school and college as a soda jerk and clerk for Gainesville's Piedmont Drug Co., one of only three pharmacies in the area when Hardman was growing up.

"Back then, I thought I had it made pretty well," Hardman said. "I was making $18 a week."

However, money has never been the focus for the Gainesville native, who is also a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, golfer and regular churchgoer.

For him, the most important thing is staying upbeat.

"I just can't even remember in my life ever seeing him upset or mad," son Jim Hardman said. "You never hear a complaint, a condemnation. Everything was just a positive outlook on life."

And as he grows older, Hardman keeps up this optimistic mindset.

"I'm one of those people who never really spent any time thinking about how long I'd live or when I'd die," Hardman said. "I figured the good Lord would take care of that, and I could worry about something else."

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