John Erskine
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John Morse Erskine

(1920-2019)

Dr. John Morse Erskine died January 20, 2019 at age 98. A fourth generation San Franciscan, his interest in surgery was inspired by a great grandfather, Dr. John F. Morse, who arrived with the Gold Rush and established a hospital in Sacramento. Also, by a grandmother, Dr. Florence N. Ward, who become one of the first female surgeons in the early years of the 20th century, and opened her own hospital in San Francisco.
A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Erskine spent two years as a doctor in the Army of Occupation in Japan, returning to Harvard for more years of study at Massachusetts General and the Peter Bent Brigham Hospitals. In San Francisco he became part of the teaching and consulting staff of California Pacific Medical Center, a professor emeritus of surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, where he taught students on a weekly basis for many years, and as a surgery consultant at Fort Miley Veterans Hospital.
His specialty was vascular surgery. When he began his practice in 1954, vascular surgery was still on the horizon as a separate specialty. Dr. Erskine became the prime mover in creating and operating an artery bank in 1955 for the processing of arterial segments until synthetic grafts became available a few years later. He was on the Board of Directors of the SF Blood Bank. He also contributed yearly articles to Lang Medical Books on current medical treatments.
The mountains of the West were his passion. From early childhood with his parents, Dorothy and Morse Erskine, he explored the Sierra. In later years he enjoyed backpacking with friends each summer and developed an intimate knowledge of the southern Sierra including walking the John Muir Trail. He also served as doctor on Trail Riders of the Wilderness pack trips sponsored by the American Forestry Association. These years and his four years on the Harvard Crew were among his happiest memories.
Dr. Erskine is survived by his nephews, John Gantner, Anthony Gantner and Stephen Gantner and his great-nieces Benicia Gantner and Florence Gantner Zink. He was predeceased by his companion of many years, Kathryn Kendrick McNeil, in 2015. The family thanks all of his devoted caregivers from Care for Seniors and his team of therapists who have been at his side during his long illness.
A small memorial will be held at a later date. Please contact a family member for details. Memorial donations may be made to The Greenbelt Alliance, 312 Sutter Street, Suite 510 San Francisco, CA 94108, The Trust for Public Land, 101 Montgomery Street, Suite 900 San Francisco, CA 94104, or charity of your choice.

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Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Jan. 26 to Jan. 29, 2019.
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