Dr. Blanche Tabor Burchard, 88, who practiced medicine in the Washington area for more than half a century, died of cancer April 19 at the Stella Maris Hospice in Towson, Md. She lived in Arlington.
Dr. Tabor, who used her maiden name throughout her career, was one of a handful of female doctors in this country when in 1929 she began general practice in a walkup office overlooking the trolley line in the Cherrydale section of Arlington. Later she moved to offices at what is now Lee Highway and Spout Run Parkway, where she practiced until she retired at the age of 85 in August 1983.
Blanche Tabor was born in a log cabin in the mountains near Bryson City, N.C. Her father was the first Swain County native to go to college. She had been determined to a become a doctor "since I was a little girl," she said. "Nearly everybody laughed at me."
After attending rural public schools in which her father taught, she worked nights, weekends and summers at the North Carolina State School for the Deaf at Raleigh to pay her way through nearby Meredith College, from which she graduated in 1917.
Afterward, she taught for seven years at the North Carolina State School for the Blind and saved enough to put herself through George Washington University Medical School, graduating in 1928. She interned at Western Reserve University Hospital in Pittsburgh.
The stock market was still crashing when she hung out her shingle at the age of 33. She recalled that during the Great Depression a round of as many as a dozen house calls, ranging to Leesburg and Warrenton, might not produce enough cash to pay for the gas -- in a time when a dollar or so would fill the tank.
"But I'd come home with the car full of vegetables and country hams and eggs still warm from the hens," she said. "Sometimes I'd barely make the rent, but we had food on the table."
In 1936, on her 39th birthday, she married Henry C. Burchard, 49, a Veterans Administration clerk. They reared five children. Her husband died in 1959.
Dr. Tabor made house calls almost to the day she retired, charged less than $10 for an office visit, and never sent a bill. "They pay or they don't," she said. Her major concession to advancing age was to take a couple of months off every year, during which she traveled to every continent but Antarctica.
At 75, after having delivered more than 2,000 babies, she abandoned obstetrics "because I just didn't have the get-up-and-go left to get up and go out in the middle of the night."
Dr. Tabor's survivors include three daughters, Elizabeth B. Hoff of North Myrtle Beach, S.C., Doris B. Davanloo of Montreal, and Carrie T. Burchard of Baltimore; two sons, David V. Burchard of Gloucester, Mass., and Henry C. Burchard Jr. of Arlington; two sisters, Carrie T. Stevens of Council, N.C., and Rachel T. H. Lovett of Coral Gables, Fla.; two brothers, Claude W. Tabor of Johnson City, Tenn., and Dr. George L. Tabor Jr. of San Diego; 14 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.