Cover photo for Dr. Jack Daniel McCarthy's Obituary
Dr. Jack Daniel McCarthy Profile Photo

Dr. Jack Daniel McCarthy

March 13, 1927 — February 13, 2024

Albuquerque

Dr. Jack Daniel McCarthy

Dr. Jack D. McCarthy died peacefully at home on February 13, 2024 with his daughters by his side. Jack was a beloved father, adored grandfather, and esteemed surgeon who was deeply cherished by family, friends, and colleagues for his humble wisdom, boundless curiosity and always-joyful approach to life.

Jack was born on March 13,1927 in Chicago, Illinois. His father and grandfather were both general practice physicians. Despite the hardships of growing up during the Great Depression, he had a happy childhood spent going to triple features (for a nickel!) with his younger brother Gene, swimming in Lake Michigan, and reading constantly. Starting in grade school, he worked many part-time jobs to supplement his family’s modest income. Delivering drugs for a pharmacy by bicycle in freezing Chicago winter nights was an experience that caused him to vow to move to a warmer climate as an adult. He was an accomplished swimmer, so much so that he appeared in an Esther Williams film in one of her famous pool scenes. He later taught his daughters and all of his grandchildren to swim at very young ages.

His boyhood wish was to become a general surgeon and Jack pursued his goal with determination. He graduated from the University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Philosophy when he was only 19, and thereafter was accepted to the University of Chicago Medical School in 1947. During his surgical internship he lived full-time in a room at the hospital with another intern. The phone in their room would ring constantly throughout the night with emergencies. He loved it.

His greatest fortune in life, as Jack never ceased to declare, was meeting his future wife, anesthesiologist Victoria de la Riva, a visiting fellow from the University of Guadalajara medical school, in 1952. He spotted her in the University of Chicago hospital cafeteria, was immediately pierced by Cupid’s arrow, and succeeded in charming her with his captivating smile. They were married less than a year later in Guadalajara and remained blissfully married for almost 69 years.

Having deferred his mandatory military service to attend medical school, he joined the Army Medical Corps and was assigned to Germany for two years. He was the commanding officer of a medical clearing house and also a surgeon at a base hospital (and delivered a lot of babies!). He and Vicky adored their time in Germany and traveled all over Europe. Upon his return in 1956, he joined the surgical training program run by eminent surgeon Frederick A. Coller at the University of Michigan. His daughters, Leslie and Silvia, were born in Ann Arbor during those years. While there, he developed a strong interest in endocrinology and applied for and was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation grant in 1959 to study endocrinology and its interrelationships to cancer at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. The young family spent a memorable year in Gothenburg.

After their time in Sweden, Jack accepted a position as head of the Department of Surgery at the Lovelace Clinic and Foundation, fulfilling his vow to live in a sunny climate and also be close to Vicky’s beloved Mexico. It was a post he held until his retirement on December 31, 1992. He continued his interest in cancer research, receiving many grants over the years and publishing many academic papers. He also became a clinical professor at the University of New Mexico Medical School and throughout his long career trained medical students and residents at Lovelace, the University Hospital (then BCMC), and the Veteran’s Hospital. He was a wonderful and patient teacher who was beloved by his students. Jack was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Western Surgical Association, and the Coller Surgical Society, among others. He also served on the board of the New Mexico chapter of the American Cancer Society for many years.

Following his retirement, Jack and Vicky began to spend several months a year in their second home in Guadalajara, Mexico and continued their love of traveling, from Vicky’s native Spain to Brazil and everywhere in between, including several months-long stints in Paris, where Silvia lived for a number of years. Jack also continued his academic pursuits, writing “Synthesizing Surgery: A History of the Department of Surgery of the University of Chicago” in 2002. He served throughout his retirement as a member of the board of the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, a non-profit medical research organization founded in 1947 by Randy Lovelace. He also relished his participation, for almost twenty years, in a weekly “retired doctors” group that met to discuss philosophy, history, and current events.

Preceded in death by his wife Victoria (2022), Jack is survived by his two daughters, Leslie McCarthy Apodaca of Albuquerque and Silvia McCarthy Ohler of Bedford, NY, his grandchildren, Nicholas Ohler, Sophia Ohler, Jack Apodaca, and Daniella Apodaca, his sons-in-law Patrick Apodaca and Stephen Ohler, and his brother Gene McCarthy. The entire family will profoundly miss his joie de vivre, sense of humor, unfaltering optimism, and the warmth of his beautiful smile. He will live in our hearts forever.

The family is deeply grateful to his caretakers, Veronica Saenz, Olga Reyes, Manuela Dominguez, Marisela Castro, Alma Orozco, and Mela Valenzuela, who looked after him with love and tenderness until the end.

We are also thankful for his hospice nurse, Chasie Soliz, and her technical aide, Tasha Hosack, of Bosque Trails Hospice, whose wisdom and compassion helped all of us through this difficult time.

In view of his lifelong dedication to cancer research and surgery, please consider a contribution in his memory to the American Cancer Society at donate.cancer.org. 

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