Gene Bishop loved hunting, community service, traveling in political circles and donating time and money.
“He was a good man. I don’t think there’s much more you can say about him other than he was a good man,” said longtime friend Jim Walters of Gainesville’s Walters Management Co.
The Dawson County man, who spent much of the year living in Africa, died Wednesday of natural causes.
Bishop, 76, an Atlanta native and U.S. Army veteran, was the retired owner and president of Health Service Centers Inc., which operated long-term health care and acute-care centers, as well as pharmacies.
He remained active in health care trade associations, serving as president of the Georgia Health Care Association. He also was regional vice president, first vice president and national president of the American Health Care Association based in Washington, D.C.
In 2004, Bishop was elected and still served on Georgia Southern University’s board of trustees. For 17 years, he was a member of Georgia Southern University’s business advisory council for the school of business. His athletic involvement at Georgia Southern included serving as a board member and executive committee member of the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation.
Bishop also served on the board of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Hunting was one of his many passions, said his pastor, Jim Gaines of First Baptist Church of Dawsonville.
“Big time. I’m talking international hunter,” he said. “His game room is just unbelievable. It’s like going to a museum — he has hundreds of trophies, hundreds.”
Bishop lived in Africa 3 1/2 months of the year.
“His home is in the middle of a game preserve, maybe about 350,000 acres (in size),” Gaines said. “... He just bought 125 square miles of property in Vancouver (Canada).”
Gaines said he has known Bishop for about 25 years, or before he became the First Baptist pastor.
“He was one of my best friends,” he said. “He was a great guy. ... He was involved in everything in the community, everything in the church.”
Bishop was past national president of the Jaycees’ U.S. Junior Chamber International Senate, former president of the North Fulton County Chamber of Commerce and a major benefactor of Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.
He was well-known in political circles and was a friend of Gov. Nathan Deal.
“Gene Bishop was a great Georgian and a great humanitarian,” Deal said Wednesday. “I have had the great fortune of calling him a loyal, personal friend. I will miss him greatly.”
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, called Bishop “a longtime dear friend.”
“His service to the health care industry and to the state of Georgia will be sorely missed,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said: “Gene Bishop was a personal friend and a great citizen of Georgia whose generosity benefited the entire state.”
Bishop was the featured speaker at a Dawson County Jaycees meeting in January. The group’s president, Katie Abraham, said at the time that the club was excited to start 2011 “with a peek into his vast business experience with our health care system and his current projects in South Africa.”
Upon hearing about his death Wednesday, Abraham sent an email to fellow Jaycees with the news.
“We’re very sorry to hear of his passing,” she said Thursday. “I know he had extensive leadership and experience in this area, and he was a great asset to the North Georgia community.”
Abraham recalled his speech as “engaging ... and entertaining.”
“He was very excited about us rechartering our chapter,” she said. “He was just a very genuine and sincere man.
Funeral aervices will be held 2 p.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Dawsonville.
The family will receive friends 6-8 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Dahlonega Funeral Home.”
There also will be a service Sept. 10, the first football game of the season, at Georgia Southern.