John Hamilton Edmonson died of melanoma Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at Charter House.
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John was born Nov. 14, 1931, in Martin, Tenn., the second of two sons of a family physician, Henry G. Edmonson M.D. and a former school teacher, Mary S. Edmonson. By his own recount, John spent his first 12 years "day-dreaming and learning the guiltless art of doing nothing." At age 13, he had his first regular summer job working at the University of Tennessee model farm where he earned 15 cents/hour and worked 55 hours/week. He played on the high school football team and sang in the school musicals. After graduating high school, he attended the University of Tennessee, Martin and later graduated from the University of Tennessee Medical School, Memphis in 1954. John did his internship and began internal medicine residency at the John Gaston City Hospital in Memphis. During this time, he married Shirley Dean, a Missouri girl who was earning a nursing degree at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Memphis. They were married Jan. 2, 1956, when he was 24 and she was 21. Shortly afterwards, the couple moved to North Carolina where John served two years of active duty in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a lieutenant in the Medical Corps, assigned to Fleet Marine Force Atlantic at Camp Lejeune where their first two children, Karen and George, were born. They returned to Memphis for John to complete his internal medicine residency and to do six months of pathology training. The family then moved to Boston, Mass., where John completed a two-year Fellowship in Endocrinology at Tufts University doing animal research under Dr. Ted Astwood. John and Shirley's third child, Margaret, was born in Boston. They then moved to Buffalo, N.Y., where John did a two-year fellowship in medical oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Hospital under Dr. James Holland, performing animal and clinical research, along with patient care. John and Shirley's fourth and last child, Paul, was born during this time in Buffalo. The family then moved to Woodmere Long Island, N.Y., where John worked as an oncologist for the City of New York in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Coney Island Hospital and Maimonides Hospital, as well as a clinical assistant professor of Oncology at Downstate Medical School in Brooklyn, N.Y. He developed one of the early "germ free" cancer treatment units at Coney Island Hospital for leukemia patients.
In 1973, John joined the Mayo Clinic Dept. of Medical Oncology where he continued until his retirement Dec. 31, 2001. At Mayo, he became a Mayo Medical School Professor of Oncology. Over his career, he was awarded an abundance of research grants, including many from the National Cancer Institute, and authored approximately 200 scientific papers, abstracts and book chapters. He belonged to many regional and national oncology research groups, and was on the editorial board for the Surgical Gynecologic Oncology Journal. During his first eight years of retirement, he participated in a mortality review project for NCI cancer study patients. John was a member of the Zumbro Valley Medical Society, Minnesota Medical Association, American Medical Association, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Society of Surgical Gynecologic Oncology, the American Association for Cancer Research, Sigma XI Scientific Research Society, the Mayo Emeritus Academic Society and was a Fellow of the American of College of Physicians.
John was an active member of First Presbyterian Church, where he sang in the choir, and also sang bass in the Rochester Symphony Orchestra & Chorale for many years. He was a member of the Rochester Rotary Group, and a Rotary International Harris Fellow. John served as president of the Rochester Civic Music Board and on the Rochester board of the Minnesota Orchestra. He liked to travel internationally with his wife, Shirley, learn about different cultures, and was always interested in learning more history, art and science. He went on fishing trips in Canada with colleagues and hunted with family and friends. John played golf at the Rochester Golf and Country Club since 1974, and described his handicap as being, "too high to mention in polite conversation."
John is survived by his wife, Shirley; four children, Karen M. Edmonson (Norman Skog,) Roseville; George R. Edmonson, M.D. (Anne Murray, M.D.) Edina; Margaret E. Edmonson (David Bublitz) Swanville; and Paul F. Edmonson, M.D., Ph.D. (Shigeko Ito, Ph.D.) Seattle, Wash.; plus three grandsons, Thomas Edmonson, Ryan Edmonson and Michael Edmonson; along with three nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Allen Sharp Edmonson, M.D.
The family thanks Dr. Svetomir Markovic, the staff and personnel of Mayo Clinic, Rochester Methodist Hospital Oncology Unit and the Skilled Care Center at Charter House for their care and compassion.
A celebration of life service will be held Friday, Nov. 29, at 11 a.m. at The First Presbyterian Church of Rochester, 512 Third St. S.W., Rochester, MN 55902.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the Mayo Clinic Medical Oncology Research Programs c/o Mayo Clinic Department of Development, The First Presbyterian Church of Rochester, and The Rochester Symphony Orchestra & Chorale or to a
Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes, 5421 Royal Place N.W., Rochester, MN 55901,
Ranfranz & Vine Funeral Homes & Crematory
5421 Royal Pl Nw
Rochester, MN 55901
Published in The Post-Bulletin on Nov. 25, 2013