Frank Bell Magill

Frank Bell Magill passed away peacefully on May 7, 2021, with his wife, Anne, and their children at his side.

He was the son of Orrin Rankin Magill and Ellen Bell Magill, born in Shanghai, China, while his father was working for the International YMCA. He spent his early years in China, where he attended the Shanghai-American School. Although he left China in middle school, he could still sing children’s songs in Mandarin in his final years. When Frank left Shanghai at age 11, he lived with extended family in Dublin, Va., at Rockwood, a beloved homestead and dairy farm.

Frank completed secondary school in White Plains, N.Y., and was admitted to Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI) in 1943, but was drafted to the U.S. Army, trained in basic engineering and served in the Signal Corps stationed in France until 1945. After the war ended, he was stationed in Frankfurt during the Allied occupation of post-war Germany. Returning to college at VPI, he graduated in 1948. An avid runner, he won the Southern Conference men’s half-mile in under 2 minutes the same year. He then completed his medical training at Duke University in 1952.

Frank would return to Europe for a pediatric rotation in London, followed by a motorcycle adventure through France. On the way home from Europe, aboard a steamship, he had a romantic encounter that would change his life: He met his future wife, Anne Noble. After courting all the way across the Atlantic, they introduced their respective families to each other on the dock in New York. Frank and Anne married at Syracuse University on Sept. 20, 1952. Her father, a minister, officiated at the wedding. They had five children: David and Elizabeth, born in the United States; and Rebecca, Margaret and Frank Jr., born in South Africa.

Frank completed a two-year internship at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) in 1954, followed by a hematology fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital. However, he ultimately chose to pursue medical mission work overseas, motivated by his belief in health care as a universal human right. Dr. Magill took a position at McCord Zulu Hospital, and moved his young family to Durban, South Africa, in 1958. For close to a decade, he treated African, Indian and mixed-race patients amid the oppressive apartheid regime. The hospital drew patients from a wide rural area, as it was the only hospital in the region serving non-white patients.

During these years, he served not only in a medical capacity, but as an ally and witness to colleagues involved in South Africa’s freedom struggle. To this day, his African colleagues speak fondly of the support Dr. Magill provided during the hard years under apartheid in South Africa. As the nursing staff lost husbands to incarceration at Robben Island, Dr. Magill offered steadfast support. All the while, his family grew, and Anne was attended by African colleagues at the birth of her three youngest children at McCord Zulu Hospital. The hospital was rare in South Africa, a place where white and black medical colleagues worked side-by-side.

Dr. Magill returned to the United States, now with a family of seven, and joined a private pediatric practice in Rochester, N.Y. His commitment to helping the underserved eventually led him to practice at The Jordan Health Center in Rochester, providing comprehensive healthcare to inner city children and families. He also had a sub-specialty in hematology, including children with leukemia and sickle cell anemia.

In 1983 he moved to Peterborough, closer to a beloved family cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee, to join a pediatric practice at Monadnock Community Hospital, where he worked until 1992. Frank’s interest in justice and human rights led him to Nicaragua to monitor the elections in 1990, where he returned to volunteer in a barrio of Managua. He also traveled to Cuba several times over the next decade to study the Cuban health care system.

While practicing in Peterborough, he became a physician volunteer with Well Baby Clinics in neighboring towns. During his “retirement” he continued part-time pediatric practice, covering for a colleague he had met in Cuba. He finally retired in his late 70s and was very active in local community social justice projects including MATS (Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter) and the Hundred Night’s Shelter, Monadnock Peace Coalition, Veteran’s for Peace and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Both Anne and Frank were active in the local Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church for the years they lived in Peterborough from 1983 to 2008, and in the Keene Unitarian Universalist Church from 2008 to 2014, after which they moved back to Peterborough and into RiverMead Lifecare Community. His gentle, loving and playful manner were evident to those who knew him and who remember the twinkle in his eye.

He is survived by his wife, Anne; his brother, Samuel Hayes Magill; and five children: David and his wife, Caiti Collins; Elizabeth, Rebecca and her husband, Paul Benzaquin; Margaret; and Frank Jr. and his wife, Jessica Plumb; and two grandchildren: Amaya Dagmawit Benzaquin-Magill and Zia Bell Plumb Magill.

Condolences to the family may be sent to Anne Magill at 300 Rivermead Road, #410, Peterborough NH 03458; or email annenmagill@gmail.com.

Donations in Frank’s name can be made to Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter (https://matsnh.org); and/or The Hundred Nights Homeless Shelter (https://hundrednightsinc.org).