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1925 - 2014

John C. Gall, Jr., M.D. (PD ’57)

John C. Gall Jr., 89, beloved husband, father, pediatrician, scholar and author, passed away with his wife by his side Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Walker, Minn., from natural causes.

A private family ceremony will be held in the Episcopal Church in Upperville, Va., in the late spring.

John was born Sept. 18, 1925, in Washington, D.C. and grew up near Upperville, Va. In 1945 he was drafted into the Army Air Corps and was sent to Germany, where he served as a medic in the Allied army of occupation.

During his tour of duty he attended the Nuremberg trials, which kindled in him a lifelong passion to heal the afflicted and promote justice.

Upon returning home he furthered his education, graduating from Yale and George Washington University Medical School. He was a Post Doc Fellow at the Mayo Clinic where he was dubbed “The best pediatric diagnostician they had ever seen!” In addition he earned a certification in human genetics and completed seven years of therapy training.

Dr. Gall began his medical career as a researcher at the University of Virginia, followed by a three-year stint at the Geisinger Clinic in Danville, Pa. He next went into private practice in Miles City, Mont., but was soon invited to teach at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. There he also served as head of the Plymouth State Home, where he did research partially funded by the Kennedy family foundation, and named and described several syndromes of the developmentally disabled. In addition he established a long-running private pediatric practice of 38 years. During this period he developed a special appreciation for and an enduring interest in the importance of nonverbal communication between very young children and their parents. This led him to expand his practice to include support and education classes, in which he was aided by his late wife, Beth, and then by his wife Carol. Their observations and anecdotes are included in “Elegant Parenting,” written with wife, Beth; in “Dancing with Elves,” written by John, and with wife Carol he wrote “Hit by a Low-Flying Goose.”

John’s best known book is “System Antics,” later published under the title “The Systems Bible,” a humorous but insightful study of the problems and pitfalls that afflict every type of system that human beings create — whether mechanical, economic, corporate, aeronautical, legal, linguistic, religious, medical or electronic. It was first published in 1976 by the New York Times/Quadrangle Press and has been translated (officially or unofficially) into at least 14 languages.

He lectured widely throughout the United States and was interviewed by the Voice of America on nuclear proliferation issues after its publication. John and Carol were both invited to speak in London in 2012 to a group of CEO’s and other executives from around the world and John was introduced as “The Grandfather of Systems Theory.”

He retired to Walker in 2001 in search of privacy and uninterrupted time, which he used to write seven other books, including a novel, “First Queen,” plus books and video books on parenting and the art of pediatric practice. He was very proud that the great Swiss psychiatrist, Alice Miller, who introduced the world to the subject of child sexual abuse, endorsed his work before she died. His work has also been endorsed by others too numerous to name, but including such luminaries as the head of the Dept. of Psychology at Cambridge, University, who forwarded his material to several British social service agencies.

In the late ‘90s John helped to write the national pediatric nurse practitioner exam in Washington, D.C several years running. More recently he was invited to Washington, D.C. by a government psychiatrist and consulted with him on the development of psychological profiles of moles (double agents). He also spoke at a symposium at Princeton University entitled “Children under the Shadow of War.” The group included scholars from around the world, and filmmakers who had photographed kidnapped children who had been conscripted into war and forced to commit atrocities. It was John’s job to deliver the final speech, summarizing and tying together all of the presentations. This was the only lecture open to the public. John gave a moving presentation that left not a dry eye in the audience.

In the final months of his life, John continued to think and write actively on a wide range of subjects. Most recently he completed a fourth edition of Systemantics and contributed, with other international scholars, to a book on Panarchy, due to be published in 2015.

John was  preceded in death by his first wife, Beth; and the three step-grandsons, Michael Nelson, and Franklin and Alexander Sawvel.

He is survived by his wife, Carol; brothers Dr. Joseph Gall (Diane Dwyer) and Howard; sons Duane (Valerie) and David (Suzette); step-sons Steven (Sarah) and Terrell (Eleanor) Nelson; grandchildren Izzie, Nathan, Sebastian, and Simone; and step-grandchildren Anthony, Cody, Alaya, Nicole and Branden Nelson.

Obituary courtesy of The Pilot-Independent.

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