Dr. Albert Lyle Van Ness, M.D., F.A.C.P., passed away peacefully on Thursday (Feb. 1, 2018) with family by his side. He was 92. His visitation will be 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at Wesley United Methodist Church. A memorial service will follow at 2 p.m. The Rev. Vaughn Hoffman will officiate.
Lyle was born Jan. 5, 1926, in Scottdale, Pa., the son of Augustus Lyle and Alleice Thomas Van Ness. The family relocated to his father's hometown of Bloomington in 1930. Bloomington had since been his home.
Lyle graduated from Bloomington High School in 1944. In July, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was admitted to the Navy V-12 program, attending John Carroll University until his discharge in November 1945. He graduated from Indiana University in 1947, where he was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity. In 1951, Lyle graduated third in his class from the Indiana University School of Medicine and was a proud member of Alpha Omega Alpha honorary scholastic medical society. This membership in AOA was the proudest achievement of his medical career. He was forever grateful to his mother’s second husband, Louis E. Brown, for enabling his medical education and sharing his knowledge of meticulous craftsmanship.
His medical school roommate set him up on a blind date with a beautiful girl from Crawfordsville, Ind. Julia Beeson Van Ness became the love of his life. They were married on June 9, 1951. The newlyweds made Chicago home while Lyle completed his internship at the University of Chicago. Judy, their four children, and the practice of medicine were his greatest passions. Lyle and Judy enjoyed 57 years of marriage.
Lyle joined the U.S. Air Force in 1952 and served in Korea until 1954. He was attached to the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing at Suwon, Korea. He was discharged as a captain and commander of the 502nd USAF Medical Group in 1954. He then completed his residency at the University of Chicago in internal medicine.
In 1957, Lyle returned to Bloomington and joined Dr. Ed Stevenson in private practice. In 1960, he joined State Farm as an assistant medical director. In 1964, he became the medical director at State Farm, a position he held for 25 years. He became a vice president in 1970. Through his association with State Farm, Lyle and Judy were afforded the opportunity to travel the world. This was the experience of a lifetime for a man dedicated to lifelong learning. Lyle was able to walk through any museum, castle, battlefield or art gallery and wax poetic on the relics, school of philosophy, artistic style, or the significance of the event to Western civilization. Lyle felt it an honor and privilege to be associated with State Farm and the incredible people who worked there.
In April 1966, Lyle was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. Shortly thereafter he returned to private practice while remaining at State Farm. His practice quickly outgrew the one-room rented office space. In 1971, Lyle and Dr. Dan Scott founded Medical Hills, which continues to provide quality medical services to the residents of McLean County and beyond.
Lyle was active in many professional, academic and civic organizations. He served and eventually chaired the Bloomington Planning & Zoning Commission from 1964 to 1969. In 1972, Lyle started as a clinical associate at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He served as a clinical instructor from 1979 to 1990. He was the chief of the Brokaw Hospital staff in 1973-74. He was a councilor for the Illinois Chapter of the American College of Physicians from 1984 to 1990. He was awarded the 1989 Marion Laboratories Clinical Laureate Award for outstanding contributions in the field of internal medicine.
Shortly after his retirement from State Farm, Lyle started his unintended second medical career. He obtained a North Carolina medical license, then added Arizona, Indiana, and Maine. He continued to see patients for the next 11 years.
Lyle was a modern Renaissance man. Universally described as a first draft pick in any game involving trivia, the phrase "walking encyclopedia" described his power of memory and titanic intellect well. He could treat your heart attack and stroke, repair your car, rewire your house or expertly refinish your furniture. He was as comfortable walking through any museum or art gallery in the capitals of Europe as he was sitting in a duck blind at Mound Lake or fishing for salmon in the Arctic Circle with his boon companion Davis U. Merwin. He enjoyed reading "A Brief History of Time" written by Stephen Hawking and could describe those concepts in an easily understood way over a drink at the Drake Hotel or while eating a meal at Seafood Club or while playing cards with the Wednesday Night Poker Group. It would be difficult to find someone who could tell a story or joke with a better sense of humor. He was a gracious and kind man; Lyle never met a stranger. He will be remembered and missed by all those whose lives he molded, touched, and healed.
Lyle was predeceased by his wife Judy; his parents; and a sister, Maryellen (Richard) Seniff. He is survived by his children, Paul Beeson Van Ness, Bloomington; Stephanie (David) Meara, Enid, Okla.; Jonathan Lyle Van Ness, Columbia, Mo.; and Julia Carol Van Ness, Charlotte, N.C.; six grandchildren, Dr. Michael Paul (Dr. Alexa) Meara, Columbus, Ohio; Dr. Meredith Colleen (Chad) Duke, Chapel Hill, N.C.; John David (Kelly) Meara, Providence, R.I.; Thomas Lyle (Lesley) Van Ness, Morton; Benjamin Beeson (Amanda) Van Ness, Quincy; and Jonathan MacDonald Van Ness, Los Angeles, Calif.; and 10 great-grandchildren.
The family thanks all those who enhanced Dad’s life with continued support, kindness and care, especially Doctors William J. Ray and Herman Dick, Nurse Karen Marquis and the nurses and staff at Martin Health Center.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Children's Foundation or the Bloomington YMCA.