December 10, 1932 ~ August 20, 2008
(James) Bruce McGovern passed away Wednesday, August 20, 2008, at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio. He was 75 years old. He died peacefully in the early morning hours after a year-and-a-half long struggle with various health problems, including a brain tumor. He is survived by Marjorie, his loving wife of 52 years; brother Lane, and his wife Annie, McGovern of Winchester, Massachusetts, brother Gordon, and his wife Judy, McGovern of Wakefield, Rhode Island; son Glenn McGovern and his children Kade and Lauren; daughter Lee, and her husband Dan, McCarty and their children Daniel and Louisa; son Jim, and his wife Robyn, McGovern and their children Mason, Ryan and Connor; and daughter Margo, and her husband Mark, Manning of Dallas and their children Megan and Cooper. Bruce McGovern was born Dec 10, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up outside Boston in the suburb of Winchester. He graduated from Amherst College in Amherst, MA, in 1955 and from Cornell University Medical School in New York, NY, in 1959. After his first year of medical school, dad married our mom, Marjorie Ann Carroll, on July 1, 1956. The two had known each other for years, having attended the same grade school and high school, but they did not begin to date until college. After med school, dad spent seven years in New York and Boston completing a series of internships and residencies that ultimately led to medical board certifications in surgery, thoracic surgery and pediatric surgery. Dad worked almost around the clock in those days, while mom busied herself trying to raise four young kids in a two bedroom apartment. Money was very tight, but mom still remembers the early years with fond nostalgia. In 1968, dad was drafted into the U.S. Air Force and served for two years as a Major at Wilford Hall Medical Center. It was during his stint in the Air Force that dad first began running. Even though few people back then were into running, and most thought it was slightly kooky or masochistic, dad was hooked. For decades he ran nearly every day, eventually working his way up to racing marathons and even finished third in a 40 mile ultra-marathon. Although dad presumably enjoyed his running, his canine running companions didn't fare as well. One of our pets, a Dalmatian named Moll, had paws so blistered from running with dad that he had to fashion leather moccasins for her that he would dutifully lace up before their daily runs. And years later, another favorite pet, a black Labrador named Braun, literally plopped down on the side of the road, right in the middle of a run, and died from exhaustion. After fulfilling his military service, mom and dad surprised themselves and their families when they decided to stay and settle in San Antonio. Though both were New Englanders born and bred, the charms of Texas and the spirit of Texans had won dad's affection. In 1970, dad joined Hartman Hills Sammis & Urrutia, a well-known local medical group, and joined the faculty at the University of Texas Medical School as a part-time clinical professor. But before long, dad decided to strike out on his own and hung out a shingle announcing his own pediatric surgical practice. At the time and for many years afterwards, he was one of only two pediatric surgeons in San Antonio. His private practice grew steadily over the years, right along with the growth in San Antonio's population and the Medical Center's reputation. Dad's office was at Methodist Hospital, where he served as Chief of Staff for a time, but he was also an active staff member at the Santa Rosa and Baptist Hospitals. Dad's strong work ethic and long, long hours operating and doing post-operative rounds were legendary. But to him it wasn't really work. It was his calling. It was what he wanted to do, and was what he was meant to do, in life. Over the many years, dad cared for thousands of young patients, including many premature babies who were so small they could fit in the palm of his hand. Nearly all of the operations were successes, but the few patients he wasn't able to save would cause him to fall into a deep funk that would last for days and that was almost unbearable to watch. One particularly poignant remembrance involves my sister, Margo, who was in high school and was volunteering as a "candy striper" at the hospital. Dad had not been home much in days, as he had a young patient who was not doing well, but for whom nothing more, medically, could be done. One night at the hospital, Margo chanced to walk by a room where she saw our dad sitting by the little boy's bedside reading him children's stories from a stack of books that she remembered from her own childhood. Dad provided care to all who needed it, including the poor who had no insurance. Around Christmas time, many of these indigent families would give dad small presents, in lieu of payment, to express their appreciation and gratitude. Yet dad never complained. He realized they couldn't afford to pay and he appreciated the small presents all the more because they were so personal and heartfelt. But as fine a surgeon as dad was, the medical care that close family members got was a little suspect. Growing up, no matter how badly hurt you thought you were, dad would typically take a close look at the injury and then pronounce that it was nothing and you just need to "put a little Neosporin on it." We never had a chance to test the theory, but we're convinced that one of us could have lost a limb and his response would still have been "put a little Neosporin on it." Dad was honest to a fault and tried to live his life according to a personal code of honor that probably seems quaint or archaic to many people today. But in his worldview, there was very little gray. Most things were right or wrong, true or false. He held himself to high standards and expected a similar level of competence and dedication from those around him. If you disappointed him, he was not able, or perhaps was not willing, to disguise it. As a result, many people loved or admired him, and some no doubt disliked him, but few were ambivalent. That is how dad would want it. Dad had a number of interests and hobbies. He enjoyed gardening, tennis, cycling and reading. And he liked scuba diving in the Caribbean and backpacking in Colorado. But above all, he loved fishing. Even though it was a rare fish dumb enough to snag its mouth on one of dad's fish hooks, he loved fishing all the same. Just being outside with a fishing pole in hand, soaking up the beauty of nature, whether alone or with a friend, was more than enough to put a smile on dad's face. He did not have a lot of close friends. But he had some very good friends whom he treasured. Dad has passed on now. But we will miss him greatly and remember him forever. We would like to express our heartfelt appreciation to the staff at Colonial Gardens (formerly Barton House) for the compassionate care they provided dad. The memorial service is private; however, well-wishers are invited to please share your thoughts and memories on dad's memorial website [www.meadowlawn.net ] Anybody wishing to make a donation is encouraged to contribute to "Any Baby Can of San Antonio" -- a child advocacy group for babies with special needs. 217 Howard St., San Antonio, TX 78212 (Tel: 227-0170) or on the web at www.anybabycan.org Arrangements by: Meadowlawn & American Mortuary.
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