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He worked in several places before obtaining
his Primary in July 1950. Getting surgical expe-
rience was difficult but at Grantham he had the
work to enable him to satisfy the FRCS exam-
iners in November 1951.
He then worked at New End Hospital, Hamp-
stead and was there for the last great smog in
March 1952. “It was a blessing for London really,
for the health results were so bad that measures were
immediately taken to forbid the use of coal fires in
Central London, and these were fully implemented.”
Diane was born on 5 January 1953 and the
future of the children’s education was a major
factor in their return to New Zealand on MV Port
Hobart on 25 June that year. John immediately
took up a position as Senior Surgical Registrar
and Tutor at Wellington Hospital. The contacts
he made proved invaluable but it became clear
that the influx of returned military surgeons
made staying in Wellington impractical.
He looked at provincial positions throughout
the North Island before joining a Te Kuiti
practice and becoming Surgeon Superintendent
of the Hospital in July 1954. In 1955 their twin
daughters, Philipa and Rosemary were born.
Concern for family education was again a factor
in the decision to return to Hastings for a two
session/week appointment. General practice
was necessary for survival and the first years
were hard until he became established. His work
was truly general, including orthopaedics, ENT,
paediatric, O&G and vascular surgery. As more
specialists arrived in Hastings he was able to
reduce his non-general surgical work but he
always delighted in letting the author know
when he was doing a gynaecological procedure.
These wide skills were necessitated by the
distance from Auckland or Wellington and
difficult transport. With time the vascular
surgery became his sub-speciality:
“My work was my life, and the family revolved
around it. Whether this was right or wrong for them,
it was so. I was a young, enthusiastic surgeon, but the
nature of the practice ensured that for many years
I also had to conduct a type of general practice, to
obtain surgical cases and to make a living.”
In 1959 he obtained his Australasian
Fellowship after sitting a Viva.
John’s patients still remember him first for
his sense of humour. His colleagues remember
him for his ready availability, wisdom and skill.
Sharing rooms with him was a delight and
the post-clinic chats were always rewarding.
Assisting him returning a newborn baby’s heart
to the chest from the abdomen was a privilege.
That baby has since had her own family. His
wide-ranging skills impressed the Sir James
Wattie visiting professor in 1973, Professor HC
Grillo (Harvard Medical School Chief of Thoracic
surgery) who commented on John’s skill and
He was active in local medical affairs, being
President of the Hawke’s Bay Division of the
NZMA in 1973.
He continued to provide a sterling service
and delayed his retirement by a year to 18
November, 1988 to enable his replacement John
Flieschl to complete his vascular training.
John’s love of surgery and the share market
crash saw him working as locum from Balclutha
to Kaitaia until he was forced to retire after a car
accident on the way to Ashburton on 30 August
1992. His unique experience led to the following:
“Surgery in New Zealand has become more
specialised and the population base to support scat-
tered specialists is not there. Thus hospitals have to
combine into regional institutions. The corollary is
improved transport, not at present supplied from the
health budget, so that the more indigent members
of the population can no longer travel to get the
treatment they require previously available in their
After full retirement, John did Extramural
papers at Massey, usually getting an A pass,
played bridge and joined Probus. He had found
golf incompatible with his work and kept physi-
cally active in the garden.
Zephne’s health deteriorated and despite
John’s own difficulties he remained her prin-
cipal caregiver. They moved to Tauranga in 2014
and Zephne died in 2016. John steadily declined
and died peacefully the next year. They were
survived by their four children, 15 grandchildren
and 17 great grandchildren.
This obituary was largely derived from John’s
memoirs, kindly made available by his family
and with the assistance of Dr Stewart Drysdale,
New Zealand Medical Journal Vol 130:1465
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