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Lawrence Franklin Jelsma


1936 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Lawrence Franklin Jelsma Obituary
Lawrence Franklin Jelsma

Louisville - On August 8, 2018, Dr. Lawrence F. Jelsma died peacefully at home on his Shelby County farm. Born in 1936 to Lillian and Franklin Jelsma, he was a standout swimmer and student at both Atherton High School and Princeton University. After completing medical school at Johns Hopkins University, he came home to marry Sally Sherwood Keith.

Dr. Jelsma's neurosurgery residency at Johns Hopkins was interrupted by two years of service in the Army, including a tour of duty in Vietnam where he was a neurosurgeon at the 24th Evac. Hospital in Long Binh and earned a Bronze Star. In 1971, the family moved from Baltimore to Louisville where he entered private practice with his father, Dr. Franklin Jelsma, and shortly thereafter, his brother Dr. Richard Jelsma. For over 70 consecutive years, one or more of the Dr. Jelsmas practiced neurosurgery in Louisville, initially at St. Joseph's Hospital, and later primarily at Audubon (where Lawrence was president of the medical staff the year it opened), Suburban and Baptist East, although they treated patients at nearly every hospital in the Louisville area.

He wrote, often in collaboration with his partners, over 20 articles on various neurosurgical techniques and advancements, and served as an assistant clinical professor of neurosurgery at the University of Louisville for 16 years. He was certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgeons, was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and served as a member and officer of many medical organizations, including the Kentucky Neurosurgery Society, the Louisville Society of Medicine, the Louisville Medico-Chirurgical Society, the Jefferson County Medical Society, the Southern Neurosurgical Society, and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Dr. Jelsma remained grateful for the friendship and professionalism of the many doctors, nurses, administrators and staff who worked side by side with him for decades providing world class care to thousands of patients. His work ethic, dedication to excellence, and skill as a surgeon defined his life for over 40 years.

Balancing the intensity of his work was his family, and specifically his wife Sherry, whom he adored. From homemade grape jelly to the pet sheep, they were always involved in something interesting and for 56 years, he was the happy beneficiary of her cooking. To this day, to his credit, no one knows if he really preferred burnt chocolate chip cookies, or if he just wanted to be sure Sherry knew everything she made was truly appreciated.

After a lengthy renovation of a tumbled down historic house, Lawrence and Sherry established their home in Shelby County. Retiring at age 65, Lawrence pivoted from medicine to dairy farming, focusing his considerable energy on the family farm. At its peak, his registered Holstein herd ranked second in the state in milk production per cow. When he wasn't working, he spent his time with family and friends, occasionally fishing or hunting, and regularly attending weekly meetings of the Rotary Club of Louisville where he was a member for 47 years.

Lawrence is survived by his wife, their children Franklin Jelsma (Jill), Becky Freytag (Don), and Thomassen Davis (Mike), his brother Richard, many nephews, nieces and cousins, and grandchildren: Henry and Logan Jelsma, Charlotte, Lily, and Slater Freytag, and Maggi, Eliza, and George Davis. The family expresses deep gratitude to the wonderful friends, caregivers and companions who did so much to enhance his final years.

Visitation will be held Saturday, August 11, from 2-5 pm at Pearson's, 149 Breckenridge Lane in Louisville, and on Sunday, August 12, from 3-6 pm at the family home in Shelbyville. There will be a private graveside service for family at Cave Hill Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made to the Friedland Research Fund (checks payable to the University of Louisville), 132 Gray Street, Louisville, Ky. 40202 (supporting Alzheimer's research), Hosparus Health, 3532 Ephraim McDowell Drive, Louisville, Ky. 40205, or the Shelby County Historical Society, 627 Main Street, Shelbyville, Ky. 40065.
Published in The Courier-Journal from Aug. 9 to Aug. 10, 2018
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