John Pruitt Sr.

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  • "My thoughts and prayers are with the family of my dear..."
    - Robert McNally
  • "Thank you for the love you gave so unconditionally to many..."
    - Valerie Keenan
  • "You were a dear family friend as well as a talented surgeon..."
    - Jean DeDi
  • "All of you are in our thoughts and prayers.Crayton was a..."
    - Hopkins Family
  • "Crayton was a dear friend to the Edwards' family as well as..."
    - Lester Edwards
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PRUITT, John Crayton Sr. a beloved cardio-vascular surgeon, visionary entrepreneur, and generous philanthropist, died on Saturday, Oct. 8, at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, at the age of 79. He was born on Nov. 23, 1931, in Jefferson, SC, the son of Joe Major and Helen Gregory Pruitt. After graduating from Hanna High School in Anderson, SC, he earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Emory University. In 1956, Dr. Pruitt moved to St. Petersburg to intern at Mound Park Hospital, now Bayfront Medical Center. Soon after he joined the United States Public Health Service and began his surgical residency at the National Institutes of Health. In 1960, his path-breaking research in cancer diagnosis for the National Cancer Institute resulted in extended travel to Moscow, Russia, where he partnered with doctors there to explore the use of cadaver blood for transfusions. Dr. Pruitt completed his surgical residency at Bowman Gray (North Carolina Baptist Hospital) in Winston Salem, NC, and arrived in St. Petersburg in 1963, board certified in general and thoracic surgery. His practice thrived. His expertise, love for his patients, and respect for his colleagues, kept him busy in the operating room, where at the height of his practice, he performed as many as 20 surgical procedures a day. Much of Dr. Pruitt's surgical practice was dedicated to the prevention of strokes, the illness that caused his father's death. In addition to performing more carotid endarderectomies than any other surgeon in the world, his commitment to educating people about the causes of strokes led him to write and publish A Crusade for Stroke Prevention (University of Tampa, 2000). He also invented medical devices. The Pruitt-Inahara shunt, a surgical device still used world-wide, allows blood to the brain while arteries are being cleaned, and an irrigation embolectomy catheter, the Pruitt Occlusion Catheter, flushes out blood clots and arteries in the lower extremities. But his passions went well beyond the operating room. He was a member not only of the American College of Surgeons, but also the Florida Farm Bureau, the Seminole Wars Foundation, the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, and many other organizations. Inspired by his father's love of rural and agricultural land, Dr. Pruitt acquired large tracts in north Florida where he and his family spent many summer weekends. On his properties, he took an active role in cattle ranching and growing watermelon, peanuts, alfalfa and other crops. He also bred and raised thoroughbred horses. His favorite, Z-Plasty, named for a surgical procedure, won the WHAS Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day in 1986. His interest in and love for the country of Chile motivated him to spend hundreds of hours learning Spanish in recent years. In 1995, Dr. Pruitt suffered a heart attack and was fortunate to receive a heart transplant at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida. Grateful for the good care he received there, he made the first of a series of major gifts to the University of Florida Foundation, endowing two professorships at the Department of Biomedical Engineering. In 2005, he made a $10 million gift endowing the department, which was renamed the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering. In recognition of his many accomplishments, the University of Florida awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree to Dr. Pruitt in 2006. Dr. Pruitt also made a gift valued at $2.8 million to Eckerd College in 2009, to support the college arts program and the construction of the new Pruitt Center for Ceramic Arts and Sculpture. From this gift, endowments will be created or enhanced to support the Eckerd College Writers' Conference, the Creative Arts Collegium, the Letters Collegium, the Library, and programs and scholarships for the Program for Experienced Learners. In 1955, Dr. Pruitt married Frances Miller McSwain, whom he met while he was attending Emory University, and she was a student at Agnes Scott. They had four children and divorced in 1992. Mark Huntington Pruitt, a graduate of the University of Florida College of Law, died in an airplane crash in 1986, at the age of 25. Dr. Pruitt is survived by his other three children, J. Crayton Pruitt, Jr., M.D. (Johanna) of Largo; Helen Pruitt Wallace (Peter) of St. Petersburg; and Natalie Pruitt Judge of St. Petersburg. He's also survived by five remarkable grandchildren, Evan Johanna Pruitt (Mark Sellmyer), of Portola Valley, CA, Eric Yates Pruitt, of Philadelphia, PA, Daniel McSwain Wallace, of Boston, MA, Hannah Rudy Wallace, of Miami, and Miller Huntington Judge, of St. Petersburg; one great-granddaughter, Avea Frances Sellmyer, of Portola Valley, CA; one nephew, Ernest Bruce Pruitt (Betsy) of Mooresville, NC; one niece, Rebecca Ann Pruitt, of Naples, and his devoted longtime friend, Charlotte Womble, of The Villages. The family invites friends to visit on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 3 pm until 5 pm, at Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, 2201 Dr. Martin Luther King Street North, St. Petersburg. Friends and family are invited to a reception at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club on Saturday, from 5 pm until 7 pm. Services will be held on Sunday, Oct. 16, beginning at 2 pm, at The Cathedral Church of St. Peter, 140 Fourth Street North, St. Petersburg. Committal will follow at Royal Palm Cemetery South. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in memory of John Crayton Pruitt Sr., to the Mark Huntington Pruitt Scholarship, 12090 Starkey Road, Largo, FL 33773; the Seminole Wars Foundation, 35247 Reynolds Avenue, Dade City, FL 33523; or the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, 322 Eighth Avenue, Seventh Floor, New York, NY 10001. Online guestbook at Anderson McQueen Funeral Home 727-822-2059

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Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home
2201 Dr. MLK St. North
St. Petersburg, FL 33704
(727) 822-2059
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Published in the Tampa Bay Times on Oct. 12, 2011
Funeral Home Details
St. Petersburg, FL   (727) 822-2059
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