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John Rouse


1950 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
John D. Rouse, M.D.

June 20, 1950 - April 26, 2017

Psychiatrist, tenor, cook, party-giver, and world-class friend, uncle, brother, and son, John Dashiell Rouse passed away at his beautiful Victorian home in the Haight on April 26 after a brief illness. The world is a little duller and a lot less elegant.

John was born in Newport News, Virginia, the only child of John Dashiell Rouse and Anne Colonna Rouse. He attended Ferguson High School and then Yale University, where he earned his B.A. in the History & Theory of Music. While at Yale, he sang in the Freshman Glee Club, the Spizzwinks, the University (Chapel) Choir, the Yale Glee Club, and the Whiffenpoofs.

John went on to medical school at the University of Virginia and then chose to come to San Francisco for his residency in psychiatry at Mount Zion. He had planned to become an analyst in private practice, but found that he was fascinated and energized by working in the emergency room. He spent the bulk of his career as an Attending Psychiatrist in Psychiatric Emergency Services at UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital, and held the position of Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF at the time of his death. He taught and mentored countless young doctors, who remember him as "generous, genuinely kind and interested in others, centered, witty, incisive, with a uniquely humane and helpful touch."

He was co-chair of the Physicians' Organizing Committee's Northern California Commission on Psychiatric Resources. He was a tireless and passionate, yet at the same time patient, advocate for the mentally ill. His decades of experience in mental health were invaluable in shaping policy, and in 2015 the group honored him with its Civic Engagement Award "in recognition of his active participation in advocating for the mental health needs of the seriously mentally ill and his activist stance in demanding that government entities live up to their responsibilities to the needs of the mentally ill."

After John's father died in the Korean War, his mother married Marcus Clifton "Cliff" Burnette in 1958, and a few years later they gave John a little sister, Sarah, to cherish and torment. John was off to Yale by the time Sarah was four, but they remained close, vacationed together every year, and co-hosted wonderful family Christmas parties for the extended Rouse and Burnette families on the East Coast. John often returned to San Francisco in time to host legendary New Year's Eve parties for his other family of Bay Area singers, from his second career in music. He sang with Lamplighters Music Theatre for 40 years, starting in the chorus, then shortly earning several patter baritone roles before being etherealized into the tenor realm and singing many leading tenor roles in the Gilbert & Sullivan repertoire, and other roles including the Grand Inquisitor in Bernstein's "Candide."

He was a Pacific Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera auditions in 1984, sang with American Bach Soloists for many years, and performed operatic roles including Tamino in "The Magic Flute" with Berkeley Opera under the late great maestro George Cleve, Don Jose in "Carmen" with Monterey Opera, and Belmonte in "The Abduction from the Seraglio" among other roles with Pocket Opera.

He was a founding member and longtime tenor soloist with the Yale Alumni Chorus, most recently performing the Mozart Requiem in Hanoi and Singapore. At the time of his death, he was on the Chorus board and was co-producing, and looking forward to, the Chorus's visit to Toronto in August. In recent months, he had very much enjoyed his new affiliation with The Family, with whom he performed as well.

He was an acclaimed cook, often contributing the most astonishing creations to otherwise mundane potluck parties, and, like a good Virginia gentleman, always bringing out the good silver when he entertained at home. He restored and decorated a beautiful 1888 two-flat Victorian in the Haight, and had nearly completed making his own harpsichord.

Dr. Rouse is survived by his mother, his sister Sarah Burnette Conrad, her husband Roger and their children Nate, Annlouise, and Stuart, of Alexandria, Virginia, along with many beloved cousins and a wide network of loving friends and colleagues. He was predeceased by his father and stepfather and by his longtime partner Pasqual Calabrese.

John's family and friends want to thank his Kaiser hospice team, especially Ruby Ashley, for extraordinary care in the last weeks of his life.

There will be celebrations of John's life at a future date on both east and west coasts. His remains will be buried at the Rouse gravesite in Smithfield, Virginia. Memorial gifts may be made to Lamplighters Music Theatre, 469 Bryant Street, San Francisco CA 94107, lamplighters.org.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on May 7, 2017
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