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Noted eye doctor dies at 58

Dr. Angela G. Ayer was chief of ophthalmology at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines and one of a long line of doctors.

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Dr. Angela G. Ayer, chief of ophthalmology at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines, died Friday (Jan. 3, 2003) at home. She was 58.

The cause of death was cancer, said her sister, Janice Ayer Jackson. Dr. Ayer saw patients at the medical center until Dec. 4, the day she fell ill.

She started at the medical center as chief of ophthalmology in 1983, her sister said.

Dr. Ayer was the daughter of the late Dr. Orion T. Ayer Sr., a pioneering physician in the area. He was among the first black physicians named to the Pinellas County Medical Society in 1967. He died at age 84 on April 24, 1998.

His daughter followed a family tradition of medicine and community involvement that started with her grandfather, Dr. Robert B. Ayer, who began a practice in Gainesville in the early 1900s.

"She was a guardian angel," her sister said, "She learned by example; that was my father, my grandfather and my mother."

Their mother, Helen Viviane Ayer, was a founder of the local chapter of Links, a cultural and civic organization of black women, and fed civil rights marchers from her kitchen. She died at age 68 on June 21, 1990.

Dr. Ayer and her brother, Dr. Orion T. Ayer Jr., also a local ophthalmologist, graduated in 1974 from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, the school their father and grandfather attended.

Dr. Ayer was born in St. Louis and came here in 1949 from Gainesville. She returned in 1983 from St. Louis to care for her ailing parents.

She earned a bachelor of arts degree from Fisk University in Nashville. Before entering medical school, she worked for the Southern Education Foundation in Columbia, S.C., and the National Urban League and the National Urban Coalition, both in Washington.

She was a board member of the St. Petersburg Arts Council and a member of the St. Petersburg chapter of the Links, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, the American Medical Association, the National Medical Association, the Florida Medical Association and the Pinellas County Medical Society.

In addition to her brother and sister, Dr. Ayer is survived by a niece, Dr. Alison S. Ligon, Charlotte; N.C.; a nephew, Patrick Ayer, St. Petersburg; and an uncle, Robert B. Ayer Jr., Gainesville.

Visitation will be 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at McRae Funeral Home, 1940 Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) St. S. The family will receive friends there from 6 to 7 p.m. A funeral will be at noon Wednesday at St. Bartholomew's Church, 3747 34th St. S.

Donations may be made to the L.M. Collins Scholarship Fund, Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, Fisk University, 1000 17th Ave. N, Nashville, TN, 37208.

McRae Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

-- Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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