Thomas Otto Gentsch
August 5, 2014
Thomas (Tom) Otto Gentsch, 87, passed away in Issaquah on July 21, 2014. He was a loving husband and father, devoted grandfather, favorite uncle, friend, mentor and colleague to countless others.
Tom was born on May 30, 1927 in Merrick, N.Y. and graduated from W.C. Mepham High School in the class of 1945. He served in the Infantry and Medical Corp. of the U.S. Army from 1945-1946. In 1950, he received his B.S. from Yale College, followed by his M.D. from the Yale University School of Medicine in 1953, and completed his internship at Grace New Haven Community Hospital. His residency in Thoracic Cardiovascular and General Surgery was completed at Yale, New Haven Medical Center and he was also an Instructor in Surgery at the Medical School at Yale.
In 1952, he married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Foster, also of Merrick, who had just received her B.S. and nursing certification from Columbia University. With a shared passion and commitment to medicine, Tom and Betty moved to Miami, Florida in 1961. At the forefront of the newly emerging field of open-heart surgery, he established a private practice in Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery. For the next 27 years he cared for patients in South Florida, as well as guided, trained and mentored many new young surgeons. Tom held staff appointments at the Miami Heart Institute, Jackson Memorial Hospital, and South Miami Hospital. He was actively involved in numerous professional organizations including the American Heart Association and the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons.
In 1988, Tom retired from private practice and with Betty relocated to Boone, N.C. For many years, he delivered meals and counseled homebound residents in rural Appalachia through weekly visits with Meals on Wheels. With more available time, Tom and Betty embarked on new adventures doing medical mission work in Africa. Beginning in 1981, they spent several six- to eight-week long stints providing surgical and nursing care in Cameroon, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In 1999, with family already living in the Seattle area, Tom and Betty relocated to Issaquah. As always when moving to a new home, they quickly made friends and became involved in the community, notably Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Providence Point and Timber Ridge at Talus.
Tom is preceded in death by his father and mother, Otto and Anna Berwind Gentsch, and his sister, Virginia. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Betty Foster Gentsch; his four sons, Tom, Richard (Debbie), John (Joanna), and David (Karen); as well as six grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances and donations in memory of Thomas Otto Gentsch may be sent to the American Heart Association (donate.heart.org) or to Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church (www.salchome.org). The family is planning a celebration of life in the fall of this year.