Uncle Poppie loved to travel and take care of all of God’s creations, said friends and family at a “celebration of life” service Saturday afternoon.

Dr. Pierre Bernard “Uncle Poppie” Bland died Oct. 2 at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. He was 56.

“God may not have given Pierre the ability to talk to the animals; the Lord gave my brother something even better….. the ability to heal animals,” said Marben Bland, Pierre’s older brother.

Many of Bland’s family from his native Georgia attended Saturday’s service at the United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale. Reverend Patrick Rogers said he and Bland were drinking buddies. The two also enjoyed writing. Bland wrote of their meetings in his last column for The South Florida Times.

“Though it seems mundane to me, I do lead an interesting life,” Bland wrote. “That becomes apparent when I spend time with my drinking buddies, the pastor and the funeral director. We start sharing the more adventurous aspects of our week and soon we are laughing and forgetting the trials and tribulations that come along with our callings.

“In all modesty,” Bland added. “I have the best stories.”

Born in Macon, Georgia Bland was the fifth of six children. “We called him Pete,” said friend Linda Bostic. They studied veterinarian science together in Atlanta, said Bostic. Bland would come over to Bostic’s house to study and never left hungry.

“He was a very quick-witted person,” recalled Blair, a friend of Bland’s from Fort Lauderdale who said the two, on occasions, sat in the same pew at church.

Bland opened his veterinary practice in 2016, fulfilling a lifelong dream. He received his doctorate in veterinary medicine at Tuskegee University in 1985. Bland is credited with performing groundbreaking research on behalf of Tuskegee University, Oregon State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

His Fort Lauderdale practice was successful because Bland was kind and understanding, said Roger Handevidt, a friend.

“I took my cat to see him and he took good care of her and told me to just pay what you can,” Handevidt said.

Rev. Rogers affirmed Bland’s love for Jesus and Christianity and recalled a conversation the two had recently about faith.

“Prayers without action are just words, he said to me,” Rogers reflected.

In his final column for the Times, “Pigs Generate Dust In The Wind,” Bland wrote of trying to subdue a 300-pound pig while being racially insulted by the animal’s eldery owner.

“If I had a dime for every time I heard that word; strange no matter how hard I work or how accomplished I become for many it boils down to that; But I know exactly who I am so all else is noise and dust in the wind,” Bland wrote.

At Bland’s UCC Fort Lauderdale service, Keyboardist Ederick Johnson, who works at the Pride Center, performed several songs, including “Oh Happy Day!” and “Amazing Grace.” Pianist Ruben Gonzalez peformed “Blessed Assurance” and Jim Sargent recited Psalm 23.

Bland is survived by his mother, Mrs. Mary Lois Johnson Bland of Gray, Georgia and surrogate mother and trusted neighbor Mrs. Fedora B. Patterson of Gray, Georgia, two sisters and three brothers.

The family asks donations be made in Bland’s name to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.