Bernard James Spencer M.D.
Bernard James Spencer, M.D., retired Pediatric Surgeon, 96, died January 4, 2018 at Hope Hospice of Southwest Florida. He was born in St. Charles, MN, Feb. 15, 1921 to John and Gertrude (Small) Spencer. In 1928, the family moved to Blue Earth, MN, where Bernie spent the rest of his youth as an Eagle Scout, an outstanding student, a great athlete, and a bass player in four music groups.
Bernie attended Marquette University, and with medicine as his calling, transferred to University of MN, where he earned B.S and B.MED degrees with honors. He was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha and received his M.D. in 1945. After being inducted into the U.S. Army Medical Corps, he served for two years, one of three Spencer brothers in active duty in WWII.
Bernie trained in general surgery at the Mayo Clinic. With a vision to serve young people and families, he completed a second fellowship in Pediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, a division of Harvard Medical School. From there, he embarked on what would become a deeply meaningful and pioneering career, performing life-changing surgeries for children. Certified by the American Board of Surgery in General and Pediatric Surgery, he joined his colleagues, Drs. O.S. Wyatt and Tague C. Chisholm, in establishing the first Pediatric Surgical practice in Minneapolis, which is now Pediatric Surgical Associates, Inc., the oldest, continuous-running practice of its kind in the U.S.
Performing more than 16,000 surgical cases throughout his career, Bernie dedicated his life to helping children survive conditions that had been a death sentence until this time. His family enjoyed watching his face light up and his eyes tear when he would recount stories of the children and parents he had met.
Bernie was one of a cadre of physicians, philanthropic women and businessmen who were the founding group of Minneapolis Children’s Hospital, now the Minnesota Children’s Hospital. His service exemplified his passion and included: Assoc. Professor of Surgery, University of MN Med School; Minneapolis Children’s Chief of Surgery, Chief of Staff and on the Board of Directors for more than a decade; attending Pediatric Surgeon at Hennepin County Medical Center for 35 years; Fellow of the American College of Surgeons; President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Surgical Section; and charter member on the Board of Governors of the American Pediatric Surgical Associates. He authored numerous publications and lectured extensively, and he was especially fond of the friendships he had forged in his many years as a member of the Lilliputian Surgical Society.
In 1953, Bernard married the lovely and spirited Carol Fox (of Fond du Lac, WI), who preceded him in death in June 2017. Their marriage was one of great respect, joy and compassion. The couple belonged to the Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis and Sanibel Congregational UCC on Sanibel Island, FL. Since Bernard’s retirement in 1988, the family resided on Sanibel Island, FL and spent summers at Schroeder, MN, on the North Shore of Lake Superior.
Bernard leaves behind three sons: Brian (daughter-in-law Teresa and granddaughter Kacy) of Naples, Fl; Todd of Schroeder, MN; and Kevin (daughter-in-law Andrea, granddaughter McKenna and grandson Kellen) of Summerfield, NC. Also surviving: brother Dr. David (sister-in-law Beverly) of Woodbury, MN; two sisters-in-law, Marie of Blue Earth, MN, and Elizabeth of Roseville, CA; and many nieces and nephews. His parents, two brothers and a sister predeceased himEldon Spencer, Cpt. William Spencer, USN, and Veronica Druckenbrod.
Bernard was a life-long optimist who valued his work, family and friends. He thoroughly enjoyed travel, nature, genealogy and reading, and was a devotee of fine arts and history, especially the Civil War and Native Americans. His lasting legacy is his 35 years of careful surgery on many thousands of children.
Memorials to: The Foundation Of Childrens Hospitals and Clinics Of Minnesota (5901 Lincoln Drive, CBC-3-FOUND, Edina, MN 55436) and Sanibel Congregational UCC (2050 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957).