1924 - 2017

Walter Rothwell, M.D. (I ’56)

Walter S. Rothwell, M.D.

Riverview – Walter S. Rothwell (“Jack” to friends since childhood) died peacefully in hospice care on Wednesday December 27th after a long illness.

A Memorial Service is planned at the Trenton Chapel of the Martenson Family of Funeral Homes, 3200 West Rd. (734-671-5400) or www.martenson.com

Jack was born in Denver, Colorado, on May 30, 1924. As an infant Jack’s family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where his father Stephen G. established a medical practice. Jack’s mother, Mildred Spray, had strong Quaker roots with extended family in Denver.

In high school in Denver Jack played saxophone in the East High Band and was inducted into the National Honor Society. Upon graduating he attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he excelled. He was awarded the Towne Scientific Prize, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa his junior year, and graduated magna cum laude. He progressed to Dartmouth Medical School and enlisted in the Army as part of their medical recruitment program.

In 1945 he transferred to Harvard Medical School, with a transitional semester at Yale University. Jack graduated from Harvard as a physician in 1947, the third generation of Rothwells in medicine. He next trained at Geisinger Memorial Hospital in Danville, Pennsylvania.

It was in Boston, as a fourth-year medical student, that Jack met the love of his life, Barbara Chapman. She was a head nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. They married in New York City in March, 1948. The Matron of Honor at their wedding was his sister, the Rev. Pat Robbennolt. They made their home in Danville until he finished residency training. Jack and Barb had 67 happy years together, most proud parents of five children, until her death at 91 in late 2015.

First son Steve joined the family in 1950 while Jack served on a research team in Elgin, Illinois, studying nutrition. In 1951 Jack enlisted in the Air Force to pursue research at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, to identify technology to allow crewmen to escape from jet aircraft. Second son Walt was born there in 1952.

In 1953 the family moved to Rochester, Minnesota, for an Internal Medicine fellowship at Mayo Clinic. Third son David was born there in 1955. After completion of his training at Mayo Jack led the family to suburban Detroit to join a group medical practice. Daughter Barbara Gail was born in early 1957. In 1958 Jack started a solo practice of internal medicine in Trenton. Youngest daughter Jan was born in 1962.

Seaway Hospital had just opened nearby, where Jack later served in turn as department head and Chief of Staff. Wife Barb chose to resume her career in nursing, and helped Jack to established a coronary care unit there; his contributions to serve the community in the care of heart disease were recognized by the Michigan Heart Association with the Award of Distinction and the Dr. Everal Wakeman Award.

In 1986 Jack retired from patient care. To the amazement of many, he was never bored or adrift as he moved on with life. He maintained his keen diagnostic skill, at age 87 receiving an award for identifying two rare diseases at a state meeting of the American College of Physicians, a feat that no doctor of any age had ever accomplished during these annual sessions.

Jack and Barb enjoyed golf, fishing, rockhounding, travel, genealogy, family memoirs, fine dining, and playing bridge with close friends. Jack treasured time pursuing his love of classical music, including service on the board of the Sarasota Orchestra in Florida.

Jack and Barbara were ever proud and loving of their five children, eight grandchildren, and three greatgrandchildren:

Steve Rothwell, wife Ann Wright and their daughters Margo Rothwell and Julia Khalek.

Walt Rothwell, wife Sarah and their son Patrick, wife Jenny and daughter Josie and daughter Emily.

David Rothwell, wife Pamela and their daughter Amanda.

Barb Elgin, husband Jim and their daughter Courtney and husband Alex Neuman, and son Carl.

Jan Johnson, husband Chuck and their daughters Katie and Megan, her husband Brett Swaenepoel, daughter Kadence and sons Brock and Clayton.

Jack is survived by his sister, the Rev. Pat Robbennolt of Pleasant Hill, Tenn. He had several nieces and nephews and many dear friends. He was preceded in death by his parents and wife Barbara.

Visitation was on Saturday at The Trenton Chapel of The Martenson Family of Funeral Homes, 3200 West Rd., Trenton. The funeral service is on Sunday at 10 AM at the funeral home. To share a memory visit www.martenson.com

Obituary courtesy of Detroit News & Free Press