NANTUCKET, Mass. – Robert Huntington "Hunt" Breed II, of Nantucket, Mass. died peacefully on Saturday, December 9, 2017, at Nantucket Cottage Hospital with his sons and sister by his side, following a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 74.
Hunt's life was defined by family, his tireless work ethic, lifelong natural curiosity, care for others, and raw brilliance. Hunt was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. on July 27, 1943, to Jocelyn Harrington Breed and Dr. James Roy Breed. He and his identical twin Jharry and their younger sister Alexandra grew up in a Norman Rockwell-esk neighborhood, exploring the woods and roaming the streets on bicycles with their rifles, hunting rodents for 25 cents. Having lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression, their parents instilled in them the importance of hard work, and camping in the Adirondacks sparked a boyish fascination with the natural world and universe that would remain with him throughout his life.
After graduating from The Loomis School, Hunt was awarded a yearlong English Speaking Union Fellowship at Bristol College in England. He lettered in football, wrestling and tennis at Loomis, and his natural athleticism and speed earned him a spot on Bristol's rugby team. At Yale University, he played intramural sports and sang for Calhoun College, lettered in rugby, and graduated with a degree in Economics. He followed his father and grandfathers into medicine, graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1970, and completed his Medical Residency in General Surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City in 1975. After Residency, Hunt was activated as a Medical Reserve Officer in the U.S. Navy and served as a Lieutenant Commander for two years, spending a year aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Midway as the Chief Surgeon for the 7th Fleet.
He was proud to continue his family's Tradition of military service. Just before departing San Diego for a Southeast Asian deployment, he learned flights off the Carrier required ejection seat training, and went AWOL to NAS Miramar to obtain the required certification. Once at sea, when the pilots asked condescendingly why they should take him up, he replied "I'm the only surgeon within 1,000 miles and decide who I care for first." In a suddenly alert tone, they replied "Doc, you wanna go up tonight or tomorrow morning?!" He kept his word, and when a downed pilot was helo-ed back to the Carrier, he met him on the flight deck. He earned their respect, the opportunity to ride co-pilot in F-4 Phantoms and helicopters, and the call sign "Blades Breed".
After the Navy, Hunt fell in love with Lucy Barker Fowlkes, a girl he'd met in New York City who shared his love of adventure, the outdoors, and community, and encouraged his social and family side. In 1979, after completing a two year fellowship in Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, they were married at St. James Episcopal Church in New York City, and soon moved to New Hampshire, where his medical practice, the community, and his family were his focus. Hunt developed a reputation for the warmth and kindness with which he treated others in his practice and at the hospital, as well as the precision, thoughtfulness, and thoroughness of his work. As a patient once wrote, he "ministered to the entire person, not merely to the physical areas of concern." He helped the Concord Hospital expand into a regional medical center, and ultimately served as Chief of Surgery.
Hunt's involvement in the community extended beyond his medical practice. He would stop at accidents on the highway to help first responders, and once accepted handcrafted furniture from a patient unable to pay. He co-founded Healthsource in 1985 to provide better health insurance in New Hampshire, and served on the Board of Directors until it went public. He served on the Board of the Concord Community Music School for many years, valuing the enlightenment music can provide. Hunt spent two months in Nepal teaching surgery and providing medical care throughout Himalayan Villages. Early in his practice, a one-year old girl was brought in on New Year's Day, her ring finger crushed by ice. He performed a more complicated surgery, noting she might one day want to wear a ring on it. He thought about the lives of each of his patients, the effect his care would have, and constantly tried to be his best for each.
Hunt loved being with his family. He was wonderfully close with his siblings, and regular adventures with the extended Breed family culminated each year with the whole group gathering for Thanksgiving. Often he would come home from work to play outside with his boys, help with science experiments, and clean up after dinner, before returning to the hospital to visit his patients. Family travel took them to all corners of the globe, and when Lucy introduced Hunt to Nantucket, he relished conservation land walks with the dogs, tennis marathons, and exploring remote beaches by boat. Always an athlete, he skied and played tennis every year and all over the world, maintaining his impeccable form and control well-into the advanced stages of Parkinson's, taking his final turns and last strokes in 2016.
When Parkinson's "took away the keys", the two decided to move full-time to Nantucket. He never once complained despite the disease's frustrations and indignancies, and retained the sharp-witted twinkle in his eye. The community and friends welcomed them, and an amazing group of caregivers became like family as his needs increased. As those who knew him well attest, he could be defined by his kindness and an unrelenting desire to understand the world around him. Time spent with Hunt often required a baffling attempt to keep up as his mind, full of wonder, leap-frogged from lily pad to lily pad. He jumped seamlessly from astrophysics and plate tectonics to obscure language and historical references - all conveyed through an intertwined sequence of puns, metaphors, and allusions.
Dr. Breed is survived by his sons, Allen Huntington Breed and Robert Taylor Breed; daughter-in-law, Tarah Carroll Breed; grandchildren, Robert Huntington Breed III and George Garland Breed; identical twin brother, James Harrington (Jharry) Breed; and sister, Alexandra Taylor Breed. He is predeceased by his wife, Lucy Fowlkes Breed.
A service will be held at 2 p.m. on January 20, at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Hopkinton, with an internment on Nantucket in April.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Hunt's honor can be made to the Concord Community Music School.
Published in Concord Monitor on Jan. 4, 2018.