JOHN CHARLES LAWRENCE
LUMBERTON — John Charles Lawrence, loving father, grandfather, great-grandfather and skilled surgeon, passed away Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, at Wesley Pines in Lumberton. He was 99 years old, having been born Aug. 7, 1922, in Florence County, South Carolina, to Rufus Earl and Clyda Wiggins Lawrence. He was the fourth of six children.
Dr. Lawrence was a graduate of the University of South Carolina. He met his wife, Gerry Hare, in college, where he served in Naval ROTC. After graduation in December 1943, he was commissioned to the USS Kilty in the Pacific, where he earned five stars for participating in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Philippines and Okinawa campaigns of World War II. In May 1945 he was ordered to report to USNR Flight School in Dallas, Texas, for flight training. His orders changed when the war abruptly ended, and he then served at the Pentagon during the demobilization of naval personnel.
After being released from active duty, Dr. Lawrence entered Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1946. As a freshman at Vanderbilt, he was one of the first people to receive Dr. Earnest Goodpasture's chicken embryo influenza vaccine, after which he never had the flu. During his senior year of medical school he served as class president and graduated in 1950.
After graduation from medical school Dr. Lawrence, his wife and young son moved to the Panama Canal Zone, where he completed a U.S. Army surgical internship at Gorgas Hospital. He and his family then moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he completed his surgical residency training at Crawford Long Hospital at Emory University. Following his residency, Dr. Lawrence was a preceptor at Carl Vinson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dublin, Georgia. After receiving his board certification in 1957, he accepted an invitation to join Southeastern Surgical Group in Lumberton. Dr. Lawrence devoted the rest of his career to improving the health of the people of Robeson and surrounding counties. He retired in June 1990.
An avid fisherman, Dr. Lawrence enjoyed annual salmon fishing trips in Alaska (15 years) with his son until John's untimely death in 2006. Dr. Lawrence also enjoyed many quail hunting and fishing trips with special friends, including Willie Linkhaw, Judge Sandy McKinnon, Malcolm McLeod, Wyman Scarboro, Alton Price and Duval Lennon. For years, he found quiet joy in fishing or feeding the Canada geese at the farm and ponds of close friend John Pat Buie. He was a generous but usually anonymous philanthropist, and he delivered Meals on Wheels for 15 years, first with his wife and then with a daughter.
Dr. Lawrence was preceded in death by his parents; four of his five siblings; his wife of almost 55 years, Gerry Hare Lawrence; his son, John Charles Lawrence Jr.; and his daughter, Patricia Lynn Lawrence. He leaves behind his sister, Gene Lawrence Morrison of Boulder, Colorado; his four daughters, Dr. Deborah Jane Lawrence of Durham, Pamela Lawrence Kattan (Tony) of Raleigh, Dr. Barbara Kay Lawrence (Greg Liles) of Littleton, and Amy Suzanne Lawrence of Winston-Salem; his daughter-in-law, Linda Lane Lawrence of Seattle, Washington; his grandchildren, Justin Lawrence, Matthew Lawrence (Kristin), Robert Lawrence (Devon), Gabby Kattan, Samantha Kattan, Allie Kattan, and Lynley Liles; and his great-grandchildren, Beau and James Lawrence, and John Owen Lawrence; and his beloved Corgi, Sammy III.
As a scientist and medical professional, Dr. Lawrence witnessed the power of vaccinations to change the health of the world for the better. Because of his education and experiences, he was a strong proponent of vaccinations. He knew that vaccinations help protect not only the individual, but also the health of those around them. He chose to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, because others did not make the same choice, he recently contracted the virus, and it hastened his death.
To his family, Dr. Lawrence was a prince of a man, but was always very humble regarding his intelligence and skills. He was truly a part of "The Greatest Generation." He will be sorely missed.
There will be a private graveside service at the family cemetery in Florence County, South Carolina.
The family wishes to thank the sitters, caregivers and nursing staff at Wesley Pines, in particular the ones working on Lantana Hall who became family over the past 21 months.