John Rouse
1950 - 2017
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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.


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Published in San Francisco Chronicle from May 4 to May 7, 2017.
Memories & Condolences
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24 entries
April 24, 2019
As we prepare for the 100th Anniversary of St. Andrews Episcopal Church, the church that John grew up in, I remember the young man that sang in the Junior Choir and the Glorious Voice that he gifted us with when he came home to visit. What a sweet child and an Amazing young man!
Elizabeth Hayes
Friend
June 24, 2018
John Rouse was an amazing man with many talents and possessed a joie de vivre unlike any person I have known. He loved his work and the Lamplighters with tremendous passion.

I worked for John for 10 years...helping him to restore his beautiful Victorian. We shared many great times, meals and extravagant parties. His home was so full of life...if those walls could talk, they would sing. One could frequently hear him playing his piano and singing outside on the sidewalk.

John loved his dogs, Bearded Dragon, countless books, jogging through GGP and the many trips he took all over the globe. He had so much adventure and lived his life to the fullest.

It is truly sad to know of his passing so soon in life. San Francisco will never be the same without him. It was an honor to have helped him and to spend so much quality time with a stellar human being. Thank you, John Rouse, for the love and kindness you bestowed upon me...you will never be forgotten.
Thomas Tarpley
May 25, 2018
Sally Haughton White
September 11, 2017
I just recently returned from Italy to learn of John's passing. John was born June 20 and I June 2. Our paths crossed in Lamplighter,I performing as violinist in the pit ,and of course John on stage. After my daughter was born with autism he guided me through some difficult times. His wit and beautiful voice will be missed by all who knew him. With deep sympathy to his family,, Brenda Bellizzi
June 17, 2017
A Memorial Service for John D. Rouse is planned for Saturday June 24, 11AM at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 45 Main Street, Newport News, VA.
May 11, 2017
I've known John for well over 30 years through me work with seriously mentally ill adults in San Francisco. I also knew him because his past partner Pasquale Calabrese was my coworker for many years. He was a delight to be with: warm, smart, funny, and compassionate. We worked closely with some very challenging clients, and I learned much as a result. I miss him, but am very thankful to have known him.
David Fariello
Coworker
May 8, 2017
Godspeed John Rouse. The most decent man to grace the halls of San Francisco General's Department of Psychiatry. If there is a heaven you are there treating patients with compassion, dignity and respect that we would all do well to emulate. You will be sorely missed.
Meg Brizzolara
May 8, 2017
I had the honor of working with Dr. Rouse in the Psych Emergency Service at SFGH. He was a great role model, compassionate and humanitarian in his approach to the homeless mentally ill.
So sad he has departed too soon.
(Mai Alyschild, RN)
May 8, 2017
Thank you John Rouse for being a powerful positive force in the psychiatric ER, for being an excellent and entertaining teacher and for being just all round exceptional.
Lauri Hjelm
May 8, 2017
RIP the unit feels different without you
May 7, 2017
Fondly remembered
May 7, 2017
My friend. A tenor of note, a charmer and sapiophile, a powerhouse musician. All true, all pale in comparison to his humanity and compassion. You are, and will be, missed greatly. You were, are, and will be always beloved by many...
Eric Morris
May 3, 2017
From that harrowing ride home from Spring Tour on the NJ Tpke in the Easter Sunday blizzard of 1970, to your beautiful tones at YAC events so many years later, I will remember you as the extraordinary, gentle, talented man I first got to know almost 50 years ago. Rest in peace.
Norman Stein
May 1, 2017
Such a pleasure to be with, to sing with, and to listen to. Knowledgeable about so many things (I had a great stroke of luck being with John in Russia one day, and he and his guide book made my trip). But mostly I remember smiling whenever I saw him, and having that smile returned. Thanks for stopping with us, John; sorry you had to leave too soon.
Sherry
May 1, 2017
Farewell, gentle Spizzwink.
Marty Amick
May 1, 2017
So sad to have to say goodby to such a talented and loving young man. I knew John when he was a young boy, singing in the childrens choir at St. Andrews. My heart goes out to his Mom and all his family and friends.
Betty Abbitt Hayes
May 1, 2017
John was such a sweet man and I am sorry that he had to depart this life so young. Many memories of our days at Lamplighter's. RIP dear John.
Kate Doyle Brown
April 30, 2017
John was a delightful travel companion on YAC trips and an extraordinary talent. Gone far too soon. So sorry for your loss.
Bonnie
April 30, 2017
Ride the Chariot...Hitch your wagon to a star.......
Sean Maher
April 30, 2017
We traveled together through med school and onto California in 1976. Wish we had kept up more through the years. Via con Dios, John.
John Maddox
April 30, 2017
So sorry to hear about your loss. You know that God and Jesus are in the best position to comfort us when we lose a loved one in death.
Griffin
April 30, 2017
My late husband, Dr Jack Randolph Conrad, and I shared beach vacations on the Outer Banks with John, the Burnette family, Sarah, and our son Roger. John was always the master chef and I will never forget his Boeuf Wellington. So many happy memories to cherish.
Madelyn Conrad
April 30, 2017
It is so hard to sum up John in a few words. A mensch, amazing doctor, kind person, funny man with that twinkle in his eye. He always had a moment for you and talked many of us off the ledge more times than I can count. He was the heart of the Yale alumni chorus and I know we will carry him in our hearts forever, esp on the upcoming tour which he helped produce. We love you and will miss you John!
Rita Helfand
April 30, 2017
I'm sorry for the loss of Dr Rouse.
I feel like we literally crossed paths. I was born at Mt Zion hospital in 1951 and was raised in San Francisco. I've worked almost my whole professional career in Newport News at the shipyard.
He sounds like he was a great guy.
Mark Van Raam
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