William Fisher Enneking M.D.


William Fisher Enneking, M. D. died peacefully on July 17, 2014. Bill, as he was always known, was born in Madison, Wisconsin on May 9, 1926. Bill grew up in Madison, with a life centered on sailing, competitive athletics, and the outdoors. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin High School in 1943. On the advice of his father he immediately enlisted in the armed services so he could choose his branch of service that was, of course, the Navy.

After serving for a few months on a minesweeper in the North Atlantic, Bill was selected by the Navy as potential officer candidate material and sent to college. He earned an accelerated degree in 1946 from the University of Wisconsin. While serving as a waiter at the Delta Gamma house he met the great love of his life, Margaret Olivia Little, and they wed in September 1947. They enjoyed a happy marriage based on mutual admiration for 66 years. They had seven children and sailed, fished, and otherwise travelled the world together, complimenting each other in unique and humorous ways. Margaret died in February of 2013. In October of that year Bill was lucky in love for the second time in his life and persuaded Edith Ellett to marry him. They enjoyed an altogether too brief but very sweet time of love and affection during the last months of his life. Edith survives him.

Bill graduated from the University of Wisconsin medical school in 1949. He completed his internship at the University of Colorado in Denver in 1950 and began an orthopedic residency at the University of Chicago that was soon interrupted by his service in the Korean War. He was initially stationed at the San Diego Naval hospital but then served two years in a forward MASH unit on the Korean Peninsula. Not a moviegoer, several years later he was urged by his children to go to the Robert Altman movie MASH and reported back that he could not tell if it was a movie or a documentary since he had personally witnessed many of the events depicted in it.

Returning home from the war Bill and Margaret and their two small children returned to Chicago where he resumed his orthopedic surgery residency. He trained under Dr. Howard Hatcher, then the leading figure in the field of orthopedic oncology. On the completion of their training he and his five fellow residents spread out across the country but stayed in close contact throughout their professional careers and formed the network of the centers of excellence of orthopedic oncology in the nation to this day.

His first academic posting was to the University of Mississippi at age 29 where he was the chief of orthopedic surgery for four years. In 1960 Dean William Harrell recruited Dr. Enneking to help establish the first medical school for the state of Florida. Along with Dr Edward Woodward, another University of Chicago alumnus, they founded the Department of Surgery and the Division of Orthopedic Surgery at UF. Eventually the Division became its own Department and Dr. Enneking was its first chairman. He and the other founding members of the medical school faculty remained at UF for their entire careers. They gave the institution its unique blend of stature and loyalty that enabled it to prosper and evolve into the vibrant institution that it is today.

In layman's terms, Dr. Enneking's crowning professional treatment was the development of the nomenclature setting the definitional terms and defining characteristics of musculoskeletal tumors. The Enneking Staging System promotes diagnostic accuracy and enables comparison of the efficacy of treatment modalities across institutional and geographic boundaries and is in global use today. He was also keenly interested in the importance of medical education that equipped physicians not only with the necessary, practical diagnostic and therapeutic tools but also with an appreciation of the basic science that underlies research and innovation. He famously said that it was important not to train physicians but to educate them. For many years he served on various committees of the National Institute of Health that made recommendations and decisions about which avenues of orthopedic research to pursue. He led efforts to establish accreditation standards for orthopedic residency programs. He very much enjoyed the actual practice of medicine and had a lively clinical practice and surgical schedule. He had a devoted following among his patients, many of whom he treated for their diseases over a long period of years. It is not unusual for a member of the family to meet a former patient thirty or forty years later who would describe in glowing terms the empathetic care they received at the hands of Dr. Enneking. In 1969 he traveled to England and learned how to perform hip replacement surgery from the surgeon who developed the procedure. He returned to Gainesville and performed the first hip replacement in Florida and went on to perform the surgery on a backlog of patients who otherwise were confined for life to a wheelchair. He was one of the first surgeons to perform limb salvage for patients with bone and soft tissue tumors, who were previously treated with amputation. Later in his career he founded the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation that serves as a soft tissue and bone bank for transplantation.

It is no accident that the institution, which earned his profound allegiance, is located in Gainesville, midway between the two coasts of Florida. Dr. Enneking regarded Gainesville as the most ideal of communities in which to live because on one coast or the other there were always fish biting or good sailing and some of the finest contests in college football were close to hand. He and Margaret were familiar figures on the waters of the Gulf and at their home in Crescent Beach.

He cared deeply about Gainesville and its success as a community. In the late 1960s when the community was in turmoil he decided to run for the school board because he wanted to see integration successfully accomplished. He conducted his first political campaign with the slogan "E is for Excellence" and large blue Es, which he made, painted, and secured with guide wires to the roofs of the station wagons of his wife and other friends for the duration of his campaign. He and Dr. Ben Samuels served for eight years and both regarded it as one of their proudest achievements. It also cemented his identity as "the Big E".

Bill was a charming, humorous conversationalist over a wide range of topics. He loved to tell stories and jokes, often somewhat embroidered but always the better for it. For many years when an unexpected development came to his attention he would smile, slightly incline his head, and say, "Tilt!" Margaret and Bill loved to entertain and enjoyed hosting international visitors befriended on their professional travels. They had close and enduring friendships based in Gainesville that often involved clever parties, fishing, or outings on the water with other large families. They never missed the opening week of stone crab season with their friends in Cedar Key. With seven children Bill never sat down to lunch or dinner alone and he was the guiding force behind a household that was lively, energetic and competitive.

He was very interested in helping young people to sense and achieve their maximum potential of their life. He used his wit in combination with his intense focus to good effect when he wished to make an impression. His children, their friends, his medical students, his residents, and more recently, his grandchildren all can recall a moment of exquisite agony in receiving his starkly blunt assessment of their level of knowledge and achievement at any given task. Nonetheless many, several years later, recall those moments with absolute clarity and now describe them as motivating points in their lives.

Called Poppy by his children and Opa by his grandchildren he spent what today would be called quality time with them at the card table or engaged in some game of chance. Although his children and grandchildren pursued a variety of professions, they are to a person accomplished and life long card players and continue to strike up a game on the slightest of occasions. He offered them all a strong moral compass, and endowed them with a love of the water and an affinity for humor. He was the rare combination of a person who left the world a better place and had a lot of fun in the world as he found it. He will be missed by one and all.

Over the course of his professional life Bill became a leader in the world of orthopedic surgery and an international icon. His list of awards and honors is too numerous to individual list but of note he received the Kappa Delta award three times. This award is given to the leading researcher in US orthopedics. He was the president of multiple national and international societies including the American Orthopedic Association and the International Society of Limb Salvage. A library is named after him at the Sarah Hospital in Brasilia, Brazil. He was awarded an honorary degree by Coimbra University in Portugal, whose previous recipients include Nelson Mandela. At UF he honored with the Distinguished Service Award and the Enneking-Anspach Research Center, which houses the archives for the study of musculoskeletal tumors and diseases, was named in his honor. He was the president of multiple national and international societies, including the American Orthopedic Association and the International Society of Limb Salvage. He was the sole author of six books on the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal tumors and diseases. He also jointly published a voluminous number of articles and books. He was most proud of the fact that he published his first article in 1949 and from that point continuously published until 2013.

Also among his proudest memberships were the Eastside Garden Club, Hydrilla Circle and the 10-to-1 Club, a distinction awarded by the International Game Fish Association for catching specified game fish on a line with a test weight ratio greater than 10 to 1.

Bill is survived by his wife, Edith Ellett Ennkeing. He is also survived by seven children, sixteen grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. The children and their spouses are Bill and Heidi, Bonnie and Dan, Maggie, Via and Ray, Flossie, Kayser and Mark, and Christjohn. Their grandchildren and their spouses are Erica and Thom, Teena and Robbie, Emily and Branden, Will, Maggie and Jamie, Jessica and Nate, Daniel, Maury, Raymond, Christopher Blake, Megan, Florence, and their father Blake, Olivia, Andrew, Emery, and Madelon, and their mother Danielle. The great-grandchildren are Thomas, Alex, Olivia, Robert, Milo, Annaliese, and Theo also a sister, Mary Claire Enneking Schroeder.

The Enneking Family wishes to acknowledge and thank Ms. Claudell Lee for the excellent care she provided during Bill's residence at the Assisted Living facility at Oak Hammock. The family would also like to thank Dr. Katherine Huber for her long and loving care of Bill.

A memorial service in his honor will be held on July 26, 2014 at 1 pm at Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 10900 SW 24 Avenue, Gainesville, Florida, followed by a reception at the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute, 3450 Hull Road. For those who wish a donation may be made to the Enneking-Anspach Research Center, P.O. Box 112727, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Please visit his memorial page at www.williamsthomasfuneralhome.com.




(352) 376-7556

Published by Gainesville Sun from Jul. 20 to Jul. 21, 2014.
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8 Entries
Thank you for the great attitude towards life my great teacher shared with me. Still remembering the wonderful times we spend together around the world that pushed my own life significantly.
Prof. Dr. Norbert Lindner
July 14, 2021
We have lost a great doctor, key contributor in orthopedic oncology, and example of many generations of scholars skeletal muscle tumors.
Ivan Beirutti Ruiz
February 7, 2015
I have two legs, thanks to this Amazing man,Dr. Enneking. I was sent to Gainesville from Mississippi in 1980 with a giant cell tumor in left knee. I still have 10 toes, thanks to him. I am forever grateful!! I look down at my feet every day and think of him and the grace of Almighty God!
December 20, 2014
Dr. Bill was truly an inspirational teaching physician whom I encountered during my Rheumatology fellowship in 1985. He was a gifted man bestowed with a combination for patient empathy, humorous quips, brilliant intelligence and a genuine kindness . He was instrumental as one of the Orthopedic Pillars that laid the initial foundation for the Department of Orthopedics at University of Florida Medical School . He was a medical pioneer of the MS limb salvaging operative techniques.
May God Bless his spiritual journey with his fishing pole in hand.
Dr. David Brown, Pasadena CA
David Brown MD
August 12, 2014
In grateful memory from an admiring fellow from Germany
Norbert Lindner
July 22, 2014
It was a great privilege and a lot of fun to get to know Bill and Margaret late in their lives, as our family became friends with the Enneking and Scarborough clans. Bill and Margaret were an inspiration to everyone they encountered and always had more than enough love and energy to share. They lived a generous and inclusive existence, and we were fortunate to have been part of it. We will try to pay forward the life lessons they shared with us.
-Albert, Janie, and Al
Albert Matheny
July 21, 2014
Thoughts and prayers to the entire familly. May God bless you with peace. May you find comfort and strength in all the memories you possess.
Jill, Ayla and Isabella Friends of CJ
July 21, 2014
Via, Ray and family,
My sincere condolences to you and your family on the passing of your Dad. I remember meeting him so many years ago. I am sorry for your loss.
Sincerely, MaryLou Kodim
July 20, 2014
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