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Crit Harley, ER doctor, mediator, former councilman, dies at age 66

Dr. J. Crit Harley, an emergency room physician, former Hendersonville City Council member and marriage and family counselor who treated stress with humor and compassion, died unexpectedly at an Atlanta hospital after an illness of several weeks, friends and a Henderson County emergency management official said.

Harley, 66, had been undergoing treatment for a blood disorder in recent weeks. He was being treated at Emory University Hospital when he died on Monday night, family members told friends.
"I have been notified that he passed away night before last," Henderson County Emergency Management Director Rocky Hyder said Wednesday. "He served his community for 30 years. He was a great humanitarian and he did a tremendous amount of work for EMS for very little pay, basically volunteering."


Fair and practical
Harley served as medical director for Henderson County's Emergency Medical Services, and in that capacity met weekly with emergency management supervisors to review medical calls.
"He set the criteria for the specific ones he wanted to review," Hyder said. "He had a wonderful sense of humor and he was a great problem solver. There are a lot of cases when you're medical director of EMS that come up. You have to deal with equipment issues as well as personnel issues with regard to their skills. He always had a very fair and very practical way of dealing with things.
"Most of the time I met once a week on Wednesday morning with him and we reviewed all the calls he stipulated he wanted to review," he said. "He was always available to call. We'd call him early in the morning ... sometimes 4 or 5 in the morning, because effectively the Henderson County EMS operated under his medical license."
Harley had seemingly been in good health.
"When he fell ill several weeks ago, he advised us that we should go ahead and find a replacement," Hyder said.
The county appointed Thomas H. Lacy, a Pardee emergency room doctor with Hendersonville Emergency Consultants, as the new medical director of EMS.

'A magician' at dispute resolution


A longtime member of Pardee Hospital's Ethics Committee, Harley had an extraordinary gift for mediation, said Dr. Dan Veazey, who served with Harley on the committee for many years.
"He was just a professional at getting a consensus together with no hard feelings, and we saw that in the Ethics Committee," he said. "When we had an ethics situation, Crit was just a magician at bringing people together and getting their ideas and resolving it and everybody thought they'd won."
He said he had spoken with Harley's wife, Linda, and tried to describe his friend's best traits. "I would say wisdom and compassion were my top two," he said.

A graduate of N.C. State University and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Harley served as an emergency room doctor at Pardee before he started his counseling practice.
"He pretty much ran that emergency room for years," Veazey said. "When you got called to go to the emergency room and Crit Harley was the ER doctor you knew you had to go. There was no second guessing during that drive to the hospital. When Crit Harley called and said they needed to be admitted, they did. He was an expert diagnostician."
Dr. Harley's "real love was aspects of medicine that involve psychiatry and psychology," Veazey said, and that passion led him to leave the ER "to coach and teach skills to people who are struggling with life," as Harley put it on his practice's website.
Harley had "specialized training in cognitive skills development, hypnotherapy, NLP, biofeedback and relaxation training," the website said. Neither a psychiatrist or psychologist, he was "a coach (and) a teacher" dedicated to "helping people be happier, healthier and more successful."
He shared the practice with his wife, Linda L. Harley, a marital and family therapist.

Mrs. Harley survives him, as does their daughter, Tevya Harley, who lives in the Atlanta area. The family had not announced funeral arrangements as of Wednesday afternoon.
On the website Linda Harley described her husband's work at the practice as well.
"He teaches people to use their minds better so they can be happier, healthier, and more successful," she said. "He is a mind-body physician and hypnotherapist who is also trained in cognitive behavioral training, biofeedback, and stress and anger management."

Served on City Council
Harley had the unusual political distinction of having been appointed to the Hendersonville City Council twice to fill vacancies. The council appointed him in April 1996 to fill a vacancy created when an incumbent moved out of the city. He won election in November 1997 to a two-year term. He was appointed again in April of 2000 after the death of Councilman T. Lee Osborne and did not seek election to the seat in November 2001. He ran again in 2005, losing to Jeff Collis and Bill O'Cain.

In nominating Harley the first time, in 1996, then-Council member Barbara Volk cited Harley's skill in mediation with the Dispute Settlement Center, minutes of the City Council said.
Harley applied his humor and gift for mediation as a council member, too, recalled City Clerk Tammie Drake.
"He could lighten a meeting and have people giggling," she said.