Dr. Eugene Hibbitt

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Retired FHU Professor Dies After Contracting West Nile Virus

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

CHESTER COUNTY, Tenn.- Residents in Henderson are celebrating the life of Dr. Eugene Hibbett. The retired Freed-Hardeman University professor lost his 2-month battle with West Nile virus, Saturday.

"He was the most amazing man I have ever known. It's hard for us to fathom that this has cost him his life here," said Hibbett's daughter-in-law Sarah Hibbett.

Experts said the disease is spread by mosquitoes who get it from infected birds. Family members said they believe Hibbett was bitten while tending to his garden.

Friends described Hibbett as a gentle genius who spend most of his time teaching science and scripture readings in Sunday school.

Family members said through the sickness, several former students came forward to share personal memories about how Hibbett had impacted their life. "There has been a lot of prayers offered on behalf of this family, a lot of visits to the hospital and to the home," said family friend Tony Hysmith.

Family said the love and support they are getting from the community is overwhelming. "During all of this it has just been an incredible journey of small town love and support," said Hibbett.

Experts said at this time there is no known cure for the deadly virus. Hibbett's family said they believe residents under estimate the disease. "Everyone is so limited with their experience with it, especially here in this area because it is so rare," said Hibbett. "Just be ready for whatever life throws your way. We are not promised tomorrow."

Health officials said so far that this is the only reported death because of West Tennessee. Officials said reportedly there are 19 other cases in the state.