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J. Crit Harley

J. Crit Harley

Dr. J. Crit Harley died on Feb. 10, 2014, at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta of a rare blood disorder called Secondary Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). He was 66.

Crit lived his life with the intention of enjoying every moment. He understood life's concerns were important, but never serious, and should always be accompanied by a sense of humor.
Born June 11, 1947, in Hackensack, N.J., John Crittenden Harley was always known as Crit. His family moved to Greensboro, N.C., when he was 10 years old. After receiving an undergraduate degree from N.C. State University, he graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. While in med school he met his wife, Linda Levy, who says she chased Crit until he caught her. They married, May 6, 1973. Their daughter, Tevya Harley — his pride and joy — was born April 19, 1982.
After Crit completed his medical internship at Charlotte Memorial Hospital, the couple traveled in a 1972 VW bus across the U.S. for 14 months. They came to Hendersonville in October 1976 when he took a position in the Pardee Hospital Emergency Department, the beginning of his work in emergency medicine that would continue until he died. He worked in Pardee's ER for 19 years, nine as ER director, and served as medical director of the Henderson County Emergency Medical Services for 35 years.
In 1978, Crit approached Henderson County EMS Director Tom Edmundson about his interest in EMS. Crit became the first state-authorized fulltime medical director of Henderson County EMS. Tom and Crit worked together to improve training and skill levels, starting the EMS paramedic program in October 1980 and making Henderson County the ninth county in the state to provide a paramedic program. Once the paramedic program was started, Tom and Crit saw the need for a first responder educational program to assist paramedics in providing better patient care. BRCC developed the program, now taught to all 12 fire departments and the Henderson County Rescue Squad.
"Dr. Harley was an integral part of the educational process, and was very instrumental convincing doctors what would be the scope of the level of paramedic procedures, approved by the NC Board of Medical Examiners and NC Office of EMS," Edmundson said. "Through the years, Dr. Harley supported and encouraged the expansions of paramedic skills as the NC Medical Board of Examiners and NC Office of EMS advanced them. Dr. Harley was not one who wanted glory for himself, but very much behind the scenes to make sure everything was done right."
Terry Layne, who succeeded Edmundson, agreed.
"When I became EMS director in 2001, the NC Office of Emergency Medical Services expanded each county EMS medical director's responsibilities to include all emergency medical services: first responders, private emergency services, along with the EMS paramedic program," Layne said. "Dr. Harley was also instrumental in developing three satellite stations located throughout the county to help reduce response time to patients needing emergency medical care. He had a great interest in Henderson County EMS being the best. Dr. Harley took pride in Henderson County not having the problems of other state EMS systems."
Mike Barnett, EMS director since 2011, said Harley always treated the emergency corps with respect.
"Dr. Harley was a very special person, and very unique in how he led us," Barnett said. "He cared about people in general, but also, took special interest in us – the EMTs. He was always interested in us and our families, in how we were doing. He was a joy to work with. He always used humor, making the difficult situations easier. As far as a medical director, Dr. Harley had a unique way of looking at things. He was not judgmental. He was slow to speak, and quick to listen."
Crit left emergency room medicine in 1994 to start a private practice, specializing in stress management, mind body medicine, and hypnotherapy. The medical community at the time stated expressed confusion about his new practice. With a smile, he said, "That's great. I've a got a corner on the market."
Along with his wife, Crit served as one of the first mediators with the Henderson County Dispute Settlement Center, and was active in the organization as a board member and mediator from 1982 to 1996.
His skill at mediation led to an appointment to the Hendersonville City Council in 1996. He won election in 1997, lost in 1999 and was appointed again, in 2000, after the death of T. Lee Osborne. He always declared he was no politician.
"I don't kiss babies. No committee, no website, just me," he said. "And I am who I am. I listen to issues, study them, and I am willing to make tough decisions. Based on what I think/hear is best for all. I have a sense of humor, and I use it...City business is important, not serious."
Dr. Harley had a little known but wide impact on his community, on health care generally and on patients' well-being through board work and volunteerism:

  • "Crit challenged you to act," said Renee Kumor, who served with him on the DSS board. " He moved you off your dime."
  • "Dr. Harley was funny," said Dr. Diana R. Curran, who worked with Harley at the county Health Department. "He made little jokes that lighten your day, along with his great clinical skills, and diagnostic abilities. He was great with children. He always put them at ease. He was a critical member of the Child Fatality Prevention Team for 15 years. He was an advocate for children whether he was serving them in patient care or as a volunteer."
  • "Crit always saw both sides," said Dr. Dan Veazey, who served with Harley for many years on the Pardee Ethics Committee, which Harley chaired for nine years. "I, along with others, looked towards Crit when there were opposing views. He had the unusual ability to guide strong opinions/egos to a common consensus with no collateral damage. Everybody came out a winner. He was a wise and a compassionate man."
  • "The cancer conference is discussing medical, as well as social and psychological issues of the patient," Dr. Chuck Albers said of the weekly meeting. "I was so impressed with how he dealt with patients in helping them through their feelings and anger, especially with kids. His bubbly self and putting kids at ease."
  • John Crittenden Harley was preceded in death by his father, A.H. Harley, and stepmother, Catherine Harley. He is survived by his wife, Linda Harley, and his daughter, Tevya Harley, two sisters and their spouses and families, Gail and E.L. Porter and Diane and Dan Egner; and two brothers-law and their spouses and families, Raymond and Sandy Levy and Edward and Debbie Levy.

Dr. J. Crit Harley will be missed by all who knew and loved him. His life centered on not what he gathered, but what he scattered.
A celebration of his life will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Elizabeth Leigh Inn, 908 5th Avenue West, Hendersonville. Dress: casual, no black.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to:
Dr. John Crittenden Harley Fund for Histiocytosis Research. Credit card or check is accepted. Please make check payable to Emory and send to Office of Gift Records, Emory University, 1762 Clifton Road NE, Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA 30322-1710.
By phone call (404) 712-GIVE (4483). Online payments may be made at Select "give online" and then under Select Direction choose "Other Designation (specify below). In the box type in Crit Harley.
Please specify that the donation is designated in memory of Crit Harley. This will ensure that your donation goes to the appropriate fund.