Ben Roe - Eight Bells

Benson B. Roe M.D. Dr. Benson B. Roe, a pioneer in open heart surgery and a fourth-generation Californian, died peacefully in his sleep on August 6. He was 94 and had been living at Villa Marin in San Rafael since 1995. His noteworthy University of California career began with rowing for Cal in the 1939 national crew championship and setting a world record for the four-mile distance that still stands. Harvard Medical School and five years of training at Massachusetts General Hospital came next; he then returned to San Francisco in 1951, where he started the cardiac surgery program at UCSF Medical School as open heart surgery was just beginning, and was UCSF's long-time Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery. During World War II he served as the medical officer on the USS Philadelphia in the Atlantic Theater and met and married Jane St. John of New York City, undeterred by his previous resolutions not to marry an Easterner, a nurse, or a doctor's daughter (she was all 3). They were happily and lovingly married for 61 years until her death in 2006. His family roots in San Francisco and in the urge to try new things ran deep. His grandfather, George H. Roe, founded the world's first electric utility, the California Electric Light Co., which became the electric half of PG&E. Two of his great-grandparents, Cesar Bertheau and Rudolph Jordan, immigrated to San Francisco from Europe before the Gold Rush. Benson Roe's many professional recognitions, including the chairmanship of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and the presidency of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, were balanced by a lifelong skepticism of established wisdom. His dedication to following the facts wherever they led was well captured in the title he chose for his autobiography, Maverick Among the Moguls.

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