Joseph G. McCormack, M.D. September 27, 1917 – June 6, 2012

Joseph G. McCormack, M.D. September 27, 1917 - June 6, 2012

Joseph G. McCormack, M.D. was born September 27, 1917 in St. Paul, MN. He grew up during the depression, amidst a hard-working Lutheran family who was very thankful for the generosity of the corner grocer. They were given food during the month “on credit”; paying for the bill at the end of the month when they had enough money. Some days, lunch was soda crackers and water.
 At the University of Minnesota, he studied geology to become a hydrolic engineer but was steered into medicine and entered medical school in 1942 at the University of Minnesota. WWII was in full operation, but medical students were not called overseas, enabling them to complete their studies. They had to commit, however, two years of military service.
 Upon graduation, he served two years as an Army medical doctor/officer with the11th Airborne Division (he was a paratrooper): one year in Japan, and one year at Camp Stoneman in the Sacramento Delta.While in Japan, Dr. McCormack bought a 35-mm Kodak camera which launched his life-long passion for photography! His artistic eye for natural beauty led to the 1967 awarding of his photograph on the brochure-cover of World Airways (first US charter airline). An event during medical school which shaped another life-long interest, exploration of the scientific dimensions of “intelligent design”, was the dissection of the human eye. Within moments, Dr. McCormack knew, for a fact, that “chance” could never have created an eye.
 In 1949 he married the love of his life, beautiful Lael Munster of Berkeley, CA. They lived one year in Fresno, CA, where Dr. McCormack pursued further residency in the developing fields of orthopedics and general surgery. He practiced surgery in Hollister, CA in 1951-1952, by which time two daughters had been born, Camille and Christine. Ether was then still the anesthesia of choice!
 They moved to Orinda, CA in 1953 where, following advanced surgical training at the Veterans Hospital in Oakland, he became a Board Certified Surgeon. In 1959, he moved his family, (four young daughters – Camille, Christine, Carla, and Celia) to Gilroy, initiating a rewarding 45-year long surgical practice in the community.
 As the first Board Certified Surgeon to practice surgery in the Gilroy/Morgan Hill/Hollister area, he invited other Board Certified physicians, including surgeon Dr. Allen Gherini – 1960 (colleague from the Veteran’s Hospital) and Dr. Taki Anagnoston (1963), to join the emerging team of specialized physicians at Wheeler Hospital. The challenge of surgery allowed him to exercise his self-imposed axiom “another day in which to excel”; a phrase with which he began each day.
 He valued every aspect of the hospital’s staff, nurses, fellow doctors, and patients who richly filled his life. Dr. McCormack called those years “the golden years of medicine”. Patients were valued as individuals and trea! ted regardless of their monetary/insurance status. Nurses and staff had both the time and freedom to know and be known by patients, and Wheeler Hospital, remarkably, functioned financially in the black!
 Dr. McCormack’s hands loved surgery so much that he practiced surgery until the age 87. The changes resulting from increasing government management of medicine saddened him because the opportunity to help those truly in need was disappearing.
 He and his beloved wife of 53 years, Lael, (in a wheelchair from polio since age 25 and Gilroy’s Woman of the Year in 1964), reared their four daughters in Gilroy. Together they co-founded and patronized the South Valley Symphony and were promoters/visionaries for Gilroy’s Center for the Arts. They also worked hard to establish a tennis club here in Gilroy. Playing a significant role in the community in the areas of the arts, political philosophy, and church, they were members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for 20 years, after which they helped co-found Bethel Baptist Church of Morgan Hill where they worshipped for 32 years.
 Dr. McCormack thought deeply on the nature of “political power” and “human nature”. He came to the conclusion that society can right itself towards a moral society only to the degree that it returns to the basis of its moral foundation; Judeo-Christianity/the Bible. Many delightful discussions regarding politics, science, history, Christianity, and human nature filled the Gilroy Donut Shop during the last five years of his life.  In love with his fellow man, he reveled in quality discussions, good humor, and the presence of beauty.
 In 1979, along with two other physicians, he realized a life-long dream; co-founding the Gilroy Medical Park on Wren Avenue.
 An ardent contributor to the Gilroy Dispatch for over five decades, he wrote letters to the editor, seeking to engage others in constructive evaluation of society’s challenges.Having grown up during the Depression as one of “The Greatest Generation” (Tom Brokaw’s book), he was a man truly thankful for his opportunity to practice medicine, rear his family, and grow in Christ amidst the remarkable people and colleagues of this area.The hope for America’s returning to its moral foundation based on the Bible is his most precious legacy left to his grateful family which includes his four daughters, his grandhildren Katie vonStrasser, Scott, Peter, Christopher, and Greggory Adams, his great-grandsons Christian and Andreas vonStrasser, and his surviving sister, Elaine Swanson.
 Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, October 13, 2012, at 4:00 P.M. at Gilroy Presbyterian Church, 6000 Miller Avenue, Gilroy, CA.
 Online condolences at

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