The longtime physician's black bag stolen from Old's Cool where it was going to be displayed

A piece of Taft history was stolen last week and with it a part of someone's heart.
The ever-present oversized black bag belonging to the late longtime Taft physician John
Bitzer disappeared from his daughter's antique shop on Center Street.
Renee Hill, who, with husband Greg, opened Old's Cool last June, planned to use the
large black bag as the focal point of a special display to commemorate her father's 43
years tending to patients in Taft.
"My intention was to put up a display in the store so people could continue to remember
how much he did for this community. I just hadn't gotten around to it yet," she said
"I knew exactly how I was going to display with his stethoscope draped over it and
surrounded by some of his old pipes, lighters and one of his autographed Cougar
As much as that black bag was a part of the doctor, so were his pipes.
Hill said she kept the bag in a locked room in the back of the store, but got it out because
she needed a bandage.
"I still used it as my first-aid kit," she said. "I grew up with that bag. When it wasn't
with him it was in the house, and we went to it anytime we needed a Band-Aid. It was
just part of the family."
Hill said she put the bag on a table and did not immediately return it to its secure place
because she got busy.
"When I remembered I hadn't put it away, it wasn't there. I tore the place apart looking
for it. Someone just walked out with it. Maybe they saw the syringes in it."
Yes, the bag still contained everything in it when the doctor retired in 2002. He died two
years later.
It still had the stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, bandages and syringes – even the
cortisone Dr. Bitzer was famous for injecting into athletes.
"It was all still in that bag," Hill said.
Bitzer's countless patients will recall that bag.
So will athletes at Taft High and Taft College.
Bitzer spent thousands of hours prowling the sideline at home and out of town football
"He didn't get paid for doing that," his daughter said. "He just donated his time because
he believed it was important. People comment about it all the time. They remember the
funny way he ran when he went out to check on an injured player."
Hill hears lots of stories from customers.
"Everybody has a favorite story about dad," she said. "I'm often reminded how much he
was appreciated. They sure got taken care of. Most of the time he worked 15-hour days.