Obituary of Dr. A. Elliot (1933 – 2021) – Sarasota, FL


The family share with sadness the passing of Dr. A. John Elliot in Sarasota, Florida. August 11. He is survived by his wife Judith Metzger Elliot, his daughters Sharon Ahern (husband Tom), Cassie Elliot and his stepson Trowbridge Cottrell. He was predeceased by his only son, Robert Elliot, in 2017.
John was born April 3, 1933 in Trenton, NJ to parents Americus (Mike) and Theresa. John’s parents, being second generation (Mike) and first generation (Therese) Italian immigrants, made the unusual decision to have only one child. Having lived through the trials of the Depression, they believed that all resources should be devoted to one offspring. Baptized as Amerigo John Eleuteri, he chose to change his last name to Elliot during his medical residency because when called by speakerphone, attendants often said “Elliot” rather than “Eleuteri” , either by inability or reluctance to articulate the real last name. From a young age, his mother told John he would become a doctor, especially a surgeon, and she worked at the Schafts ice cream counter to earn money by taking piano lessons “to strengthen his hands.” . Although he was banned from sports by Theresa, John showed his rebellious nature early on by avidly participating in both street stick ball and high school football, though he couldn’t escape piano lessons.
Fortunately for all, John turned out to have an incredible intellect coupled with equally incredible energy and creativity. As a major in his class at Trenton High School, he delivered what was obviously a rousing speech condemning McCarthyism. One of the few public school graduates at the time to attend prestigious Princeton University, he soon found friends at Phi Beta Kappa. After graduating from Princeton in 1955, pre-med of course, John received his medical degree from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York (1959), a surgical internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD (1959/1960), residency in surgery at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in New York (1960/61) and residency in orthopedics at Yale University in New Haven, CT (1961-64). In 1968, he was honorably released from the United States Army Reserves as the captain of a MASH unit. It should be noted that, because John was often the top of his class, he was able to secure college scholarships and could not have excelled without them, despite his natural talents. He remained keenly aware of this factor in his success, and it weighed heavily in his constant desire to give back to any community he found himself in. What is particularly striking about these achievements is that John was left-handed and at the time all procedures were taught exclusively as the dominant right hand. John had to not only learn complex surgical procedures, but also transfer these skills on his own.
With his first wife, Stephanie Hilstrom, John moved his family to Westerly, RI, despite many “big city deals” across the country. He chose Westerly for two very specific reasons: he was dedicated to nature, the ocean in particular, and he wanted to bring his skills to a community made up mostly of Italian-Americans. During his early years at Westerly Hospital he became a close friend of Dr Lombardo and the two made quite a scene, especially in a fundraising song and dance production called “Stop the Stretcher I Want to Get Off “. The play lasted for several nights and by all accounts their soft shoe song and dance number stole the show. As an individual practitioner he was known to make patients wait well beyond their scheduled appointment time, often for hours, which they tolerated because he was not just a surgeon. gifted orthopedist, but a brilliant diagnostician, often discovering serious health problems that other specialists had. missed or not recognized at all. Eager to work with their patients on a barter basis, the family were inundated with homemade wine, soups, baked goods and various offerings over many years, the most spectacular being the construction of a dock. outside the house in Avondale. John eventually rose to prominence at Westerly Hospital, becoming Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery. He was often sued by local lawyers for his skills as a witness physician, being particularly adept at explaining complicated operations and recoveries, as well as his unique ability to connect with judges and juries. He in turn attributed this ability to Yale University where he also served as an assistant clinical professor of orthopedics.
A lifelong learner himself, in the early 1980s John went to Cambridge College, UK, to learn the new orthopedic arthroscopy procedure. He brought both the tools and his expertise to the Westerly community. In 1986, John went to West China Medical University in Chengdu as a visiting professor, and despite the language barrier, he taught arthroscopic skills. After spending this time in China, he learned some of the Mandarin, which he insisted on using when the family ate at local Chinese restaurants, although the family never served what John claimed to have ordered. Last year, he was appointed professor emeritus by West China Medical University.
On a personal level over the years, John has spent many cold winter days in a duck blind with his best friends Steve Farago, Misty (his beloved Gordon Setter), their thermos, their flask and the John’s pipe. Most Thanksgiving dinners were non-traditional pheasant, which was difficult to overeat because the family was constantly reminded to “avoid buckshot.” Along with his wife Judy, John enjoyed both freshwater and saltwater fly fishing, a sport his daughters enjoyed as he often made pretty jewelry from the flies he insisted on tying himself. John and Judy also traveled extensively to the American West for fishing and skiing, made several long trips to Europe, especially enjoying visits to hear John’s beloved opera. John was also an enthusiastic dancer, having rotated many partners in the group. Over the years, her eldest daughter has managed to eliminate on her own at least one pianist, a few drummers and a significant number of saxophonists; his younger daughter seemed to have a statistical advantage when it came to paperclips. Besides his wife, his favorite dance partner was the incomparable Angie Smith. The two were known to have burst into The Charleston spontaneously, regardless of the music that was actually played. Also with his wife Judy, he loved to compete in anything he could. As a member of the Misquamicut Club he participated in many tennis and golf tournaments even later in life. As a member of the Watch Hill Yacht Club, he lived for the annual Bermuda Race, often sailing with Tim Kniffen, both hoping for “exciting weather”. In a fit of spite, he finally resigned from the Yacht Club when they banned smoking cigars on the outside deck, another of his passions – despite his role as a doctor – a position he had no trouble with. to assume because cigars were a “well-known stress reliever.”
Still invested in current politics, in 1980 John led a community response to a controversial long-term health plan proposed by RI’s Department of Health that allegedly affected the way care was provided locally. During a 5 hour meeting, with over 2,000 residents in attendance at Westerly High School, John led the charge against the plan, stating “Although you are guests here, you are by no means welcome. “, to resounding cheers and applause. Additionally, not many people know that John was a major factor in putting up barriers between the flowing north and south traffic on Route 78, due to numerous head-on collisions he dealt with in the emergency room before. their placement.
A frequent contributor to the Providence Journal editorial pages, John decided to go into politics for real and ran for National Convention in 1984. It was considered the Year of the Doctor, with doctors from across the country coming together. presenting for the national office, seeking national changes for the health system. Other than Newt Gingrich, John may have been the only citizen who read the entire Contract with America, a fact his family can attest to as he took up most of the dining room table. for far too long. He ran as a Republican against RI state lawmaker Jack Reed. With a total of 39% of the vote, he was encouraged by the National Republican Party to run again, but he looked down on fundraising that he felt he had not worked for and therefore opted for retirement.
In 2015, John and Judy moved to Lakewood Ranch in Florida, just outside of Sarasota. Never content to remain intellectually idle, John wrote and self-published a historical novel, “The Last Trumpet”. He pulled out so many books from the Selby Library in downtown Sarasota that they had to freeze his account at some point.
A true individual from start to finish, John, aka Bones, will be sorely missed. Judy has a funeral scheduled for Monday, August 23 at 9:30 a.m. at the Robert Toale & Sons Funeral Home in Palms Memorial Park, 170 Honore Ave., Sarasota, FL. 34232 and asks anyone who wishes to contact her to do so through the funeral home. A local memorial will be held on a date yet to be determined.

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Posted by The Westerly Sun on Aug 22, 2021.

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