Louis J. Girard, M.D., F.A.C.S. passed away peacefully at his home on the 27th of December 2010 surrounded by his family. He was born in Spokane, Washington on the 29th of March 1919, to Harry and Agnes Cain Girard. Dr. Girard's parents settled in Houston in 1932, when Harry Girard was invited to conduct and direct the first Houston Grand Opera. Dr. Girard was a graduate of Rice University (Distinguished Alumnus), and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (Distinguished Alumnus), where he was a member of the Alpha Kappa Fraternity.
During World War II, Dr. Girard served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He was appointed Chief of the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Service of the 1200-bed Regional Station Hospital. He completed his residency in Ophthalmology at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (Distinguished Alumnus). He also earned a fellowship in ophthalmic surgery with Dr. Conrad Berens, an internationally famous ophthalmologist.
In 1953, Dr. Girard was invited back to Houston to help develop the Department of Ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine. He was promoted to Professor and Chairman in 1957, and, at age 38, was the youngest full professor of ophthalmology in the U.S. and the first full-time academic ophthalmologist in the Southwest. During this period, he was the ophthalmologist and ophthalmic surgeon of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson. He entered private practice in 1970 and continued as Clinical Professor at Baylor until his retirement in 1998 at age 79.
Dr. Girard is responsible for many milestones in the field of ophthalmology. He conducted the first clinical investigation of corneal contact lenses in 1949 and was the first to perform and describe corneoscleral transplantation in 1954. Dr. Girard co-designed the first small thin corneal contact lens in 1958 as well as co-authored the first published book on corneal contact lenses with Joseph Soper. He invented 25 surgical instruments, including the Girard Ultrasonic Fragmentor for intraocular surgery, the Girard Keratoprosthesis (plastic cornea), and introduced numerous innovations in ophthalmic surgical procedures. Dr. Girard established the first eye bank in the Southwest, now Lions Eye Bank; the first Institute of Ophthalmology in the Southwest, now the Cullen Eye Institute; the first three-year ophthalmic residency program in the Southwest; the first ophthalmic tissue culture laboratory in the world; and the first international ophthalmic congresses in the Southwest. He was author of 11 books, producer of 73 scientific films (several of which won international awards), author of 404 scientific articles, and presenter of 1308 scientific presentations in 39 countries. Dr. Girard was inducted into the Hall of Fame by Alcon Laboratories Inc. of Ft. Worth.
A devoted father to seven children, Louis always found time to enjoy all sports, particularly sailing while spending summers at Texas Corinthian Yacht Club. The children's fondest memories of their father were around the piano learning seven part harmony for The Sound of Music and singing Phantom of the Opera songs. Louis was passionate, singing and playing the piano at every opportunity for friends and strangers alike throughout his worldwide travels. In 1940, Louis expressed his love of music and his devotion to his alma mater by writing the lyrics for the "The Rice Fight Song". In 1947, Bill Ross joined Louis and composed "The Rice Hymn", set to music composed by his father, Harry. Both of these tributes are still in use today.
Louis was preceded in death by his parents, sister (Kathryn Kuns), brother (Harry Girard), and son (Sandy Girard). He is survived by his beloved wife of 36 years, Louise Bell Girard, and his children: Michelle Richey, Suzanne Thackston (Robert), Christina Girard, Lee Girard (Lady Anne), Gabrielle Sorrell (Andy), and Louis M. Girard (Sophie). He is also survived by his twelve grandchildren: Hilaire Kallendorf, Amy Richey, Sarah Johnson, Mark Skelton II, Wesley Skelton, Beverly Sandel, Miguel Fabregas, Maria Fabregas de Casinello, Wilhelmina Hudson, and Margaret, Susanna, and Caroline Girard, and ten great grandchildren: Trevor and Barrett Kallendorf, Joseph, Jane, Jill, and Jack Sandel, Claudio, Lorenzo, and Mateo Casinello Fabregas, and Hudson Skelton.
The family deeply appreciates the devoted and constant care of Julia Wade and the Lighthouse Hospice.
Friends are cordially invited to gather with the family and share remembrances from two until five o'clock this afternoon, Sunday, the 2nd of January, in the Parlor of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.
A memorial mass is to be offered at ten o'clock in the morning on Monday, the 3rd of January, at St. Anne Catholic Church, 2140 Westheimer Road in Houston, where the Rev. Al Sinasac is to officate.
Immediately following the mass, all are invited to greet the family during a reception in the adjacent St. Teresa's Living Room of the Parish Hall.
In lieu of customary remembrances, kindly consider a contribution in Dr. Girard's memory to the Alzheimer's Association
, 2242 West Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX, 77030-2008; the Lions Eye Bank of Texas, 6565 Fannin St., Houston, TX, 77030; or to a charity of one's choice.
Published by Houston Chronicle from Dec. 29, 2010 to Jan. 2, 2011.